Profiting Through Passion

General Session speaker Scott Stratten emphasizes the customer experience.

October 08, 2018

LAS VEGAS – The spirit of competition infused with humor set the tone for Monday’s General Session. NACS Chairman Joe Sheetz, president and CEO of Sheetz Inc., kicked off the session and introduced keynote speaker and marketing master Scott Stratten. They both peppered their inspirational remarks with stories to help retailers visualize strategies for driving store growth and profits.

Stratten, a motivational speaker and bestselling author, used his own brand of humor to illustrate the most important marketing tip across all generations: Provide a good customer experience.

“When you see a brand or a logo, psychologically we do things—we think of a recent experience we had or heard about that brand, or an extreme experience we had or heard about with that brand,” Stratten said. “When we evoke emotion, we spread emotion.”

If you think you can’t change your store’s branding, you’re wrong, said Stratten. In fact, your view of a brand can change from a story that didn’t even happen to you. To illustrate his point, Stratten shared a story of a Ritz-Carlton hotel’s effort to reunite a child with the stuffed animal he left there after a family vacation. Not only did the hotel overnight the stuffed giraffe “Joshie” to his family, the staff included a letter and photos of Joshie enjoying time at the resort. Stratten said his favorite part of this story is the fact that a hotel laundry employee and front desk attendant led the effort.

“The front-line people are the ones who made this happen. If you want to improve your bottom line, you need to improve your front line,” he said. “What do you think the father of that child is doing now? He’s telling everybody about the good experience he had.”

There are three types of customers, he said: The ecstatic customer, the static customer and the vulnerable customer. The static customer is the one who should concern retailers the most because he or she is indifferent to your brand. This customer doesn’t care about the products you carry or your pricing, Stratten said. What matters is how you made him or her feel while in the store.

Branding becomes a problem when what a company advertises doesn’t fit the experience. And that starts with employees, he said.

“If you want to market better, you hire better. The best hiring you can do is to treat your current employees well because they’ll refer other employees, and it costs less.”

Employee value was a central theme in Sheetz’s opening remarks, as well. He said employees are critical to the customer experience.

“I believe that more than ever, the customer experience is what can differentiate us from every other channel,” Sheetz said. “Yes, you can get a box delivered from Amazon that has a smile on it, but we can give you an experience delivered by an actual smiling face.”

All of this happens through the lens of fulfilling the convenience needs of customers, Sheetz said. The key is to do it in a way “where they don’t feel like you are marketing to them.”

Today, c-store competition isn’t just “the guy down the street,” Sheetz said. It’s anyone who wants to sell convenience.

“Let’s face it, no one wants to be the ‘inconvenience’ store,” he said. “This means we need to constantly evolve to compete for our customers’ share of wallet and attention. But we can’t get distracted. We need to focus on what we do best, as opposed to copying whatever someone else is doing.”