Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas. And if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

 

This show is sponsored by Comarch a global provider of innovative software products and business services. Comarch’s platform is used by leading brands across all industries to drive their customer loyalty. Powered by AI and machine learning, Comarch technologies allow you to build, run and manage personalized loyalty programs and product offers with ease. For more information, please visit comarch.com.

 

Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty with a wonderful us convenience store brand called Sheetz, which operates over 600 fuel and convenience stores on the east coast of the United States. Sheetz has a hugely impressive story to tell around the role of loyalty in its business strategy. And joining me today to share some of their key insights is Nicole Auman, Director of Brand Marketing for Sheetz, Inc. Nicole shares some of the recent key insights and successes and some of the most innovative ideas they’ve launched recently, which includes a new subscription service and her amazing insights on the increasing role that their app is playing as a direct digital connection to their customers. We also discuss the powerful role, their loyalty program plays supporting their partners. Perhaps one of the key reasons that the Sheetz loyalty manager recently won the CSP award as The Loyalty Manager Of The Year in convenience retail industry in the United States. So I hope you enjoy this conversation and masterclass in driving loyalty in convenience, retail.

 

So Nicole Auman Director of Brand Marketing at Sheetz. Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.

 

Thank you, I’m so happy to be here.

 

Oh, I’m so happy to talk to you, Nicole, you guys are doing some incredible work, uh, both I think in your overall customer proposition, but certainly in the loyalty space as well with some award-winning performances, which I know we’re going to talk about today. So before we get started, I will ask you your favorite loyalty program. Just to give us a sense of what you value and appreciate, I guess, as a, as a marketing professional.

 

Yeah, I love that question because this is kind of my passion in life is other loyalty programs and how we can draw inspiration from them. Uh, but I, I love to travel. So I immediately went to the travel industry and I prefer Hotels.com because I’m not specifically loyal to one brand of hotels. I like to get into a vicinity of where I want to be so that I am walking distance to everything. And I love the boutique type hotels versus the kind of cookie cutter hotel experience. So Hotels.com allows that how allows me to get all of that in and. You know, I still get some great benefits from it as well. So it’s real easy to understand. There’s some status that you can attain, even though you’re not with a specific brand. So it’s great for me. Yeah. I like that. Actually. It’s an interesting perspective, Nicole, because I actually really do share that passion, both for travel and for boutique hotels.

 

I think I traveled on business for so long that if it’s a branded hotel, I kind of feel like I’m actually working. So at least with the boutique hotel, it’s like a really new experience and always an exceptional one. So I’m so wonderful. Thank you for that. And I’ll definitely check out hotels.com and their loyalty proposition.

 

So listen to me, um, your base there. I know in Pennsylvania, on the east coast of the United States with an extraordinary career in sheets, and I think you said to me all fair, 24 years. So I guess your entire career with this incredible company that I’ve been learning about. So just for the people maybe who are not familiar with your brand, Nicole, I’d love just to get a sense of your business and the scale of the sheets, retail.

 

Sure. Uh, so we like to consider ourselves the ultimate ones have one stop shop. And what that means is that we like to have our customers be able to take care of a lot of their needs with one stop at sheets. Um, and beyond that, we have this really bold and bright personality. So you can come to us and get your feeling needs met, um, with these big, bright awnings that just scream to you from the highway, which is.

 

Like an Oasis when you’re on the highway, you see big red Sheetz on and you know, that you’re in for something great. And then once you get to the lot, you can also go inside. We have made to order food, we have made to order specialty beverages. We have just a huge variety of consumer packaged goods. So, you know, think of a C store kind of on steroids, where you’ve got all of this great food that is actually made.

 

To your specifications and also any kind of consumer packaged goods that you could want. So it’s, it’s really a fun experience. Um, we’re in about six states in the us all towards the east coast, but if you have a chance to visit it, I really, you know, I may be biased, but I think it’s a really great expense.

 

For sure, for sure. And I think you’re right to emphasize how good the food is, Nicole, because I think maybe, you know, historically, you know, certainly when I was a child and the industry didn’t have that same focus on food, so we might stop all for our packaged goods and the fuel and the bathroom and the facilities of course, but it wouldn’t be a destination for food, but, uh, definitely hear that that’s something coming through, particularly in the US and sounds like you’re extremely proud.

 

Wow. Brilliant. Okay. So thank you for that. Um, overall I know from what you’ve told me already, that there’s some incredible, I suppose, data led insights and focus on loyalty within the Sheetz business. So that’s always amazing to hear and tell us a bit about that as your starting point, Nicole, because, um, it’s not everyone who gets to start.

 

Yeah, that’s, that’s a great point. And we are really fortunate. I have a team of insights and analytics experts that provide us with a lot of great content on what our customer needs are, uh, what they, what they like in their experience and what they don’t like. We have a great dashboard that tells us the pain points so that we can go and try to eliminate those pain points.

 

And obviously technology comes to play in that a lot. You know, we’re, we’re folks have trouble with technology. We have this other layer of it that has transaction level. Details for all of our loyalty customers. So we can layer all that together and we can really get this more robust picture of what our customers are doing with us and how we can make that experience better.

 

And at the end of the day, you know, we want them to love coming to sheets. We want them to love the experience and the loyalty platform so that they visit us more often. The name of the game, get them in more often, get them spending a little bit more money, but having them have some benefit from that as well.

 

So it’s a, it’s a two way street, for sure. For sure. And I know you have both the transactional side, of course, Nicole, and I’d love you to explain the, I suppose, the value proposition of what rewards platform does, but also then a really interesting add tiered program. So really keen to hear that side as well of your program.

 

Yeah, but cheering is probably my favorite part of the program. So we’ll, we’ll talk about that after I explained the value proposition itself. So that was also rooted in a lot of customer research. We did some focus groups and some quantitative research to find out what customers really wanted from a loyalty program.

 

And there were a couple of things that came out the first was that people like to be rewarded. Almost immediately. So the waiting was, was hard. So we needed to find a value proposition that was not too unattainable. Uh, we landed on giving 3 cents off of gas every single day. As long as you give us your contact information.

 

So the value proposition there. You know, in return for allowing us to market to you, you did this 3 cents off every day. But then in addition to that, there’s a lot of other great offers that we’re going to send you. And a lot of really personal things as well. Then the other thing that we did was straight points programs.

 

So you earn points for spending, uh, inside the store and then you have a full catalog of things on our app that you can purchase with those points. It’s so attainable because you can, for 150 points, you can purchase 5 cents off fuel, which ends up being a Barre deal for our customers. Sure. Yeah. And alongside that, Ben, do you have merchandise and other, I suppose, gifts that people can, can save up?

 

I know you made the point that it seems to be much more about instant gratification, which I guess in a convenience store is, is probably not that surprising, but I do think in my experience, We do have, you know, a saver mentality. Sometimes if there’s things that, you know, might be in the budget to buy, but you might see in a catalog and really kind of look forward to, to attaining.

 

Is that something that you guys do with. Yeah, we do have a lot of things in our catalog. So you can get in at the, at a low level of 150 points, but then you can also save your points and get something larger. Um, I love the, the way that you’re getting into merchandise. So that’s something that’s kind of on our radar.

 

How do we get some sheets merchant there so that customers can really show off their love for the brand. And as we mentioned before, we have a. Program. So, uh, it starts with fans. So entry level of spans, and then once you attain a certain level, you get to a friend and our top level is freaks and breaks is a badge of honor.

 

Uh, it’s something that our most loyal, dedicated fans love to hear. They love to be called Greeks. I know that’s probably not something that’s common in most places, but, uh, sheets of Greek is definitely a compliment. Yeah. And we do surprise our freaks. So. Benefit to being a fruit, they get a lot more surprise and delights.

 

And then once a year we have a gift that we give our freaks. So this year was a card game, um, which was really fun. So it’s, it’s a party game. It’s kind of like, if you think about the meme game where, you know, you have. Match a mean to say, yeah, it’s kind of like that, but it’s all sheets focused and it’s all sheets.

 

Brandon, the creative team just did such a great job putting that together. So that was a really exciting one for us. Oh my goodness. You must have so much fun. Brainstorming. Absolutely. Wow. Well, it’s a fun company to work for. That’s for sure. I can tell my goodness. And it sounds like it’s a very digitally led program.

 

I mean, I’d love to just know. Do you issue plastic cards for example, as ID, or is it all on the app? How do you do that? My dream is for it all to be on the app. So someday before I retire, I hope that that comes to fruition. But right now we have a lot of legacy customers been in the loyalty game for about 15 years.

 

So, uh, maybe even a little bit longer. So really it wasn’t a very digital place back then. Um, plastic cards was the way that we entered the game. So we have a lot of legacy customers who still. What do you use plastic, but we are really thinking critically about how we move forward and new customers maybe just allow them to be digital only.

 

It’s such a better experience when you are digital versus plastic, because you get to. Looking at the catalog and pick what you want as your awards, and there’s this whole online ordering and curbside pickup. And just all of these great features because at the end of the day, loyalty is more than just an earn and burn platform.

 

It really has to be about the overall experience and the digital experience I can say is just much more positive for our customer. So that’s my dream. We’re hoping to get there. We’re not quite there yet, but yeah. Yeah. I certainly hope so, Nico, because yeah, we know what it’s like, and we can see the difference that the customer will get.

 

But at the same time, I think we’re all creatures of habit. So don’t take away something that’s working for me. Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful. And yeah, I do think, you know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a credit to be, you know, in loyalty for 15 years, and there’s not many programs that are that mature. So I can imagine this a storehouse of information and obviously people around, because what I did see coming through is that you guys do have this incredible employee loyalty as well.

 

So, yes, we’ve mentioned already, you’ve had an incredible career, but I know also you guys have won awards for being one of the top 100 places I think, to work in the United States. That’s right. Yes. So we have been on that list many times and most recently I think was our highest rating yet. So we do have a great corporate culture and I think, you know, the stores, they see each other as family members.

 

Wow. That’s incredible. Yeah. So the, you know, stuff you sent me through before Nicole, the information that you sent me through before had some really wonderful data in terms of specific metrics. And for people who’ve been listening to our show. Now, since the beginning, perhaps they would have known that I always used to start, instead of asking about a favorite loyalty program, I also asked about a favorite loyalty statistic.

 

And then when you send through your metrics, I was like, Ooh, Nicole is going to get both of these questions. And so you send through three or four, um, which I’d love to just talk through. And particularly, I suppose, the performance since. Dear in terms of the percentage of your transactions and that are including a loyalty swipe, that’s grown phenomenally.

 

So I’d love to hear how that’s been. Yeah, it’s, it’s been phenomenal. So I will say there’s a couple of things that have been happening. Um, COVID really kept people at home for awhile. So we did notice some attrition, um, during the COVID pandemic. And then once things started to loosen up a little bit, we saw some of those customers come back into the fold, but we also acquired more customers.

 

And then beyond that, we are seeing. Higher frequency higher spend from our existing customers and that all really culminated in a 10% increase over prior year for our swipe rate, which by the way is probably my favorite metric, just because it, it takes acquisition, it takes retention, it takes frequency that it kind of combines it all into one.

 

One metric that is just real easy to explain and understand. I totally agree. Actually, I think it’s the proof points that the actual member sees the value in being recognized and for all of that data to be captured. So obviously you are using that data in a very personalized, effective way to go back to them in a way that there are no.

 

Yeah, that is something that we’ve been very hyper-focused on recently, we made some investments in some technology that allows us to use AI and machine learning, to understand our customer a little bit better and then send them personally. Messages. And they may be offers that might just be information that we think they need to know.

 

And we’ve seen such incredible increase in our open rates for our emails and our push notifications and better redemption rates. So everything really seems to be firing on all cylinders, right. That’s incredible. And a lot of us do talk about AI and we talk about machine learning. Nicole. There’s not many people that have managed to get something to market and be able to sit and say, you know what?

 

It does make a difference. It does. And I will, I will be honest with you. We are just. Starting this evolution with AI and machine learning. We’ve gotten the tools. We’ve, we’ve done some use cases with it, and we’re probably about up to our ankles in the water right now, but we’re not quite where we want to be yet, but I have really great future it’s sites ahead.

 

It’s going to be. The impact that we’re seeing now we get to where we need to be. I can’t imagine how impactful it’s going to be. My goodness. And is it just the quality of the data that differentiates those technologies or the, the breadth of data? Or how would you explain it to someone like me? For example, it’s just never had that experience.

 

Yeah. It’s so we’ve had a lot of data for a long time, and there was just a period where it was hard to use all that data. It was almost too much, you know, what, what are you going to do with all of this? Um, when we invested in tools that allowed us to kind of simplify and. So let you know, we’re for an example, a very simple example is send time optimization.

 

So we’re looking for one specific thing about our customers. When do they typically open an email and that is down to the customer level and then. Basically sending those emails based on your particular behavior and how you open emails. So that’s just one of the use cases that we’re into right now really have to be is where we understand this is what this customer is purchasing and when they are purchasing it, What is something that can be a complimentary product or something new that they could add to their baskets.

 

It kind of fits their profile and then send something that’s more of a recommendation on why don’t you add this to your best theater? You know, maybe we’ll give them an offer for something completely new just to get them to try something they haven’t tried before. Wow. That’s where a lot of power is going to be.

 

Well, power is exactly the right word, Nico, because I had no idea that it was capable of understanding the times that I like to open my emails. Yeah. It’s, it’s incredible. And like I said, we’re still at the beginning and we get so excited and you know, I’ve got this really talented loyalty team. So all in, on this data and how, how they can use it to improve the metrics.

 

And I’m very proud of the progress that they’ve made. Oh, I can tell. And I think it’s the perfect opportunity actually, to mention your loyalty manager, um, who recently won the, uh, incredible loyalty manager of the year award for the whole industry. Yes. So do you want to tell us about. Yeah, Shaya piece. So she has been with the company for about five years, but she just came onto loyalty about 18 months ago.

 

And in that time she has just really led the team to these data-driven insights and how we use them for our customer. She’s working with the vendors and creating these incredible relationships to drive more value to the customer. So incredibly proud of the work that she’s done and her team, Nikki and Olivia, they are, they’re phenomenal as well.

 

So really talented team. And that’s why the metrics are looking so positive at these days. Oh, that’s wonderful to have the opportunity to acknowledge them. So thank you for all of that. Brilliant. For sure. And it’s also a point I did want to ask you about Nicole, because again, I know this rewards catalog you’ve mentioned is extraordinary.

 

And I did want to ask, is that where, you know, or is there an opportunity there to work with vendors and manufacturers? Is that how that is coming together? Because it sounds like a really good opportunity to benefit every. Absolutely so shy, but we call Cheyanna shy for sure. She is really great at talking to the category managers here at Sheetz and also the vendors themselves to find different ways they can participate in the program, whether that be through the rewards catalog.

 

But there are also all of these offers that we’re sending. So we have all this first party data that we’re using and we can then on behalf of the vendor, send emails or push notifications to customers that we think would benefit from that offer. So they’re getting the benefit of this, you know, first person data and being able to communicate without us having to give them the data.

 

And they’re also the customers getting that benefit of. More value. Uh, they’re not, you know, it’s not an earn and burn. They get just additional value from the overall value proposition. So it’s a win-win for everybody around customer, vendor and sheets. For sure. Yeah. And I do think that that is that magic sweet spot for sure.

 

I can imagine if I was working in any of these manufacturing brands. I’ve always thought. I mean, how do you justify the TV campaigns and the outdoor campaigns? Because we, as loyalty, marketers are so much focused on, you know, measuring and, you know, really seeing how our marketing investment is performing.

 

So I think that’s the opportunity you’re giving to these manufacturers for the first time. It is. And because we already have the customers within our ecosystem, the acquisition isn’t there. So we are basically talking to customers that are already. Yeah, and his friends are freaks and they already shopped with us.

 

So it’s so much cheaper and easier to get them to that next level, to try something different or to visit a little bit more often than it is to get a brand new customer. For sure. And you mentioned first party data, Nicole. We’ve had a lot of conversations on this show about the, you know, alleged, uh, depth of the cookie, which I’m not sure the current state that that is is promised or plant or threatened depending on your perspective.

 

But I’m coming from, I suppose, such a strong loyalty program. And actually I will quote another statistic you gave me just again for people listening, you serve about two and a half million loyalty customers a month. So doing this at extraordinary scale. Yeah. So we have a about 600 and. 80, I believe stores.

 

Um, don’t quote me on that one because I could be a little bit off, but we’re marching towards 700 here sometimes there. And we are seeing incredible growth in a loyalty program at two and a half million customers each month. But beyond that, when we talk about first party data, I think it does give us a little bit of an edge because we’re not as reliant on.

 

Purchase data and cookies and all of those things. And with, with privacy laws, um, just kind of heating up. We are very focused on making sure that the customer understands the benefit they’re getting from the information that they’re giving us. And we’re trying to give them value for that information.

 

So for me, the cookies going away, I still think that that impacts us from an acquisition standpoint, for sure, because we do use cookies on other platforms, you know, other than our first party data. So I do think there’s going to be impact there. And I think some of the things that have happened, you know, with Google and Facebook and the recent years, um, giving us less visibility into even the, the metrics that are driving our business forward is, is.

 

Well, yeah. You know, you can’t really track things as well as maybe you once could because of things that are changing. So it’s definitely a concern for us. Um, but I, I am very thankful that we had this robust database that we can fall back on. For sure, for sure. And again, the, the customers have been feeding that benefit, as you said for 15 years.

 

So it’s not like you have to, you know, look for a knee-jerk reaction to try and deal with something you’re already prepared on what I’d love to know. Just your sense on Nicole is, you know, we’re very experienced, I think, from a data and privacy perspective in Europe and certainly coming from Ireland, we have the European data commissioner and, or certainly have had.

 

So I think that consumers are very clear on the value of their data. And I just wanted to get actually a us perspective on that. You know, when you do, you know, I suppose, explain and try and articulate for your members, the trade-off I suppose, the value exchange. Do you think that’s something that’s easy enough to, to, to send out and explain to them in the communications given how, how busy.

 

I don’t think it’s easy at all. I think we’ve been thinking about it. So since GDPR became, um, wide widely, now we’ve been thinking about, you know, what happens when that comes to the U S and how does that impact our business? And, you know, California already has a protection act and a couple other states that are either already have them, or are in the midst of it.

 

So as it gets closer and closer to our east coast, Place here where, where we didn’t have as many, um, issues to think about. It is a concern because it’s hard to articulate that value to the customer. And we’re really, really careful about how we use customer data. So we’re very stringent. We’re not going to sell it.

 

We’re not going to share it. You know, we are probably one of the, um, the most tightly held companies when it comes to data that I know, and that’s led by our, you know, our executives wanting to make sure that we keep data as our private asset, but also that allows us. Communicate to customers that the data that they’re giving us is really between us and them.

 

And it’s a benefit to them because we are giving them personally. Offers where, you know, really communicating to them as a person rather than just a nameless faceless customer. So it’s not easy to get that across because you know, there’s so much noise in the marketplace and there’s so much just noise in your email.

 

Your inbox is probably full of hundreds of emails a day. So it’s really that easy to communicate that. We’re doing the best that we can, but you know, let’s look at going forward to being more communicative about this issue. Yeah. And I think you’re right. Actually, sometimes it’s just getting your internal house in order so that when a customer does suddenly want.

 

Oh, how does that work? That all of that kind of data is available for them to find. So I do think that that’s part of just kind of getting the basics, right. And again, you’re taught to do that for longer, but interesting that you are so aware of GDPR, because I do think there’s a lot of American brands really kind of went, oh, that doesn’t apply this side of the, the Atlantic.

 

So, um, so they, you know, were happy to let it go until it did so, um, so great to hear that you’re super familiar with this. And what I’m hearing coming through. And I think I’m right, but, but forgive me if I’m wrong. I know sheets is the family name or was the family name that gave the company the brand.

 

So is it still a family? Yes. I’m so glad you asked that again. It’s this brand is so fantastic, but that is one of the things I’m most proud of. It’s family owned and family operated, and there are multiple sheets, family members that work for the business today, and they keep that family operated alive and really make it a great place to.

 

Yeah. And that’s, I think also what builds customer trust, because we all know what it’s like to, to be part of any family and trust them with whether it’s our data or anything else. So, um, that feels like something that’s coming through. And I guess your entire approach to how you take care of your. Yes, absolutely.

 

The family members that are involved, you know, they’re here day to day. You can run into any of them at any given time and they really work well with the business and really drive the vision, the purpose of the company. So it’s, it’s funny because we’re, I would consider us a big company now, but there’s still a little bit of that, um, small company vibe, just because they’re so involved in the.

 

Yeah, which actually I think does make decision-making easier and you know, when it comes to anything and I’m sure COVID like, uh, you know, gave all of us, um, a real shock to the system, but, um, I’m sure when you do have a family environment like that, it’s, um, it’s just a bit easier on every front. I think so.

 

You know, when, when you’re a family owned business, you’re not just in it for today and this year you’re in it for the long haul. So the decisions that are being made at the top are really about that long. For sure. Yeah. And when your name is over the door, I guess that’s the whole other thing as well. So nobody’s going to mess with that.

 

That’s wonderful. The other big piece I wanted to ask you about Nicole was, again, one of the metrics that you mentioned, which really I thought was probably the single biggest insight that I loved from, from learning about the Sheetz loyalty mindset. I’m going to say. And that was about the difference between your app users versus even your loyalty customers.

 

So people I think, or her prompts members of your loyalty program, but perhaps using those legacy systems and methods that we talked about. So I’d love you to share with our listeners what you’ve learned about the. Yeah, that’s right. We have learned that our app users are actually visiting us 50% more and they spend over two times as much as an average loyalty customers.

 

So, you know, a lot of that is attributable to the different options that you have on the app. We have things like curbside. We have online order, but we also have added delivery. To our offering. Um, most recently you can pay at the pump via your app. So there are all these really great, useful things within the app that make it a better experience for our customer.

 

And I think that just pays dividends because even if you compare before. We have to, after we’re seeing just incredible growth. So it’s really exciting. And it has led us to a mobile first strategy. And as we talked about before my dream of Sunday, it’s all going to be digital, but for now we really just focus on.

 

Efforts and our advertising on that mobile experience to hopefully get everybody down that funnel and into the really better experience that’s provided by the app. Wow. So that, I think sounds like it gives you a lot of clarity in that, you know, it sounds like your single biggest objective is, you know, if we can engage them on the app and explain the multiple use cases, obviously that they can benefit from, then you just multiply the opportunities.

 

That’s exactly right. Wow. Super exciting. Nicole, my goodness. Um, yeah, very envious that you get almost to play, I suppose, at scale, you know, and I think about loyalty, you know, it’s, it’s such a wonderful industry that we share that you can kind of think what would make it wonderful for a customer. Let me try that.

 

Exactly. Yes. It’s a lot of fun and I have to give credit to the digital team as well, because they, they do sit separately from the loyalty team, but we have really, over the years, worked together very closely to make it a more seamless experience for the customer. For sure. For sure. Of course. Yes. I think you told me before you’ve won a total of about 45 Nicole in your team.

 

I have 45 on my team only. Three are specific to loyalty. It’s kind of a broad, a broad brand umbrella. I could totally understand it. Yes, yet. No, I think you said you have all the comms and all the customer service. So a, a huge. Brilliant. Great. So going forward then, Nicole, I guess, um, we’ve hopefully come to the end of this pandemic.

 

You’ve obviously done, uh, an extraordinary digital transformation, as you’ve said, with all of the kind of contact us options and building incredible extra functionality way beyond the earn and burn proposition. Obviously that’s been around for so long and I think. You know, I suppose I hear a lot on this show about things like, you know, gamification and subscription, and there’s all these other models of loyalty that I guess are impacting your industry maybe in new ways that they mightn’t have done before.

 

So, you know, just totally off the top of your head, are these topics that you’re looking at, or can you say. I, I can’t, I think I can say, you know, gamification is something that we’ve been talking about for many years. Uh, there are lots of ways to go about it. And I think the most important thing for us is we’ve been prioritizing things that really impact the visit, um, to bill a location or, or the online visit.

 

So. We haven’t yet prioritize gamification, but I do believe that it’s something that we will get to eventually. I think that what that gives us is allowing customers to engage with us in a way that is different and gives them value beyond just their regular Earnin berms. So I’m really excited about the opportunity and I’m hoping to be able to push that forward at some point.

 

And I apologize. I forget you did mention something else. It’s the idea of subscription. So I didn’t mention this in my email to you, but we do have a few subscriptions, one for self-serve beverage. So you can get, uh, all you can drink coffee and this, and then we also have a. Uh, which is our fries are probably one of the most popular menu items that we have.

 

They’re just absolutely delicious. Um, anything that comes from our fryer is spectacular. So I have to plug that, but yeah, so the subscriptions, those subscriptions are really giving us some new things that we’re learning about frequency behavior, and how that really drives people to come to the store more often.

 

And. Now learning, what are their baskets look like when they do come in for the free, free items? So, you know, relatively new, but I’m excited for how that’s going to pan out for us. Um, would you say that that was triggered by the pandemic type behavior, Nicole? Or was it already something that you guys, I suppose identified as an opportunity?

 

I think, you know, most people. Well, certainly for me, I suppose I should say subscription really met a needs. When, you know, there was, there was an extra urgency to driving that footfall because people were so nervous. So to make it, you know, extremely affordable was, um, I just think a brilliant strategy in many markets.

 

But again, I think we’re also familiar with subscription in other industries that it’s almost a surprise it’s taken this long to, to come into areas like coffee and beverage and all those, those fries, for example, it’s extraordinary. Yes. Yes. I, I think that we had it on the back burner for a while as something that we wanted to try.

 

But to your point, the pandemic, you know, we were really. Like everybody else struggling with, uh, customer counts. And, and this was something that we were hoping would allow customers to come more often and visit us. And, you know, we really feel strongly about our brand and once you’re in the store, there’s so much there to offer, but you know, we’re going to get the additional basket items when we get someone in the store.

 

So. You know, I, I have very high hopes for it. Like I said, it’s kind of early to tell whether or not it’s working, but, you know, I think it’s around for the long haul. We’ll see. Okay. Okay. So I’m putting that, I’m making a note for myself, Nicole, to follow up with you in a year or two, and just see if you can come back and share some of those subscription learnings, because I do think it’s, it’s very powerful.

 

So thank you for that. And I’m delighted. I asked actually, yes, because, um, yeah, I had no idea you were doing that, so that’s super useful. Yeah, I, I gotta tell you there’s so much going on in our loyalty program. There’s so many different initiatives that we’re driving forward, but even I forget sometimes like everything that we’re working on, so I’m glad you asked as well.

 

Great, great. So listen, that is all I have on my question list for you today. Nicole, are there any other topics that you do think are important for our listeners before we wrap up? Uh, there’s one thing that I, that I did want to mention because we talked a lot about technology and how important the app experiences to our customers.

 

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our store teams and how that impacts our customer experience. So, uh, one of the best things about visiting mass location is that frontline, that store team that is engaging with you at the location, we have some of the best in the business and they really pick up the slack.

 

So if there’s a tech that fails and something doesn’t work right. That customer service that we’re, that we have in our stores really fills that gap for us and allows the customer, so to have a great experience. So, um, I am really thankful that we have such a strong employee engagement with this program.

 

They’re our advocates. They are the ambassadors that are talking across the counter about the program. So. Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. And I will say in your email, you did literally say that your team makes all of the difference in its success. So, um, I think all of us know how difficult it can be to actually have a team that is that supportive, that engaged and really takes care of the customer in the moment they really needed. So they’re very, very lucky to have them so engaged and taking care of all of your members for you.

 

Absolutely.

 

Great stuff. Well, listen, on that note, Nicole, I am delighted to hear all about the Sheetz loyalty story. I want to say a huge thank you from everyone here in Let’s Talk Loyalty. And for everyone listening, if you want to have a look, it’s Nicole Auman, Director of Brand Marketing at Sheetz. So thank you again, Nicole, from everyone at Let’s Talk Loyalty. Great to be here.

 

This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 245 executives in 27 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

 

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