Learnings from NACS 2022: Why it all comes down to stores

The lowdown on the latest trends + tech in convenience stores

October 6, 2022

The c-store industry showed up big for the NACS Show, with almost every education session at maximum capacity. It’s clear that retailers and suppliers were eager to convene to discuss trends and challenges at a time when everything is changing at breakneck speed, and prioritization feels next to impossible. 

In case you’ve blocked it, here are just a few of the challenges that c-stores have been dealing with over the last few years:

  1. Covid and health-related safety guidelines
  2. Crippling swipe fees
  3. The great resignation
  4. Supply chain issues
  5. Inflation
  6. Crazy-high gas prices
  7. Increased minimum wage

It’s not for the faint of heart. But, as many brands shared, the last few years were also a time of transformation which drove lots of positive change. Here are some of the positive advancements that we heard at NACS:

C-stores are realizing the importance of brand to not only attract customers, but also employees

The c-store industry has gone from “cokes and smokes” to thoughtfully laid out stores, company vision statements, and rich social media presences. Kevin Smartt, CEO of TXB, shared the evolution of his brand and how it transferred to the store in a session titled Revisiting Store Design for Streamlined Workforce. His bold, black-and-white logo is unlike anything else in the industry and stands out in the store in a sea of CPG color. As c-stores compete with QSRs for customers and look to drive loyalty, brand is quickly becoming a differentiator and where big investments are being made.

Our Take: Stores are where customers experience the brand. If your marketing and merchandising instructions aren’t being executed at the store, you’re missing the opportunity to showcase your brand consistently, which drives loyalty and revenue. With Zipline, customers see more than 90% store execution. In other words, 90% of what HQ asks stores to do is executed in stores – – industry average is 29%! Furthermore, with Zipline, store employees have the resources, training, and communication to feel part of the brand, just like an employee at HQ. It’s just one of the reasons why brands that use Zipline see lower employee churn than their competitors.   

The industry is focusing its attention on store employees to improve the store experience

At the beginning of her session, Racetrac’s Nicole Kuhl shared a Simon Sinek quote, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” In other words, if you want to make sure that you provide an incredible store experience, you better make sure you’re treating your employees right. Kum & Go’s Ashley Quint shared how the c-store brand drove frontline employee engagement by understanding what was important to employees and taking action. Today, the field team is 70% full time which means consistent scheduling and pay for employees, which was a challenge before, plus benefits. In addition, a ‘captainship’ program allows employees to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for something at the store. They become an expert and teach, train, and mentor others. 

Our Take: We love this so much. Zipline was purpose-built to support the complexities of working in stores. Our mission is to improve the lives of retail workers. We have seen firsthand the impact that happy employees have on the bottom line. Treat them well, give them the tools to do their jobs well and the information they need to know what good looks like, and watch them, and your brand thrive.

C-stores are making a positive impact on their communities

I spoke with a field leader from GetGo at dinner one night, and she shared that when she onboards new employees, she always points out that when customers walk through the doors, the associate might be the only person they interact with all day and how you treat them can make a lasting impact. She knows her customers by name and is a link to the outside world that many, especially in rural communities, don’t have. And, of course, when disasters strike, c-stores are there to help communities refuel, replenish and recharge. As an industry, c-stores donate close to a billion dollars a year to support their communities. They’re the lifeblood of many communities.

Our Take: We are so proud to be the engine that powers the work in stores for some of the largest c-store brands in the industry. From HQ, down to associates, we see a passion for serving people and communities that helps hundreds of thousands of employees find meaning in their work. 

If you would like to learn more about how we power operational excellence for c-stores, please reach out. We would love to hear from you.

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