"Evolution is both natural and necessary. It's important to evolve at the same rate of your customers," Colemire told Convenience Store News.
Evolving at the same rate as its customers is something the Boise-based chain of 105 convenience stores throughout Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming has ramped up in recent years. According to the marketing director, Stinker Stores has always been forward-thinking when it comes to technology, but the company hasn't always had the human capital necessary to quickly adopt and deploy new technologies throughout the organization or within its stores.
On top of that, Stinker Stores faced various programmatic and systemic limitations with legacy back-office and point-of-sale operating systems, which often complicated automation and integration when combined with new technologies.
In recent years, however, Stinker Stores has significantly invested in both human capital at its Stinkin' Support Center in Boise and field-based support teams within its operational footprint. This investment was the catalyst that ignited a flurry of research and development, allowing the chain to partner with many new and exciting vendors in the technology space, Colemire pointed out.
"Stinker has emerged as a leading regional convenience chain, utilizing new technology to increase efficiencies for our highly skilled operators at the store level, as well as creating exceptional customer experiences for our wonderful customers, removing more and more friction each implementation at a time," he said.
When it comes to deciding where to focus its efforts in terms of technology, Stinker Stores relies on customer feedback. For example, when Colemire first joined the company, the retailer was using paper punch cards as a means for thanking loyal customers for purchasing their dispensed beverages from Stinker Stores. Through customer-intercept surveys and regular feedback from store team members, the chain realized customers were ready for a more robust loyalty program.
From there, the company developed the first generation of the Stinker app and joined with Liquid Barcodes to launch it in 2021. The app-based loyalty program featured an easy and engaging way for customers to earn digital stamps every time they bought coffee, doughnuts, fountain drinks or energy drinks, in addition to gamification and chances for customers to win free prizes and coupons.
Fast forward to current day, and the chain is in the latter stages of revamping its loyalty program. Stinker Stores announced earlier this year that it is partnering with PAR Technology Inc.'s Punchh loyalty solution for the rollout.
"Over the last few years, Stinker has worked very hard to become known as a food and beverage destination," Colemire commented. "PAR Technology traditionally comes from the foodservice realm. Partnering with them felt very natural based on their success in this space. Their ability to work so closely to curate a customized approach and feel has been refreshing."
Like the first-generation app, the second-generation Stinker app will include digital stamp clubs, gamification fan-favorites, and a points-based system through which customers can quickly earn points when they shop and choose exactly how they want to be rewarded.
New features added to the revamped platform will include a mobile wallet that offers daily savings when customers link it to their ACH and fuel discounts.
Colemire anticipates the second generation of the app launching at the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter of the company's 2024 fiscal year.
"The ability to utilize AI [artificial intelligence] technologies to segment customers and provide targeted offers to new categories and items they did not historically purchase from us — or even realize we sold — will allow us to continuously grow our market baskets," he explained.
Introducing the next generation of its app is just one of many stops on Stinker Stores' technology roadmap. This year alone, the convenience store chain has entered a number of strategic partnerships to enhance the customer experience:
January: The retailer partnered with Bitcoin Depot to roll out a turnkey solution that introduced all 105 Stinker Stores to an entirely new and broad digital financial market, according to Colemire.
February: Stinker Stores entered into a partnership with retail technology company Upside to offer cash back to new and incremental shoppers, while growing and maximizing profits.
May: In partnership with FeedbackNow by Forrester, Stinker Stores rolled out a customer feedback pilot program at four locations. The pilot includes a combination of FeedbackNow's Smiley Box devices, multiple choice buttons and QR codes in strategic locations throughout the stores to capture feedback on food options, overall experience and restroom cleanliness in real time.
"Stinker's purpose is to make our world a better place, one employee, one customer and one community at a time, by being a bright spot in the lives we touch. We want to live our purpose in all business outcomes as well," Colemire said.
"Were the days of our team members and customers easier because of something we rolled out? Did someone save enough time to focus on a more meaningful task? Was someone able to order a high-quality meal, at an affordable price, and have it delivered when they realized there just simply weren't enough hours in the day to prepare a meal at home? Stinker, like all businesses, wants to grow profits, but we believe our profits will only grow when we live our purpose in everything that we do," he added.
Although the company exists in a space and time where there are more strategic partners than it could ever actually work with, Stinker Stores does not intend to rest on its laurels, Colemire pointed out. The company is currently exploring options that will allow it to optimize its supply chain even further, and localize marketing and assortment. Stinker Stores is also exploring a few options that will help the company enter the omnichannel space.
"We feel that we have only scratched the surface and that there are many new partnerships that we will engage in over the coming years," Colemire said.