How can technology hold the door open for customers?
Fulfilling lives every day, this has been the driving purpose behind the East Coast convenience store chain, Wawa, for more than 50 years. Wawa has evolved from a milk delivery service in the early 1900s to a cutting-edge retailer offering branded coffee, built-to-order hoagies, surcharge-free ATMs and an employee stock ownership plan; all in an effort to consistently offer the best experience to customers and associates.
At Wawa, we believe success and growth come down to our people, our culture and our customers.
Wawa has always been proud of its culture of innovation. So, when customers and associates expressed a preference for an even more customized experience, Wawa rose to the challenge. Thinking big, they asked: How can technology enhance the more than 400 million customer interactions and over 40,000 associates without sacrificing personal connections?
“We want to continue to push the limits of what it means to be innovative while staying true to our commitment to provide Boundless Convenience™,” noted John Collier, Chief Information Officer, Wawa. “By offering more personal choices and more ordering options, we are better able to support our incredible associates to deliver even greater customer service.”
Smart solutions fuel meaningful experiences
“Today, the lines between competition and collaboration are blurred. And with multiple entities becoming a part of the end-to-end customer value chain, no one company explicitly owns the entire sales experience,” says Collier. “So, a digital integration between all parts of the customer ecosystem, along with individual targeted technology, allows each entity of the value chain to focus on its specific role in serving the customer,” he adds. This philosophy was the foundation of Wawa’s multi-year digital transformation and key to Ernst & Young LLP (EY) practitioner’s support in executing Wawa’s vision.
“Constellation Research (pdf) revealed that 77% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) rate digital transformation as the top priority,” said Jeff Fialko, Wawa Client Service Partner, Ernst & Young LLP. “However, if technology does not enhance the customer’s experience, it won’t drive the desired outcome. That’s why it was important for EY practitioners to join Wawa in both understanding and delivering on its differentiating role in the customer value chain equation.”
How uniting technology and people can drive change
Wawa’s goal is to create a unified commerce strategy — augmenting human action with digital enhancements for greater experiences for both customers and associates. It’s important for Wawa to be available whenever and wherever its customers want. So, Wawa turned to EY professionals, and other key partners, to run several customer persona workshops. Using data and user research, the EY team documented current and potential Wawa consumer needs and buying motivations.
Customer feedback indicated Wawa needed to offer a consistent experience in-store and online. As a result, Wawa set out to utilize new user interface-optimized omnichannel retail options to create a world-class multichannel environment across the web and mobile applications — offering automation and personalization for customers.
“It’s always been our goal to continually adapt to changing customer demands and market trends,” said Collier.“Because of that, we are investing in technology to help meet our customers’ needs using several channels and platforms thus providing more choices and convenience.”
We know our associates are the heart and soul of our organization and we want to use technology to complement their capabilities.
How technology can assist employees
Under the premise that front-line associates can be the intelligence hub of the organization, Wawa is uniquely positioning technology to assist associates in working and thinking differently. The goal is to ensure operations run more smoothly and customers’ needs are more quickly addressed.
To help enable more autonomous operations, EY professionals helped build a cloud-based technology infrastructure. By moving back-office applications into a modern technology stack, Wawa associates are better equipped to keep pace with productivity and Wawa can gain operational efficiencies - leading to accelerated time to market of new products and services.
“Our competitive differentiation is really predicated on the empowerment of local frontline store associates,” highlighted Collier. “We know our associates are the heart and soul of our organization and we want to use technology to complement their capabilities. Wawa is working on an augmented intelligence strategy to help serve customers better. Store associates are being equipped with the tools and dynamic capabilities needed to make real-time in-store decisions regarding customer needs.”
How new business ideas can provide a storefront for the future
Driving innovative solutions meant Wawa had to embrace new ideas. One big idea came in the form of a net new business — catering — infusing the brand with its consumers in ways never imagined before.
Catering offers a one-stop shop for consumers who are looking for large food orders for their next business meeting, family gathering or even to fuel their wedding guests dancing the night away. Wawa’s catering has an expanded menu including some fan favorites like the Sizzli® Breakfast Sandwich Box featuring six hot and fresh bagel and croissant hand-held breakfast meals; and a trendy candy box offering guests an assortment of candies. Not only did this new offering increase volume ordering for Wawa, but it opened its doors to new customers and further strengthened its unified commerce strategy.
“CIOs today need to react quickly to changing environments by utilizing data and technology differently,” said Rakesh Kumar, EY Americas Strategy and Transformation Leader. “We helped develop the back-end technology and complex services needed to support Wawa’s new interactive website and mobile application catering platform.”
Revolutionary ideas and action are key ingredients for success
With today’s consumers having more buying options and demanding more personalized interactions with the companies they choose to shop with, retailers must be prepared to find innovative ways to respond by improving their individual roles within the customer value chain. Technology can be the differentiator businesses need to maintain a competitive advantage.
Wawa’s creative digital transformation is already exceeding consumer and associate expectations while driving significant growth. The catering business is expected to drive new business sales and the Wawa rewards program has been recognized twice by Loyalty360 Awards — in 2020 Wawa received a Platinum award for business transformation and in 2021, they received a Silver award for leveraging customer insights. On top of that, Wawa’s people-centric approach has even positioned the company in the 12th spot nationally on Forbes top Halo 100 list for 2022. These awards showcase Wawa’s commitment to delivering excellent customer experiences.
The new catering business will be successfully deployed with over 950 Wawa stores expected to have catering by the end of 2022. Every customer will be able to order Wawa signature products sold in-store or online through the new catering service for events, milestones and celebrations.
But in true Wawa fashion, the job is never done. Customers will continue to see advancements. Technology will continue to support associates in delivering even better customer service, leading to further increased customer satisfaction scores.
“At Wawa, we believe success and growth come down to our people, our culture and our customers,” said Chris Gheysens, Chief Executive Officer, Wawa. “Innovation helps us support our communities and we will continue to listen and further refine our offerings to continually meet each person who interacts with our company.”
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