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5 Questions About Northwest Petroleum’s Prototype

New store exudes a high-tech, personal touch

HUMBLE, Texas -- QMart, the retail arm of Houston-based fuel marketer Northwest Petroleum (NWP), recently launched an impressive new store design in Humble, Texas, featuring its made-to-order foodservice offering, dubbed The Q. Meelad Al-Arashi, QMart’s chief marketing officer, offered insights into the company’s newest prototype.

Q: What’s the story behind NWP and its QMart concept?

A: NWP was founded in 1991 and is a branded fuel retailer and an official fuel partner of Shell and Phillips 66. We operate 24 convenience stores, one of which is a Pilot Flying J truckstop in Jarrell, Texas. Our stores stretch across the Houston area, Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma. QMart is our proprietary convenience-store line built with modernity and technology at its core.

Q: What defines the customer experience in the new QMart prototype?

A: Our stores are fun and are very technologically advanced, with self-ordering kiosks, free Wi-Fi, smartphone-charging stations and a cafe ambiance. We’re especially proud of our made-to-order menu that is always crafted with freshly prepared ingredients.

Q: What are some of the traffic drivers in the store? Why would a customer choose your latest QMart over another quality c-store or quick-service restaurant?

A: Our food is made to order. Customers can watch as their food is cooked, and depending on what’s ordered, oftentimes it’s sizzling and fresh off the grill.

Another important element is our coffee. All of our coffee is Rainforest Alliance-certified. The farms and forests where the coffee originates meet rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods.

Another key driver is our express ordering. So it’s imperative to ensure that the self-ordering kiosks’ user experience aligns with the brand’s personality, which is why I’m redesigning it. The plan is to bridge the gap between digital and in-store retail. Recently, I was awarded the Gold Hermes Creative Award for Consumer Engagement in Emerging Technologies and New Media for my work on QMart in the digital sphere.

On the scale of brand archetypes, QMart lands between “hero” and “lover.” That challenges us to be innovative, disruptive and courageous in approaching the customer experience and the drivers that compel loyalty and evangelism.

Q: Do you offer any loyalty programs? What role, if any, does social media play in your marketing efforts and customer communications?

A: We may launch the Phillips 66 KickBack loyalty program sometime in 2018. The card is free and can be used for both fuel and in-store purchases while earning points to redeem for gasoline, prizes and more.

I’m also developing a mobile ordering app [that lets] customers customize their orders, pay and then pick up their food without having to wait in line.

Q: How is your go-to-market strategy evolving? What future changes do you intend to make as you open new stores?

A: We continue to look at new ways to heighten customer experiences. I’m working on redesigning the coffee bar and the food-counter area to bring life to the kitchen so that it really becomes an immersive experience that appeals to the senses. We serve high-quality brews under our sub-brand QBrew, so the consumer experience should parallel the quality.

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