Technology/Services

Brand-building Blocks

Chevron execs detail ExtraMile tactics: product choice and the importance of distribution

[Editor's Note: Chevron's ExtraMile stores won this year's CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop. This is the second of three days of CSP Daily News coverage looking at the concept and why it is succeeding. For complete results of the mystery shop and more about ExtraMile, watch for the August issue of CSP magazine. And watch for an interview with Chevron executives Shariq Yosufzai and Danny Roden next week on CSPTV.]

SAN RAMON, Calif. -- At its core, the ExtraMile convenience concept is a project of building a brand. Interviewed by CSP as the overall [image-nocss] winner of its third-annual CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop, Chevron executives said they have created an inside offer that differentiates the chain, with high-moving items prominently displayed and customer service paramount. [To view a slideshow of an ExtraMile store, click here.]

At the same time, Chevron happily conceded it's not competing on every category, such as HBC or general merchandise, where its offer is modest at best.

The temptation is to fill up the store and have high gondolas, [but] when customers come in, we want them to see and look. We then want the destinations to hit them. We want the [beverage area called] HydraZone to hit them; we want the [sausage area] to hit them; we want the coffee to hit them, Ian Noble, manager of franchise concept development and alliances for Chevron, told CSP Daily News. This collection of details communicates brand, he said.

In maintaining the brand image of stocking in-demand products, Chevron's merchandising has evolved to suit ExtraMile needs. Last year, the corporation invested in software for space planning and store layout, said Jeff Hersh, Chevron's manager of North American marketing. Team members from merchandising, franchise development and store operations have all come together in a collaborative process.

We've been speeding up our evolution, not waiting too long; analyzing, but not over-analyzing, Hersh said of their marketing procedures.

At one Southern California location, John Jorgenson, district sales manager for company-owned and -operated stores, described how its prepackaged sandwich cooler changed over time. Chevron retained its supplier, but simply became more active in choosing the assortment, adding more salads and other lighter fare. It also implemented a top shelf of fruit selections and juices. Before, we were passive about the choices, letting [our supplier] decide, he said. Now we're proactive.

We're listening heavily to what c-store [customers] want, said Paul Casadont, merchandising manager for Chevron. We have a good understanding, but it's also about how to deliver to them, how we can execute consistently.

To that point, Casadont and other Chevron executives pointed to strong relations with distribution partners such as Temple, Texas-based McLane Co. to consistently deliver high-turning items (at Big Oil-negotiated prices).

The only question that remains is one of continued commitment. Back in the late 1980s, when the potential of convenience within gasoline retail became self-evident, the majors held a trump card: locationsand lots of them. But history saw the majors invest and retreat, succumbing to flawed models, generic offers and returns that paled in comparison to the lure of production and refining profits.

At a high level, it's about image, said Shariq Yosufzai, president of global marketing. Chevron's c-stores are tiles in a mosaic of how the company goes to market, and must continue a message of quality that its gasoline brand appears to have achieved in the eyes of the public, he said.

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