Gunter Pfau, founder and CEO of Stuzo, started the company in 2007, sold it in 2010, got it back in 2013, and has been transforming it ever since. Pfau spoke with The Inquirer at Stuzo’s Philadelphia headquarters on the outskirts of Chinatown about how his company and its employees are working to revolutionize e-commerce. Employee responses to the 2020 Inquirer Top Workplaces survey made Pfau top leader in the small businesses category.

What does Stuzo do?

We empower retailers to drive personalized commerce programs and one-to-one customer-activation programs. More simply: We help retailers drive profitable customer behaviors through digital commerce and loyalty.

How has COVID-19 uniquely affected your company, and how have your employees responded?

Stuzo’s priorities for 2020 changed significantly in March. The majority of our customers are in categories that were impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns and, as such, so was our business. Coming out of March we shifted to the following priorities: 1. Empower our employees to do exceptional work and be culturally connected while remote. 2. Do everything in our power to help protect our customers’ businesses through an extended period of uncertainty. 3. Be creative and strategic to ensure that Stuzo comes out of COVID-19 stronger as a company.

While it has not all been easy, and our business has been impacted, I am beyond proud of how our team responded to the shift in priorities and how we’ve executed overall as a company through COVID-19.

Your clients include Sunoco and Dave & Buster’s. They seem like very different businesses with very different customer visits. How does Stuzo appeal to both?

Think of a customer life cycle or journey. If you drive a car back and forth to work, you typically will have to fill that car up on a weekly basis. But some people will go to a fuel store every day to get their coffee or their breakfast or lunch. So, depending on where the consumer is in their journey with that brand, we want to help the brand progress that journey. We want to drive frequency. We want to turn the customer who visits once every two or three months into one who visits every week.

Do you also work with brands to make sure they’re worth engaging with every week?

Customer loyalty is an outcome and not an input, and customer loyalty is earned first and foremost by the retailer providing a compelling product and service. Whether that is high-quality gas, fantastic coffee, great price, good food, or fun from playing games. What we do is help to empower personalization and commerce. If you don’t like coffee, say, then probably I shouldn’t give you a coffee offer — even if it’s the best coffee in the world — because you’re not going to take that. So we let the retailer know that you don’t like coffee and empower them to personalize their offers and promotions to you.

How did you determine this was a business worth pursuing?

We realized that the brick-and-mortar retailer lacked capabilities that were available in online retailing. If you go to any online retail site, there’s a recommendation engine. Because you bought this, you should also consider buying this. Your online commerce experiences are very much personalized to you. Your physical commerce experiences are not, yet. We’re working on that.

Your online commerce experiences are frictionless. We believe we can make physical retail just as frictionless as online retail. So we’re creating a digital storefront that augments the physical storefront. And that creates greater customer loyalty because you see the right offer for you.

What type of professionals work at Stuzo?

We have a lot of software engineers, as you might imagine. And we have product managers, project managers, designers, QA engineers, scrum masters, and people who work in sales, marketing, and customer success.

Why do you think Stuzo has been included in Top Workplaces?

I guess I would lean on what our team said about what makes us a great workplace. My interpretation — not pertaining to the work, which is good work and it’s fun and we’re very passionate about the work — has to do with our culture and how we think about management and people. One of our core values is called ‘Go Nerds!’ That value says, ‘Embrace your inner nerd. With our strengths combined together we’ll make history.’

That ties in really well with our concept of team chemistry, which means leveraging each other’s strengths and strengthening each other’s weaknesses. That’s really the culture that we’re furthering here, and the way that we do that is what makes us special and unique in terms of a workplace.