Have you ever wanted to see what advances in technology the future has in store for us?
Imagine the competitive advantage you could gain from leveraging such an insight.
The Forecourt of the Future – Compared to today, fueling up a vehicle was much simpler decades ago. Consumers may have only had to choose from a couple fuel dispensers (depending on which grade of fuel they wanted), lift the handle, insert the nozzle, fuel up and head inside to pay.
When motorists pull into a gas station today, they experience information overload. They are bombarded with choices and information to absorb—especially at the fuel dispenser. Numerous grades/types of fuel (some of them higher ethanol blends or diesel) are available, plus there’s a card reader, contactless/mobile payment technology, possibly a touchscreen, a media platform and a host of marketing promos and warning stickers that can all be located on a single dispenser.
Refining the customer experience has become a paramount focus across various industries, from retail to technology to banking. It has become imperative that the retail industry and, for that matter, the fuel and convenience industry take a hard look at how it wants to engage, interact and transact with its customers or risk losing market share.
Fueling the Customer Experience
The overall fuel and convenience-retail industry has struggled in recent years to provide a consistent and personalized consumer experience due to legacy processes and IT, in addition to a rapidly evolving payments landscape indoor and now outdoor. However, c-store/fuel stations’ incredibly heavy footfall rate reveals the valuable opportunity for fuel and convenience providers to offer solutions that improve the overall customer experience and incorporate new customer journeys.
Customers expect forecourts to fulfil their role as service stations – with the emphasis being on ‘service’ – a place where they can accomplish multiple purposes in a single trip. Customers want to make efficient use of their time – gone are the days of the traditional ‘fuel and go’.
The next 10 years will see the forecourt evolving further still, with the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles and the rise of new fuel alternatives. Fuel station businesses should consider the following to innovate and accelerate their technology and to engage consumers at every point along their journey, which will in turn improve loyalty and return visits.
What can forecourt managers do to attract customers to their gas station?
For starters, maintenance of the fuel station is of paramount importance — inside and out. But that’s just the beginning. Here follow some tips that you can follow to positively impact on your sales!
- Excellent customer service. The reputation of your station’s staff is key to your success. Make sure your staff members are always respectful, ready to attend customers, and friendly. When they have a bad experience, people talk about it to their friends and family: if your staff is rude, you risk losing much more than just one customer.
- Store and station appearance. Make sure your station looks good, inside and outside. The landscape, dispensers, driveway, trash bins, and exterior of the buildings are the first things your customers, and all other passing traffic, see. If your station looks appealing, more people will stop by.
- Competitive pricing. Keep your fuel pricing comparable, or below, other neighbouring sites. It’s a great way to maintain loyalty and get repeat customers, who might then decide to also drop by at your c-store or café.
- Various types of services. Recognize what goods and services consumers want provided to them quickly, and make sure you offer them. These might include, for example, ATMs, drugstores, coffee islands, car washes and liquor sale.
- Stock up. Make sure your convenience store is fully stocked with all the merchandise your customers wish to buy. Keep track of expiration dates, and check that all products are fresh.
- Fuel station lighting. It is very important to keep your site well lit and safe — especially during dawn and evening hours. This will prevent your customers from getting injured or harmed in any way.
- Marketing and Promotional signage. Represent your brand(s) properly. Your customers look at your promotional signage on a daily basis, so do it right! Marketing materials do not just promote the items in them, but also your brand – the imagery of who you are as a convenience store. Make sure your marketing materials are tasteful and fun.
- Present a unified and personalized shopping experience. Leverage and implement end-to-end technology across multiple touchpoints to remove friction and delight their customers. This means presenting shoppers with consistent pricing, information and promotions, thereby expanding the value of their experience, increasing sales and enhancing retailers’ brand differentiation. Adopting technology across the customer journey will enable fuel and convenience retailers to offer a more compelling and frictionless forecourt and store experience.
- Make the leap to fuel or chip cards – Retailers need to really look into how they want to engage, interact and transact and use opportunities such as the outdoor payment mandates to enhance the forecourt and store experience for their customers. Digital and site technologies are evolving rapidly and are ready to support retailers in achieving their customer strategy.
- Fuel inventory monitoring. Ensure you have a reliable and advanced Wetstock management solution that you can rely on to give you complete insight to your fuel inventory, fraud and other issues in real-time.
Improve leak detection and address fuel fraud and add value to your business
Many Fuel Retailers like to bury their heads in the sand and think, “fuel loss won’t happen to me”. But it’s clear there are many expensive reasons to take fuel management seriously.
All fuel suppliers are required to employ a leak detection method. EPA regulations state that the leak detection method that you’re using needs to be able to detect a leak of 18.2 litres per day or above. But even a leak smaller than this can get you in trouble if you’re not putting in the effort to monitor your fuel.
It’s time to ask yourself:
• are you currently using a certified system that observes this regulation?
• if you did encounter a fuel system leak, would you be able to prove you’ve done your best to find it as quickly as possible?
You need a system that will provide accurate and timely feedback allowing you to assess your fuel loss and further investigate if necessary. Without one, you won’t know if you’re encountering a big problem or overreacting to a small one. Addressing fuel leaks and frauds is also key to providing a great experience to your consumers.
Looking to the future – Are you ready?
The next-generation fuel stations would use digital solutions “Internet of Things (IoT) to offer customers a range of options, in a convenient manner and at a lower cost than their competitors. The digital solutions would provide the fuel retailers a “Single View of the customer”, thus enabling quicker and better service, improved customer experience and therefore improved loyalty from the customers.
Moreover, to stay ahead of the competition, fuel retailers need to embrace next-generation solutions including superior Wetstock management solutions like Fuelsuite. Advanced Wetstock management systems would enhance the fuel site’s ability to keep their business profitable, reduce impact on environment, be compliant at all times and provide better solutions to provide better service to their customers.
EMS re-inventing the future of Wetstock Management
A breakthrough project led by EMS & RMIT’s School of Science Researchers, has been awarded a grant to develop effective machine learning techniques for identifying different sources of fuel losses, including leaks.
Fuel losses such as leakage from underground fuel storage systems is a common problem globally. It causes significant contamination of soil and groundwater, with the resulting health implications, and often requires costly remediation. Traditional compliance-based tools and software used to monitor fuel losses rely heavily on conventional statistical methods and have limitations in practical use. Machine learning provides a viable and powerful alternative which can potentially revolutionize the business practice in this industrial sector.
The outcomes of this project will enable an increase in productivity and provide powerful techniques for accurate identification and quantification of fuel losses, whether these are temperature related losses, or losses through incorrectly calibrated equipment.
Machine learning techniques for fuel loss detection at service stations – THE BEST OF RMIT & EMS LEADING THE PROJECT
EMS and partner RMIT will develop data analytic practices and automation, as well as to enable better and faster decision making through harnessing effective machine learning methods.
Let us help you make the convenience store a destination
The fuel station of the future should be a destination instead of an inconvenient pit stop. A clean, tech-forward environment will help to streamline in-store processes, encourage additional spending by adding new services and keep customers coming back for more. In addition, concepts that encourage customers to leverage services provided and to combine services, including order ahead, scan and go, pay at the pump, drive-thru pickup and more, allow retailers to better engage their customers and make their lives easier.
It’s clear the Covid-19 pandemic deterred consumers from visiting the big supermarket chains, leading to an increase in customers purchasing from smaller local shops – and allowing forecourt stores to act as places of convenience too.
The new customer value proposition must take into account the needs of today’s consumers, as well as the potential needs of the consumers of the future. It also needs to be mindful of the energy transition that is being shaped by the forces of change discussed hitherto. Fuel retail businesses might also need to redefine their business models to add new services and benefit from potential new sources of revenue while addressing current customer pain points.
If you want to know how EMS can help you with one, single solution for fuel station and c-store to provide best-in-class services to your customers, do not hesitate to schedule a call/demo with one of our Fuelsuite experts.
By Russell Dupuy, Environmental Monitoring Solutions