The fuel and convenience retail industry has not historically been classified as being at the forefront of technological innovation. However, as consumer expectations shift to digital and fuel prices reach record highs, old technology is powerful enough to drive customers away permanently.
Basic integration is no longer enough. Instead, retailers must leverage technology to meet the needs of today’s customers who are time-poor and seek complete and modern fueling experiences that match their digital lifestyles.
The impending economic downturn adds a sense of urgency for fuel retailers who must now invest in products that optimize efficiency and increase sales while enhancing the customer experience.
Adapting to meet new-age consumer needs
NACS data found that 74 percent of customers are willing to drive five minutes out of the way to fuel up at their favorite convenience store. Parallel to this is a growing desire from consumers for two-way engagements from their favorite brands.
A recent Salesforce report found that 80 percent of customers say the experiences a company provides are as important to them as its products and services, and 88 percent expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives.
Modern consumers have become accustomed to sophisticated shopping experiences that include seamless, digital transactions, hyper-personalized promotions, and dynamic loyalty programs that connect them to brands. Fuel consumers are no different.
Across the country, consumer expectations at the pump are shifting to loyalty programs. Retailers that adapt and meet new consumer standards will gain a competitive advantage.
Which leads us to our next question, when is it time to upgrade?
Act quickly to maintain and grow your customer base
Volatile fuel prices, which are expected to rise through 2023, and the impending economic downturn underscore the need for retailers to invest in the customer experience. Simultaneously, numbers of American citizens have resumed road-tripping and daily commutes across the country.
If fuel retailers want to see this revenue growth continue over the long term, they must quickly integrate advanced solutions to align their brands with innovation and modernization, especially as the brand experience has greater influence. Retailers who reject technology risk losing current customers and discouraging new ones.
While investing in technology is vital to your c-store’s success, it’s evolving faster than ever, and staying up-to-date can be expensive. So, how do you know which products are worth the investment?
Know your customer and local market, anticipate future challenges, and invest in forecourt products that drive brand loyalty and engagement.
According to a Boston Consulting Group report titled “A New Era for Fuel Retailers,” 65 percent of fuel retailers plan to invest more in their c-stores. This makes sense for older generations whose loyalty once arose from a long-standing relationship with a service station owner, but younger generations – Which is now the biggest fuel consumer – are less tactile, want digital experiences, and are spoiled for choice.
Retailers must captivate them from the initial point of contact: the fuel pump.
Advanced, digital and interactive dispensers deliver the most significant ROI to your c-store by serving as a one-stop-shop for all new-age customer needs. They offer digital, contactless payment options and deliver dynamic, hyper-personalized advertising displaying relevant in-store promotions on large, high-definition displays.
Additional capabilities include fully integrated loyalty programs that increase conversions, and a variety of entertainment options such as interactive games with in-store rewards, content showcasing community highlights, and local traffic and weather updates. – All contributing to an enhanced customer experience, and giving c-stores a chance to spend those two or three minutes of fuel.
Technology is a tool, not a hindrance, but it requires the right approach and a deep understanding of where the wider industry is going. As fuel dispensers are customers’ most consistent point of contact, retailers can leverage dispenser technology to make a positive first impression, increase ROI and help boost a c-store’s bottom line, with more opportunities to drive in-store foot traffic.
Matt Tormolen serves as vice president and general manager of Dover Fueling Solutions’ global solutions business, where he focuses on the digital transformation of the retail and fleet fueling experience. Dover Fueling Solutions, a part of Dover Corporation, includes product brands of Wayne Fueling Systems, OPW Fuel Management Systems, Clearview, Tokhem, ProGage and Fairbanks. For more information, visit doverfuelingsolutions.com.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views Convenience Store News.