The fuel and convenience retail industry has not historically been categorized as one that’s at the forefront of technological innovation. Yet, as consumer expectations shift to digital and fuel prices reach record highs, outdated technology is powerful enough to turn customers away permanently.
Integrating the basics is no longer sufficient. Instead, retailers must leverage technology to meet the needs of current-day customers who are time-poor and seeking complete and modern fueling experiences that match their digital lifestyles.
The impending economic downturn adds a sense of urgency for fuel retailers that must invest now in products that optimize efficiency and increase sales, while simultaneously enhancing the customer experience.
NACS data revealed that 74 percent of customers are willing to drive five minutes out of the way to fuel up at their preferred convenience store. Parallel to this is the increasing desire from consumers for two-way engagements from their favorite brands.
A recent Salesforce report found that 80 percent of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services, and 88 percent expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives.
Modern consumers have grown accustomed to enhanced purchasing experiences involving seamless, digital transactions, hyper-personalized promotions, and dynamic loyalty programs connecting them to the brand. Fuel consumers are no different.
Across the country, consumer expectations at the pump are shifting to loyalty programs. Retailers that adapt and cater to new consumer standards will gain a competitive advantage.
Which leads us to our next question, when is it time to upgrade? Act Early to Retain & Grow Your Customer Base. Unstable fuel prices, which are expected to rise through 2023, and an impending economic downturn emphasize retailers’ need to invest in the customer experience now.
Simultaneously the number of U.S. citizens road-tripping around the country and resuming the daily commute is up. If fuel retailers want to see this revenue uptick continue long-term, they must integrate advanced solutions early to align their brand with innovation and modernization, particularly as brand experience holds more sway. The retailers that reject technology risk losing current customers and dissuading new ones.
While investing in technology is vital to the success of your c-store, its evolution is moving faster than ever, and staying up to date can be expensive. So, how do you know which products are worth the investment?
It’s essential to know your customer and local market, anticipate future challenges, and invest in the forecourt products that will drive brand loyalty and engagement.
According to a report from Boston Consulting Group, entitled “A New Era for Fuel Retailers,” 65 percent of fuel retailers surveyed plan to invest more in their c-stores. This makes sense for older generations whose loyalty once stemmed from a longstanding relationship with the service station owner, but younger generations — who are now the biggest fuel consumers — are lower touch, crave digital experiences, and are spoiled for choice.
Retailers must instead captivate them from the initial point of contact: the fuel pump. Advanced, digital and interactive dispensers provide your c-store with the most substantial ROI by serving as a one-stop-shop for all new-age customer needs.
They offer digital, contactless payment options and deliver dynamic, hyper-personalized advertisements on large, high-definition displays showcasing relevant in-store promotions.
Additional capabilities include fully integrated loyalty programs driving increased conversions, and a variety of entertainment options such as interactive games with redeemable in-store prizes, content showcasing community highlights, and local traffic and weather updates — all contributing to an enhanced customer experience, and allowing c-stores the opportunity to make the most of those two or three minutes spent fueling.
Technology is a tool, not a barrier, but it requires the right approach and in-depth understanding of where the wider industry is headed. With fuel dispensers being the customers’ most consistent point of contact, retailers can leverage dispenser technology to ingrain a positive first impression, increase ROI with more opportunities to upsell and drive foot traffic in-store, helping boost the c-store’s bottom line.