The retail fuel and convenience industry has not historically been categorized as being at the forefront of technological innovation. However, as consumer expectations shift to digital and fuel prices reach record highs, outdated technology is powerful enough to drive customers away forever.
Integrating the basics is no longer enough. Instead, retailers must use technology to meet the needs of today’s time-poor customers who demand complete and modern dining experiences that match their digital lifestyles.
The looming economic downturn adds a sense of urgency for fuel retailers to invest now in products that optimize efficiency and increase sales, while enhancing the customer experience.
Adapting to meet the needs of new age consumers
NACS data found that 74 percent of customers are willing to drive five minutes down the road to refuel at their favorite store. Parallel to this is the growing desire of 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 are accustomed to enhanced shopping experiences that include seamless, digital transactions, hyper-personalized promotions and dynamic loyalty programs that connect them to the brand. Fuel consumers are no different.
Across the country, consumer expectations at the pump are shifting toward loyalty programs. Retailers who adapt and cater to new consumer standards will gain a competitive advantage.
Which brings us to our next question, when is it time to upgrade?
Act early to retain and grow your customer base
Volatile fuel prices, which are expected to rise through 2023, and a looming economic downturn highlight the need for retailers to invest in customer experience now. At the same time, the number of American citizens traveling across the country and resuming the daily commute has increased.
If fuel retailers want to see this revenue growth continue for the long term, they need to integrate advanced solutions early to align their brand with innovation and modernization, especially as the brand experience has more influence. Retailers who reject technology risk losing current customers and alienating 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 is essential to know your customer and the local market, anticipate future challenges and invest in the first products that will drive brand loyalty and engagement.
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, titled “A New Era for Fuel Retailers,” 65 percent of fuel retailers surveyed plan to invest more in their stores c. This makes sense to older generations, whose loyalty once came from a long relationship with the service owner, but younger generations – who are now the biggest consumers of fuel – are lower touch, crave digital experiences and are spoiled for choice.
Instead, retailers should attract them from the initial point of contact: the gas pump.
Advanced, digital and interactive dispensers provide your C-shop with the most substantial ROI by serving as a one-stop shop for all the needs of the new-age customer. They offer contactless digital payment options and offer dynamic, hyper-personalized advertising on large, high-definition screens that display relevant in-store promotions.
Additional capabilities include fully integrated loyalty programs that drive increased conversions and a variety of entertainment options such as interactive games with in-store refundable prizes, content showcasing community highlights and local traffic and weather updates – all contributing to an improved customer experience and giving C-shops the opportunity to make the most of those two or three minutes spent on fuel.
Technology is a tool, not a hindrance, but it requires the right approach and deep understanding of where the wider industry is going. As fuel dispensers are the most consistent customer touch point, retailers can use dispenser technology to instill a positive first impression, increase ROI with more opportunities to increase sales and drive traffic of foot traffic to the store, helping to increase the store’s bottom line c.
Matt Tormollen serves as vice president and general manager of Dover Fueling Solutions’ global solutions business, where he is focused on the digital transformation of the retail and fleet supply experience. Dover Fueling Solutions, part of Dover Corp., includes the product brands of Wayne Fueling Systems, OPW Fuel Management Systems, ClearView, Tokheim, ProGauge and Fairbanks. For more information, visit doverfuelingsolutions.com.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect his views Convenience store news.