The fuel retail business is an important cog in the wheel that drives our economies. With over 300 000 registered sites worldwide, economic development would be severely impaired if these depots weren’t – excuse the pun – well-oiled machines. So, let’s take a peek at a few predictions.
With the unmentionable virus in our forecourts and backyards, business has slowed down to a snail’s pace. In order to meet the demands of the future, the next generation of fuel station will have to deliver a holistic, enhanced experience. But none of the functionality required to meet the challenge is possible without calling on new, sector specific technology.
It’s a new world out there. Traditional modes of transport and systems are a thing of the past. Electric cars, self-drive vehicles and delivery platforms such as Uber and Bolt plus the Internet of Things are shaking things up and demanding a big step-up. Add to that the increased volume of available information and sophistication of data analytics and we can start to imagine the next generation of forecourts – soon to be on our doorsteps. Today, in countries like Japan, the hoses fall from the ceiling leaving more space on the forecourt – which could mean faster service to more customers. Did we just hear that cash register ring?
According to Accenture’s Fuels Retail report by Carey & Trentman, fuel profit margins have been paper thin. And KPMG holds that 63% of gross margins at forecourts in the US are derived from non-fuel revenues. Two good reasons to explore the food and convenience angle first.
Platforms such as UberEats, Mr. Delivery and hundreds of others will no doubt influence the forecourt’s response in terms of delivery mechanisms and the types of food on offer. The old-fashioned petrol station was renowned for ready-made affordable eats. But busy agendas, and a reticence to mingle, demand more sophisticated menus and a slick Click-and-Collect option. Think dedicated pick-up lanes with seamless, sanitised service and a proprietary fleet of delivery vehicles.
Developed countries will also, no doubt, need to offer comfortable and safe workspaces and added value services such as parcel collection facilities from e-commerce retailers. And frequent visitor loyalty programmes that will need to extend beyond fuel purchases only.
In the US food spending on take-aways and eat-outs has long surpassed the money spent on food consumed at home. The human energy and time required to cook and clean have made convenience meals an irresistible option. But, be aware, customers now show a preference for healthier meals – as opposed to the grab-and-go pie and soda of the past.
Responsible consumers are also looking towards other energy sources – electricity, LPG, biofuels, compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen. And they demand eco-friendly operations. Not only are people aware of the need to reduce their own carbon footprint, but they are also insisting that the brands they support reduce their impact on the environment. Retail sites are responding by evolving their buildings and surrounds into eco-friendly pit stops with sustainable practices such as solar power and waste recycling facilities.
Smart fuel companies will invest in hyper-connecting with customers. Smartphones have become an extension of our arms, and businesses are collecting vast loads of data which will guide the way to success via omnichannel and highly targeted personalised marketing.
Altron Bytes Managed Solutions
1 Vlak Street, Selby Ext. 5, 2092, Gauteng,
PO Box 3591, Johannesburg, 2000,
Gauteng, South Africa
+27 (11) 373 4000