By this point, we’re all well aware that the pandemic certainly caused significant disruption in fuel needs and customer behaviour, as most people drove less often and wanted to engage in person less frequently. And that upheaval hasn’t yet abated as fuel retailers are eyeing the next big disruptions: the surge in electric vehicles and the increase in contactless transactions.
Those two disruptions alone are enough to shake up the industry, but there could be a solution that draws customers to the forecourt and keeps their business coming back for more. Digital transformation is the key to the future of the forecourt, and will provide the basis for continued customer engagement that can build loyalty in an uncertain environment.
When it comes to envisioning the future of the forecourt, it’s clear that electric vehicles (EVs) will be a major part of that picture. According to an article published in the BBC, “Global sales of electric cars raced forward in 2020, rising by 43% to a total of 3.2m, despite overall car sales slumping by a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic.” And many leading car companies have committed to producing only electric vehicles by 2030 or 2035, including General Motors, Volvo, and even Jaguar.
Some customers will begin to shift from a weekly visit to their local service station, where they probably picked up a packet of crisps or a bottle of windscreen washing fluid, to charging their EVs at home. But customers will inevitably need to charge their EVs while out on the road, especially as they come to grips with how far they can travel with a single charge, and high-speed charging stations will be among the transformative options the forecourt will need to offer.
Rise in contactless payments
With Covid-19 came the rise in contactless payments, and more forecourts are switching to pay-at-the-pump fueling stations that can serve to keep customers from coming into the shop and stocking up on other items they didn’t realize they needed.
Digital transformation & loyalty programs
But those disruptions aren’t insurmountable. Technology that improves customer relationships and builds customer loyalty can help mitigate the losses caused by these disruptions. Digital transformation, such as loyalty programs that serve to educate retailers about their customers’ past buying behavior, will bolster customer support despite changes to the fuel retail landscape.
In an interview with Tech Monitor, CGI vice president Shan Roy explained that retailers often don’t know what to do with the vast swathes of data they collect. “It’s about starting small and learning where value can be added for both the retailer and the customer,” he said, “So, for example, we might use loyalty platforms to start thinking about customer’s order patterns, and then make recommendations based on that.” Data will therefore be critical in informing retailers’ decisions when it comes to offers, discounts, and inventory.
Speaking with Forecourt Retailer, applied futurist Tom Cheesewright said of a recent Connected Enterprise study, explained that “Data-driven technology and intelligent inventory management will be combined to deliver an increasingly personalised omnichannel buying experience, taking consumers and their preferences from online to in-store with zero friction.”
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