September 18, 2023
Future-Ready Forecourt Through Connectivity
A forecourt equipped with fully functioning fuel dispensers, secure payment terminals and reliable payment solutions sounds like a forecourt that’s built to optimize sales and improve the customer experience to its highest potential in 2023 and beyond, right? Think again. Technological advancements, changes in consumer behavior and new trends within the fuel retail industry are all reasons why today’s forecourt owners need to look beyond investing in products and solutions that only perform well on their own, and instead, create a forecourt equipped with products and solutions that work well with each other. By doing so, the forecourt becomes connected. But what exactly do we mean by connectivity?
What Does a Connected Forecourt Look Like?
Firstly, it is important to consider the layout of the fuel station. Is it easy for a customer who has just entered the forecourt to refuel their vehicle, and then use additional services such as the car wash or tyre pressure station? If they’re having to go out of their way to access these services, it could have a negative impact on their customer experience, which could result in them choosing another station (i.e., one of your competitors’ forecourts) because it has a much better layout and is optimized for ease. Layout is important. If done poorly, retailers risk losing out on potential revenue and the ability to build loyal, returning customers, as well as leaving motorists with a less than average consumer journey.
Secondly, it is worth considering the power of media. Do the fuel dispensers on the forecourt have the capability to target customers with promotional advertisements through the dispensers’ media screen while they refuel their vehicle? Investing in media solutions allows forecourt owners to connect fuel dispensers with the convenience store (i.e., e-store) and drive customers in-store to make the most of advertised promotions; allow for any payment transaction made at the dispenser or c-store to be recorded instantly and transmitted to a secure and safe environment allowing you to understand your customers’ shopping behaviour and needs on a greater scale, as well as monitor your fuel output or any potential fuel loss much quicker. What’s more, through media, retailers have the ability to introduce personalization – something that’s been proven to add additional value for companies - as well as their customers - if done right (McKinsey, 2023).
As global sales of EV chargers increase (Statista, 2023), and a growing number of consumers look for charging stations, it’s important to evaluate whether fuel stations are offering appropriate services for customers who have an additional 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the vehicle and charging stations available) to spend on your forecourt while charging their vehicle? According to a study by (Deloitte 2023), EV drivers look out for amenities such as coffee and beverages (64%), bathroom access (56%), Wi-Fi connectivity (55%), snacks and light meals (43%), and lounge or sitting areas (42%). By offering Wi-Fi connectivity, a waiting area or an interactive means of entertainment for these customers is a sign that the forecourt owner has considered the complete customer journey.
As likely as it is, customers will visit the forecourt primarily for fuel or electricity, but retailers must also be ready to offer additional products and services to optimize sales and offer a more pleasant customer experience; whether that’s a car wash, cash, vending or coffee machines, or parcel drop-off points. There’s no better time to invest in products and solutions that will allow for 360-degree connectivity than now.
360-Degrees of Forecourt Connection
Today’s consumer demands easy-to-use, secure, fast products and solutions, so retailers are not able to successfully run a forecourt with a bad layout or poorly connected products and solutions. At Dover Fueling Solutions® (DFS), we consider connectivity to be an important element for a positive forecourt operation, especially throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (European Commission, 2022), which is why we are helping to connect our customers’ forecourts completely – a whole 360 degrees.
Earlier in the year, DFS launched DX Power™ - a solution that integrates EV chargers with Prizma, DFS’s connected mobility and convenience hub, to provide retailers with improved visibility and control, and customers with flexible payment options. A station in Iceland recently installed DX Power™, and has already captured the great improvements this solution has made on their business and customers: the ability to provide a user-friendly EV charging station, while having increased visibility and control across all transactions on site.
“The energy mix in the fuel and convenience retail industry is changing,” said David Mc Guinness, Director Product Management, Electric Vehicle Charging, DFS. “DX Power™ will help future-proof businesses by allowing them to easily navigate the energy shift and ensure they’re well prepared to serve a combination of customer needs. This solution further strengthens DFS’s product portfolio around EV charging, following on from the launch of the Power UX™ 180 Electric Vehicle Charging System last year.”
As more and more stations begin to invest in alternative fuels (IEA, 2023), whether that’s Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), EV or Hydrogen, the need for connectivity has never been so important than now. The good news is, Prizma spans a continuum of options and opportunities including end-to-end secure payment, clean and conventional fuel types, and connected cloud solution – making achieving site-wide connectivity easier than ever.
Getting to Know the Customer
In addition to the above, retailers should consider how collecting the data their customers leave behind can drive positive changes. Sure, a station might offer contactless payments – both inside and outside – self-checkout kiosks or secure payment terminals that operate with cash, but has the retailer considered integrating cloud-solutions as well?
A cloud-enabled solution can help to manage all site data and monitor and analyze information faster and more accurately. Keep in mind, customers will have different preferences on how they want to pay – it is the retailer’s job is to make sure they have the choice they expect, while our job at DFS is to provide them with the products and solutions they need to make these choices possible day in, day out.
The right data can help retailers understand what their customer preferences are, such whether their preferred method of payment is cash, card or contactless, as well as the average number of times they visit their forecourt within a week, or if they use the car wash daily or only once a month. Once this information is available, forecourt operators can start to paint a bigger picture and understand their customers on a whole new level, improving the customer journey, increasing sales and profit margins, and becoming the forecourt that motorists will want to visit.
Today’s ideal forecourt offers a number of different features, each delivering a unique service to the end customer, but doing it in a way that allows the data and customer experience to be as connected as it possibly can be. The goal as a fuel station owner should not only be to increase sales and bring traffic to the forecourt, but ensure data relating to those sales is captured accurately and used efficiently to improve the entire station offering, so it’s ready to meet the consumer demands of tomorrow. It’s time for retailers to ensure the customer who entered the forecourt yesterday will return tomorrow, the day after that, and the weeks and months to follow. If you’re a retailer, then reach out to us for guidance and assistance to help you improve your forecourt offering, because trust us, your competitors will not wait around to meet this fast-moving connectivity trend.