Jan 31, 2022
How Dover Fueling Solutions is Driving the Evolution of the Customer Experience
The fuel industry has long operated through traditional, recognized systems. And until recently, companies have accepted existing technologies, with little focus on the consumer experience and how this can be improved. When new technologies were developed, the previous attitude was very much about providing the customer with what they think they want, rather than asking customers directly what they actually want.
In recent years, the industry has started to realize this antiquated approach to developing new solutions is no longer sufficient and many companies now recognize the modern consumer is very different and ready for a change. Companies are also acknowledging the importance of improving the customer experience and working hard to develop innovative solutions that meet this common goal.
Dover Fueling Solutions (DFS) is one such company, and we're fortunate to have access to a large and diverse installed base with insightful users who have provided in-depth feedback on how integrated forecourt solutions should operate and deliver value. These data points are helping drive the next generation product and solution development focused on enhancing the customer experience.
Market Trends: Let’s Look at the Data
Over the past two years, DFS has noticed a huge surge in the number of contactless payments occurring on fuel stations throughout Europe – not just in-store, but on outdoor transactions as well. Before the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020, around 15% of fuel transactions were paid for via contactless methods (most of which were made in-store) via the Tokheim OASE™ (Online Authorisation and Switching Environment). But by October 2020, following the first and second waves of the pandemic, the percentage of contactless transactions had more than doubled to 32%.
The statistics for outdoor contactless payment transactions are equally as impressive, with the percentage of transactions rising from 0.9% to 3.4%. Nevertheless, compared with indoor payment transactions, outdoor contactless payment has seen a much lower penetration rate, which can be mostly attributed to the cost of the hardware installations, as well as the specifics of outdoor payment using pre-authorizations.
Noticing the potential for growth in outdoor payment solutions and the positive impact this would have on the consumer experience, DFS began migrating its install base to outdoor contactless payment solutions throughout 2020 and into 2021, and has now integrated 43% of its install base across Europe.
The impact of COVID cannot be ignored as a direct reason for this growth across the board. Consumers have frequently opted for contactless methods of payment over cash alternatives, and are choosing private transport instead of public, resulting in an increase in the number of re-fuel sales. At the start of the pandemic, the contactless limit also increased from 20 to 50 euros, meaning consumers were able to pay for more expensive purchases – including fuel – via contactless means.
COVID also impacted the choices that consumers made with regards to where they chose to shop. During the early stages of the pandemic, fuel retail sites were increasingly seen as a more convenient and safer place to shop than some of the larger supermarkets, given their local presence and lighter foot traffic. Statistics gathered show that while fuel sales decreased during COVID, convenience retail product sales increased significantly.
Another trend in the fuel industry is the use of mobile payment, though this topic is still one of hot debate. There is no doubt mobile payment technology is evolving, and we are seeing some slower growth than expected as the industry begins to adopt new mobile payment solutions. However, there is still a way to go in terms of finding a mobile payment solution that promotes a great customer experience in order to bring mobile payment technology into the mix as a true competitor. The focus here needs to be primarily on the consumer experience to make it a success.
Currently, card payment, whether traditional or contactless, is much easier and faster than mobile. Mobile payment solutions typically require the user to configure their device to submit payment, which can be fiddly, time-consuming and often frustrating. Regardless, mobile payment provides an opportunity for the industry, and DFS continues to explore this with its customers and technology partners. Once done right and made easier compared with card payments, it will be a game-changer, like many other mobile payment advancements in other industries.
Driven by the wealth of data, DFS began looking at ways in which it could improve the customer journey at multiple points in the fueling process. The first problem it looked to address was the customer buying journey and the integration of in-store and forecourt purchases.
How is DFS Utilizing these Trends to Bring New Solutions to the Market?
Queuing has been identified as a key frustration of customers in recent years. For instance, 33% of customers leave the store without buying anything if the queues are likely to last longer than 7 minutes*. The importance of knowledgeable staff, the impact they have on customers making an informed purchase and ensuring they have the best experience throughout their buying process was also something DFS wanted to draw on when developing a new solution.
DFS’ objective was to keep customers happy by helping them to avoid queues with a simple solution that would speed up the checkout process, as well as streamline the use of staff while reducing their footprint to lower costs for forecourt owners. The solution: the DFS Self-Checkout Kiosk.
Studies have shown self-checkout kiosks are simply faster than traditional checkout systems. Even in peak periods, research shows consumers can scan, pay and continue with their day much more efficiently. They also lower operational costs by reducing the number of single-lane cashiers, allowing merchants to redeploy employees to complete other valuable tasks. A self-checkout kiosk is ideally suited for consumers with small baskets and strong card payment usage, making it perfect for the fuel retail sector. These kiosks can be placed into a relatively small area and typically take up less space than a single traditional point-of-sale (POS) system with a cashier.
Once the solution had been decided, the challenge was to work out how it would be installed across forecourts throughout Europe and how it would be positioned depending on the market. Each fuel site has different needs, which would need to be determined on a site-by-site basis. Factors such as store architecture and the physical customer journey would both impact the location at which the terminals needed to be installed, as well as in which form. Additional considerations – such as the required extra functionality for certain markets – would also impact the integration of this solution. These features could include a light bar that indicates if a customer needed extra assistance or remote displays helping cashiers monitor what the customer is doing when making payments. However, the key to the success of the DFS Self-Checkout Kiosk was the ability for DFS to integrate market-specific payment methods with the system. In Belgium, for example, this was through Payconiq, a popular mobile payment solution based on QR codes.
However, the most notable challenge for DFS was developing a solution that merged both convenience store purchases with fuel. DFS partnered with Big Brother, a CCTV supplier, to fully integrate the DFS Self-Checkout Solution and make it a reality. This partnership enabled visitors to site to make fuel payments by selecting their car from the live site footage, which reduced the number of mistakes and sped up the payment process.
Another similar evolution piloted by DFS in the summer of 2021 on the French highway was the Mobile POS Kiosk. The French highway network is known for being exceptionally busy during the summer period, and retailers were looking for solutions to speed up the purchasing process and reduce congestion for their many customers, whilst allowing both convenience and fuel purchases to be made in a single transaction. They addressed the issue through the creation of small, completely mobile convenience units, which sold a variety of popular snacks and beverages, but also had the capability to accept card payments for fuel purchases at the same time – all without the customer having to enter the convenience store. The mobility of the solution meant fuel retailers could be responsive to the changing traffic, moving the kiosk to the busiest areas to keep the flow of customer traffic moving at a regular pace.
The Mobile POS Kiosk solution was a strong example of how DFS responded to the needs of the French market, creating a positive consumer experience to stay close to its customers and improve throughput at site. DFS is already building in more functionality to the solution in order to roll it out to a wider market. It is another example of how DFS is improving the consumer experience and increasing site throughput.
Perhaps the most notable consumer experience technology DFS has developed over the past few years is the DFS Anthem UX™ user experience platform. This ground-breaking, award-winning solution features an intuitive user interface that opens a new way for fuel retailers to interact with customers at the dispenser through a flexible content platform that allows for an unmatched customer experience that is simpler, faster, more relevant and entertaining. The Anthem UX platform offers the customer a range of options when they fuel their vehicle, such as receipt type, fuel grade, operating language, media and sound levels. It also offers users multi-channel media selection across a broad range of content, such as weather, traffic, sports and other forms of entertainment, through the integration of DFS’ media solution, DX Promote™ . Using DX Promote, fuel retailers are also able to make use of increased branding and advertising capabilities, upselling different fuel grades, promoting in-store offers and offering loyalty rewards. What’s more, customers are able to make purchases for both fuel and convenience items at the dispenser itself, before they even enter the store.
The Anthem UX platform has already experienced huge success in the U.S. market for its unrivalled customer experience capabilities. The next challenge the company is facing is how to bring this revolutionary platform to other markets around the globe.
In recent years, governments and the public have become more and more concerned with finding greener alternatives to conventional means of travel. One trend that has really taken off is the development and adoption of electric vehicles (EV). The adoption of EV technology across the world varies heavily from country to country, with a small number of countries in Europe leading the way. In Belgium, for example, EVs for business use are subsidised by the government, providing a huge incentive for people to choose more environmentally friendly transport on a day-to-day basis. In Norway, 73.8% of all new passenger car registrations in November 2021 were fully electric**. There is no doubt the dawn of the EV is here, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up with these leading examples.
DFS has already secured strong partnerships with EV companies, including ChargePoint in North America, to improve its alternative fuel offering to its customers and keep up with this momentous trend. The next challenge DFS faces is how it should go about merging the ecosystem of the EV charger and the ecosystem at the fuel retail site to ensure customers have the same level of convenience they expect for vehicles powered by conventional fuels.
So far, DFS has successfully integrated EV chargers into the fuel retailer’s site system using the industry standard OCPP protocol, thereby enabling the use of existing payment and loyalty solutions for EV chargers. This creates a better experience for consumers by providing clear insight into EV pricing. Fuel retailers are able to fully reconcile EV-related activity into their site reconciliation data, therefore benefitting from complete visibility on their overall site performance.
Going forward, DFS will continue to advance its existing technologies and consumer experience platforms in 2022 and beyond. In 2021, DFS released its DFS DX™ connected solutions platform to the global market, a cloud-enabled set of solutions created to offer a differentiating opportunity for both convenience retail and commercial fleet fuelling owners and operators through increased sales and reduced costs. DFS DX improves the customer experience by optimising site assets across the forecourt, winning the customers trust by way of a frictionless forecourt experience.
DFS DX is the industry’s first open, global and common cloud platform that harnesses advanced analytics and IoT to deliver innovative solutions focused on customer experience and site optimization. The five core solutions for DFS DX span wetstock management, remote asset monitoring, targeted promotions and media at the dispenser, fleet fueling site management, and point of sale management. These solutions empower fuel retailers to identify fuel loss in real-time, optimize dispenser uptime, increase convenience retail sales through targeted digital promotions, centrally manage point-of-sale solutions and control an entire fleet fueling enterprise from a single cloud-based interface.
*“High street retailers risk losing queue hating UK shoppers.” 25 Feb. 2021. https://retailtechinnovationhub.com/home/2021/2/25/high-street-retailers-risk-losing-queue-hating-uk-shoppers
**Randall, Chris. “Norway marks 11,274 new BEVs sold over November.” 2 Dec. 2021.