29 Nov, 2021
Innovation Will Fuel Our Success: Transformation Tips For Fuel Site Owners And Operators
Jocelyn Sexton, Director of Marketing and Communications at Dover Fueling Solutions.
Originally published in Forbes magazine online. Nov 15, 2021, 07:15am EST
Marketers and professional communicators are keenly aware of the once-unthinkable disruptions the Covid-19 pandemic has created in the global economy. In the fueling industry, as we begin to work our way out of the initial shocks and interruptions of normalcy, recovery continues to pose its own unique challenges, particularly for the customers we work with.
Right now, our industry is tackling issues like fuel shortages (paywall), which can be disruptive to economic activity and supply chains. Even once those areas stabilize, we will still need to figure out how to solve long-term challenges like the need to produce cleaner energy while ramping up to meet the energy demands of a growing global population. And of course, our customers want to run profitable businesses.
I saw these concerns firsthand in early October 2021 when I attended my first industry conference since December 2019. Participation was down a bit, but hopes were high. And while it was fantastic to finally meet some customers, distributors and co-workers face-to-face (although often while wearing a mask and maintaining distance), we confirmed that some structural changes — like the shift to remote work and the necessity for virtual meetings — might really become permanent.
There are also more immediate, day-to-day challenges site owners and operators face that have been magnified by Covid-19 and our long journey toward a post-pandemic period. At Dover Fueling Solutions (DFS), I work with a team of professionals dedicated to helping our industry solve these issues. Here are my recommendations for addressing them.
Stand Out From The Crowd
One of the most common challenges I see fueling station owners and operators face is how to help people understand who they are — and what makes them different from the station down the road. Of course, this is not unique to our industry; creating a brand with a unique and differentiated value proposition is key to the success of all businesses. But gas stations can seemingly blend together, and fuel serves as a commodity.
Now that more people are staying at home due to the shift to remote work (U.S. travel in millions of vehicle miles is down from 2019) — differentiating yourself as a brand is more vital than ever. When our customers ask us how best to achieve this, we usually start by recommending they consider the forecourt consumer experience.
In the fueling industry, the “forecourt” essentially refers to the area outside the store, including the fuel dispensers, the parking lot and beyond. Innovation in this area was previously limited to incremental improvements in lighting, signage and adding consumer conveniences. But the most advanced of today’s fuel dispensers make customers feel like they are interacting with giant iPads, and one secret to making them truly your own lies in your branding. Customize your forecourt with your logos and colors, of course, and think about how to use digital transformation to create something truly special. Think that aspect of the engagement experience through to ensure it’s the most accurate possible representation of your brand.
Know When It’s Time For A Change
Like many industries, fueling is a traditional one — with roots that go all the way back to the industrial revolution. Many companies in our industry could benefit from digital transformation. But the barriers to implementing technology can be formidable, from paying for it to implementing and managing it. Even the terminology itself can be intimidating. Cloud services, Internet of Things (IOT) devices, augmented reality: These are not terms or concepts many of our clients are familiar with. So education and patience are key.
When you are ready to begin your digital transformation, make it a successful one by thinking about what your customers’ unique needs and desires are, and then build your strategy around solving those problems. Consider what your competitors are doing. Can you offer something different? Leverage industry resources, like blogs and other sources of industry information — and don’t allow a limited budget to deter you. There are digital transformation solutions available at almost every price point, including many products and services that you can customize to your needs.
Jocelyn Sexton is global Director of Marketing and Communications at Dover Fueling Solutions, overseeing brand awareness & demand generation