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Tech talk at the pump: ‘Alexa, pay for gas’

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 11.39.15 AMExxonMobil is teaming up with payments and financial technology provider Fiserv to enable drivers pay for gasoline using Amazon Alexa.

The initiative will first roll out for more than 11,5000 U.S. Exxon and Mobil gas stations, giving users of Alexa-enabled vehicles, Echo Auto and other Alexa-enabled mobility devices to pay at the pump with the vocal command “Alexa, pay for gas.”

The transactions will be processed by Amazon Pay, allowing users to use the payment information stored in their Amazon account, and powered by digital commerce technology from Fiserv.

pumping-gas-500-x-400_0After drivers make the payment command, Alexa confirms the gas station location and pump number. Fiserv technology will then activate the pump and facilitate token generation to help ensure a secure payment experience.

“We’re excited to bring new technology and better experiences to the gas station,” said Eric Carmichael, Americas fuels marketing manager at ExxonMobil. “We build and seek out technology that will wow our consumers, providing both ease of use and security.”

The companies announced the new payment option in advance of CES 2020, held Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas, and will demonstrate it for the first time in the Amazon Automotive booth.

“As consumer expectations change, there is growing demand for frictionless interactions that span the digital and physical worlds,” said Devin McGranahan, senior group president, global business solutions at Fiserv. “The age of connected commerce is here, and voice-activated smart devices will play a pivotal role in the future of payments by streamlining the way consumers make purchases every day.”

Based in Spring, Texas, ExxonMobil is the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Fuel prices and Canadian dollar expected to show gains in 2020



A spike in current and long-range gasoline pricing will come as no surprise to retailers and most Canadians. Expect the cost of fuels to rise at the dispenser as we move into 2020. These hikes happen due to four factors that determine the consumers’ price. Dispenser price is impacted by the cost of crude oil, the margins at the refinery, the cost to market fuel, and taxes. Here, key elements are the rising price of crude and—thanks to carbon pricing schemes—taxes are up as well.

Roger McKnight

Roger McKnight

According to market analyst Roger McKnight of En-Pro International, an Oshawa, Ont.-based consultancy, two key crude oil price factors will combine to bring up pump prices. McKnight points out that in West prices are determined by what is known as ‘Gyration of Crude’ a factor that takes into account world pricing, while the East is impacted by straight up market speculation. These forces will come together as the world faces another political challenge in the Middle East.

Already prices were on the rise thanks to the January 1 rollout of our Carbon Tax. The tax adds about 4.5 cents to each litre of gasoline. McKnight suggests that Canadians could see a spread of 18 cents between prices in Toronto and Calgary under these conditions, due largely to the lower tax burden in Alberta.

The cost of raw materials is also up. Currently Brent Crude is above (US)$70 a barrel up (US)$4 since last week. Prices have not been this high since September when drones took out some of Saudi Arabia’s Aramco capacity.

Retailers are reporting prices at fuel dispensers are up, too. This week, Vancouver stations are selling a litre of fuel for $1.41, with Calgary showing 0.99 cents (+2%) on dispensers. In Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, prices are also up, with Montreal hitting a high of $1.27.  Expect fuel prices to keep edging upward as world events ramp the challenges to routine shipments.

On the bright side, Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and as such our dollar is tightly wound with world crude pricing that is bought and sold in U.S. dollars.  Expectations are that, thanks to a resurgence in oil prices, the Canadian dollar will hit 82 cents U.S. sometime in 2021. When oil prices climb, the amount of U.S. dollars Canada earns on each barrel of oil it exports is high. Indeed, we export 96% of our oil output to the U.S. As such, the increase of U.S. dollars flowing north creates a rise in the value of the Canadian dollar. This increase in Canada’s dollar value means imported goods are less expensive. This can have a positive impact on the refining margin, where many of the products used to produce gas and diesel are purchased in U.S. funds.

One thing is for sure. Expect market volatility and crude price climbs over the next few months as world political conditions remain in flux.

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Refinery dispute in Regina may affect fuel supply in parts of Western Canada

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 11.08.12 AMA contract dispute between management and unionized workers at Regina’s Co-op Refinery could affect fuel supplies in some parts of Western Canada if a deal isn’t reached soon, Saskatchewan’s minister of labour said Friday.

The government will be monitoring operations carefully to ensure that fuel production continues and temporary workers are safe, Don Morgan said.

“We have indicated to both sides that if there is anything else that they want from us by way of mediation, arbitration or conciliation, we’ll make all the facilities we have available at any time,” he said Friday.

He said the refinery is the main supply line for Co-ops across Saskatchewan, Alberta and into the interior of British Columbia.

“We don’t know if they will be able to continue operating or look for alternate sources of supply,” Morgan said.

Hundreds of union workers at the Regina refinery continued to picket outside of the complex Friday. More than 700 unionized employees were locked out on Thursday after their union, Unifor, issued a 48-hour strike notice two days earlier. The workers also held a rally Friday.

Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to the national president of Unifor, said pensions are a key issue.

“Our message to Co-op is to get back to the bargaining table, get the concessions and we’ll get a fair deal and let’s get back to work,” he said.

Doherty said they are stopping field trucks coming in and out of the refinery and also trying to prevent temporary workers from entering the facility.

“Obviously, they are running right now and there are some trucks going in and out, but our hope is to cut (the fuel supply) down entirely and at some point that may happen,” he said.

“If they want to make sure fuel supply isn’t interrupted, then they should get our members back to work.”

Co-op has cited safety reasons for the lockout.

“We remain committed to the bargaining process, but there have been no further discussions with the union executive,” company spokesman Brad DeLorey said in a statement Friday.

“The refinery is running at planned rates and there are no injuries or incidents to report.”

The workers’ last contract expired in February, while the company reported in March that 2018 was a record year for earnings of nearly $1.1 billion on close to $10.7 billion in sales.


B.C. introduces gas price transparency law forcing companies to reveal data

gas-pumpIt’s time to reveal to drivers in British Columbia how the price of gasoline is set, says provincial cabinet minister Bruce Ralston.

If passed, legislation introduced Monday would legally force oil and gas companies to make known how gas prices are set.

Ralston, the jobs, trade and technology minister, told the legislature the bill is in response to a recent investigation by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which found “considerable markups on the price of gasoline.”

Premier John Horgan tasked the independent utilities commission to examine fuel prices in the province as gasoline costs in Metro Vancouver were consistently the highest in Canada, reaching $1.70 per litre and above.

In a report released last August and a follow-up one issued last week, the commission said it couldn’t explain why B.C. drivers pay about 13 centres more per litre for gas than residents in similar jurisdictions.

Ralston said the Fuel Price Transparency Act would allow the commission to collect information from fuel companies on market conditions involved in setting prices.

“This legislation brings us greater transparency at the gas pumps and sends a message to the oil and gas companies that the days of setting your prices in secrecy are coming to an end.”

No one from the Canadian Fuels Association, the voice of transportation fuels industry in Canada, was immediately available to comment on the proposed legislation.

The association said in a statement in May 2018 in reaction to volatile gas prices that the rising demand for gasoline and a decrease in supply through the Trans Mountain pipeline have created a greater reliance on fuel imports using higher-cost transportation modes.

It noted that Vancouver had much higher tax rates on fuels than elsewhere in North America, by nearly 50 cents per litre.

The association joined the Petroleum Marketers Association in commissioning a report on gas pricing fluctuations in B.C., and submitted it to the commission last July.

The report says demand for petroleum products in the province exceeds supply while capacity to produce them has remained stable, resulting in B.C. relying on Alberta or other jurisdictions for growing demand.

Ralston said if the legislation passes, the information would be available to the public as well as consumer and watchdog groups.

The unexplained premium results in residents and businesses in B.C. paying an extra $490 million every year for fuel, Ralston said.

The goal, he said, is to improve public confidence and competitiveness in the fuel market and perhaps lead to lower and more predictable gas prices for drivers in B.C.

“It’s time to pull back the curtain to get some answers for British Columbians on how the price of gasoline is set.”

Fuel and wash sites embrace digital solutions

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 11.00.52 PMGlobal market analysts at Accenture recently looked at forecourt and the retail fuel sector to determine leading forces of change in the industry. Key among the discoveries is that digital systems provide the tools necessary to navigate the considerable changes impacting the forecourt and related services, such as car wash. 

Disruption is accelerating

In Fuel Retail Digital Survey 2018, authors Neale Johnson, managing director of Fuel Retail Europe, and Brian Gray, managing director of Retail Fuel North America, found that disruption to the market, from electric vehicles (EV), consumer behaviours and other factors, are accelerating.

Here in Canada, EV sales are moving forward at breakneck speed. In fact, sales have increased by more than 66% every year for the previous five years. These days about 8% of vehicle sales in Canada are electric.

The provinces and federal government are helping drive this change. For example, Quebec uses a quota system to push EV that requires auto dealers to sell a minimum percentage of EV or pay a penalty. British Columbia has recently expanded its zero emission vehicle policy to ensure that no gas-powered vehicles be sold in the province after 2040. Also, The federal government has increased its rebate program for electric vehicles.

Here, opportunities exist to develop more charging sites alongside traditional fueling centres.  Canada sports just 5850 EV charging stations, a number that shows fewer than one charging station for every 100-km of road across the country. The uptick is that with chargers taking about 30 minutes to juice electric vehicles, fuel centres have longer periods during which to sell convenience and culinary products.    

Commitments to digital investments

In the survey, 80% of respondents said they planned to make significant investments in digital solutions during the next five years. Operators said that these investments would allow them to better engage with customers and improve services. Investments include apps and POS systems to boost speed of service and enhance loyalty. Already we are seeing wash-site operators take up the digital challenge and run with it.

 For instance, Ontario-based operators such as Valet Car Wash and Klassic Car Wash have developed their own apps that are available via the App Store, Google Play and other sites. Users can load cash, activate washes, earn loyalty bonuses and explore other features. In the App store alone, there are more than 100 wash and fuel site operators, including Shell, McEwan Oil and Co-Op.

According to Mike Black of Valet Car Wash, Canada is more advanced than the U.S. when it comes to digital payment systems. He says that in the U.S. the wash business is 70% cash, with operators using coin boxes, while sites in Canada are exploring contactless payment, cards and apps.

At fueling sites, the coming fifth generation of Internet connectivity (5G) will bring huge enhancements to marketing and convenience at the pumps. Already auto manufacturers, such as Honda and Land Rover, have are installing features so that vehicles can facilitate payments for gas and other items. In Canada, our systems are not prepped for this activity and gas apps, including Shell and others, are not ready yet to perform purchase functions at the pumps. With 5G, however, everything is on the table, such as beacon technology delivering marketing messages to onboard visual displays and digital payment portals effortlessly taking payment.

Analytics enhances performance

With the increase in digital investment comes the ability to enhance analysis. Operators are now better able to predict customer behaviour thanks to sales tracking made easier through apps and POS tools. In wash systems, for instance, sensors now measure and work with electronic dispensers to more accurately deliver chemicals and water to the wash process. Operators are able to examine every stage of the system and fine tune for performance that can increase profits, as well as customer satisfaction.

At the forecourt, digital analytics creates greater efficiency in fuel delivery, margin control and staffing. And, the tools are all accessible remotely, allowing management to review and input from anywhere at anytime.


Digital maturity is the goal

The report emphasizes the need to continue investments in skills training, automation and partnerships. The authors say these are essential for operators to realize their digital aspirations. Already 42% of fuel operators report they are digital savvy and have launched systems to take advantage of the shifts in technology.

Better foundations needed to realize digital value

Fuel retailers may only be at the start of their journey, but they know where they are headed,says Accentures Brian Gray, adding that 75% of retailers surveyed saw digital systems as a major benefit to their business.   


Vancouver votes to demand fossil fuel companies pay for climate change

Vancouver city council has voted in favour of a motion that demands global fossil fuel companies pay their share of costs arising from climate change.

The motion, which passed 7-4, points to a B.C. government report that projects the City of Vancouver will have to spend $1 billion this century to mitigate rising sea levels.

The motion says the city will send letters to 20 of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies with its demand.

The city also says it will ask the B.C. and Canadian governments to enact laws to confirm the responsibility of fossil fuel companies to pay their share of costs.

Vancouver says it is the 24th community in British Columbia to pass such a motion since 2017.

The city says those municipal governments represent about one-third of all B.C. residents.

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8 key focus areas for improving fuel site safety

Filling Gas Tank_Sm_070218Gas stations are dangerous places. Consider that in the U.S. close to 30 forecourt workers are killed on the job each year. Another 2.3% of workers are injured with about one percent requiring retraining or a transfer due to the severity of injury. Are you paying attention to the hazards at your site?

According to National Energy Equipment’s national health, safety and environment specialist Michael Lamont, the leading hazard for workers is vehicles and pedestrian traffic at forecourt. “People are often distracted and not paying attention when they drive in to fuel. When our crews are working on equipment, there is a real hazard to their safety. To mitigate this our teams are knowledgeable in Petroleum Oriented Safety Training (POST) ( and they place pylons, flags, barriers and service vehicles per standard to protect staff,” he says, noting that POST is an industry- led program that offers online courses and annual get-togethers such as the recent safety forum at the 2019 Toronto Convenience U CARWACS Show.

Recently, The Canadian Fuels Association addressed distracted fuelling. They commissioned a study (“Risk Associated with Cell Phone Use During Refuelling”) and discovered the chance of starting a fire at the pumps with a cellphone is less than one in 10 billion. The far greater safety risk is mobile device distraction where phone use increases the risk of spills and other pump-side incidents. And, while the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA)permits cellphone use for pay-at-pump applications, they caution about the need for customer focus during refuelling. They advise operators to interrupt fuelling should they observe a customer calling or texting while at the dispenser.

Lamont suggests good safety practice often comes down to training. “Do your staff know the size of the storage tanks? Do they know where to locate the vapour recovery? Are they clearing away ice from fills? Do they know what to do in the event of a spill or tank leak? When do you hit the ‘E Stop’ button? Training prepares staff for worst case scenarios and helps keep them and customers safe,” he says.

Rob Hoffman, director, government and stakeholder relations with the Canadian Fuels Association, agrees with Lamont. He suggests that alongside training protocols, engineered controls such as state-of-the-art dispenser design and technology greatly reduce the risk associated with the flammable nature of fuels. “Incidents at the pumps are very rare today thanks to continuous improvements from the industry.” However, he concludes, “distracted behaviour from customers is still the leading source of concern when it comes to safety on site. For best practice to occur, customers need to be more aware and staff need to be aware of customers and how they may act.”

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8 key areas for safety focus

  1. Fuel Storage

Fuel storage poses several risks. These include fire/explosion, environmental damage and health concerns.

*Ensure staff are adequately trained (keep all training records).

*Maintain and monitor storage tanks and dispensers.

*Identify hazardous areas and control all sources of ignition – placard site with appropriate warning and hazard signs.

 2. Vehicle Movement

Cars and vehicles pose a considerable hazard to forecourt personnel and customers as well as create the opportunity for equipment damage through collision.

*Design a safe system of traffic movement such as a one-way system for entering and exiting the forecourt and clearly sign it.

*Offer a designated parking area close to the c-store and away from the fuel dispensers.

*Create a barrier to protect structures such as fuel tanks and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) storage areas. 

3. Hazardous Substances

Car wash and commercial cleaning products can be harmful if staff are incorrectly exposed though spillage or leaking containers. These can lead to respiratory problems, serious skin irritations or chemical burns.

*Store hazardous products such as chemicals in their original containers.

*Obtainand keep on hand manufacturer hazard data sheet information on all substances stored and used on the premises.

*Train staff and provide appropriate protective clothing.

4. Manual Handling

Access covers to storage tanks; LPG cylinders and large cleaning fluid containers are heavy. Moving these may cause injury if staff are not trained to see the hazard.

*Train staff in proper lifting techniques.

*Provide suitable equipment such as lifts for removing access covers and hand trucks.

*Eliminate all unnecessary manual handling.

5. Slips and Trips

Fuel and oil spillage at forecourt can create slip hazards for both customers and staff. Winter ice and snow are another threat that can see people tumble or cars slide into dispensers.

*Use an industrial salt mixed with fine gravel or sand to spread on the forecourt during icy conditions.

*Absorb and clean up any fuel or oil spill.

*Train staff on how to deal with minor fuel spillages.

6. Electricity

Poorly maintained equipment and shoddy system installs increase the risk of electrical accidents in an environment where there are both power and wet conditions.

*Make certain all electrical equipment used out of doors is suitably insulated.

*All electrical controlling machinery should be clearly labelled and easily accessible.

*Check that the installation of electrical equipment (especially for car wash) is suitable for a wet environment and has adequate protection from mechanical damage.

*Make certain there is a readily accessible emergency stop button to halt car wash operation.

7. Fire 

Fueling sites are filled with potential fire hazards. It’s important to keep escape routes clear.

*Remove any obstructions at exits.

*Have regular checks to ensure that compliance is occurring.

*Have trash and waste cleared regularly and hazardous materials removed only by a certified waste disposal firm.

 8. Violence to Staff

Robberies and drive-offs are a considerable hazard to staff.

*Get involved with local police programs and investigate national best practices.

*Consider the use of closed-circuit television, panic alarms and other security measures.

            *Develop a robbery or drive-off procedure in the safety manual and drill staff to make sure they follow through.

 Originally published in the May/June issue of Octane. 

Strategies to pump up security at the pumps

pumping-gas-500-x-400_0Theft modes at the pump continue to evolve over the years, meaning fuel retailers need to evolve their security to protect their fuel —  and their customers.

Although there are still pump scams in Canada, chip and pin is the standard here, while the U.S. is still migrating from mag swipe technology.

While Canada’s chip and pin adoption has helped curtail some types of scams in recent years, there are always market challenges with security, including sites becoming larger and the increasing needs around data security.


The fuels industry has seen a rise in the number of skimmers found at sites. Each of these devices can impact 100 to 500 consumers and have a financial impact on the consumer ranging from $1,100 to $5,000.

There are two popular types of skimmers: internal that are either inline with cables or board-mounted with Bluetooth; and external that are placed on the card-reader nose.

There’s also “shimmers,” which are inserted into the card reader at fuel pumps. Shimmers capture the magnetic strip data, and potentially chip information as well. It’s important to note that fraudulent cards are generated with magnetic strip data, but the chip information isn’t able to be replicated.

“Pulser fraud” is also on the rise. This is when a false pulse signal is created, distorting the signal to electronics. This can be done with counterfeit hardware that’s installed in place of the real device; lift-off, wherein the thief lifts the device off the meter; or a broken connection caused by a pulser shaft being cut and not registering fuel volume.


Card data theft results in a nuisance to the consumer and ultimately raises the cost of credit. Furthermore, fuel theft reduces the already slim margins that retailers collect on the sale of fuel.

Shutting down fuel thieves requires creating barriers to breaches, investing in and implementing new technology, and notifying and reacting effectively to breaches. Consumers are more and more aware of the security measures being taken at fueling sites.

One way to protect customers is with security tape. It’s a simple deterrent to thieves, easily inspected by site personnel, and visible to customers so they know they are being protected. The downside is that security tape can be manipulated easily.

EMV chip card readers and near-field communications also protect customer data.

In terms of retailers protecting their fuel, here are four best practices:

  • Encryption — Prevents unauthorized cyber access to sensitive data.
  • Asset ID — Unique ID only recognized by the dispenser.
  • Lift-Off Detection — Multipoint detection system against unauthorized entry.
  • Reinforced Enclosure — Hardened metallic enclosure prevents access to critical performance hardware.

Preventing fuel theft means having control of your network 24/7 as well. Retailers can control their network remotely through door sensors that are fully integrated. With such a system, retailers can enable/disable remotely for service, clear an alarm, and even schedule a disable for service.


There’s no reason to believe theft modes at the pump won’t continue to evolve. With that in mind, future possibilities for enhanced security, include:

Electronic Access

  • Electronic locks on the dispenser
  • Cloud authentication
  • Track access by zone on the dispense

Bluetooth Scanner

  • Consumer would have access to Bluetooth skimmer apps
  • Transfer to the dispenser for real-time monitoring
  • Notification when a skimmer is present at your fueling positions

Security at the dispenser is needed today, not tomorrow. It’s vital for retailers to determine the right security method for their business — one that enables them to be alerted and react accordingly to a breach, but also one that prevents thieves from breaking in from the start.

A version of this article was published at Convenience Store News. 

Three steps to drive fuel-only customers into you c-store

driving-fuel-customers-inside-c-store-teaser_0It’s a classic tale of two customers. One is the fuel-only customer who pulls in, gases up and drives off without an incremental visit to the convenience store. The other is the fuel-up customer who also stops inside the store for their morning cup of coffee, mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack or on-the-go lunch.

“A majority of your customers are fuel-only customers not stopping inside the store. We want to change that behaviour,” said Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist at Paytronix Systems Inc. “On the flip side, there’s probably a smaller minority of your customers who are actually stopping at your fuel pumps and coming into your store, so we want to make sure and maximize that number because that’s where we’re able to change their behaviour and get those incremental spends and visits.”

Speaking during the recent “How to Drive Pump-to-Store Visits With Data” webinar, Otocki provided pointers on how to drive fuel-only customers inside the store, where higher-margin products are and where operators can collect more data on customers to market to them effectively.

Discussing how c-store operators can collect data to change customer behaviour, Otocki outlined three steps:

Step 1: Identify Customers

C-store operators need identifiable information to effectively reach customers. When looking at pump-only customers, retailers are uniquely positioned to reach them through at-the-pump advertising of in-store items.

Citing The Coca-Cola Co.’s research on advertising at the pump, Otocki noted that 32 percent of customers noticed signage at the pump that influenced an in-store purchase during the same visit and 21 percent noticed signage at the pump that influenced an in-store purchase in the future.

Once retailers get fuel-only customers into the store, they must hook consumers and give them a good reason to give up their personal data. A few possibilities include:

  • Welcome rewards as a thank-you to customers for providing valuable data and getting to be known as marketable customers.
  • Text to join or mobile app that is easy and doesn’t require too much time.
  • Ambassadors, such as cashiers and staff, who can speak to the value of the retailer’s offering to customers.

Step 2: Get Customers to Engage

Nearly three-quarters of customers (73 percent) say the best promotions give discounted fuel with in-store purchases. As opposed to continuously giving customers deep discounts that de-value sales, retailers can utilize tie-in promotions. The most effective are buy X amount, get X cents off per gallon, or visit 10 times for X cents off per gallon.

Another viable promotion is to offer fuel-only customers a free hot or cold beverage to drive them into the store. This tactic allows retailers to handle their margins and ensure they aren’t giving away a product too large.

“We’ve seen fantastic results for this particular promotion. One of our clients saw a 55-percent increase in visits during that period from this targeted customer base. Beyond that, a spend lift of 184 percent,” Otocki pointed out. “That’s because these customers weren’t just coming in to get that free coffee or free dispensed beverage: they were coming in and tacking on a snack or sandwich, increasing their basket size.”

Step 3: Change Behaviour

Getting customers inside the store for the first time isn’t the hardest part. Rather, it’s getting them to come back in time and time again.

To do that, c-store operators should utilize data with segmentation. Convenience stores traditionally have three key segmentations:

  • Bubba, who visits daily to buy Slim Jims, soda and chips;
  • Susie the Soccer Mom, who visits two times a week for grab-and-go snacks for the kids that are healthier options, as well as salty snacks; and
  • Professionals, who visit less frequently (every month) and prefer options like protein bars, shakes and healthy snacks such as nuts and popcorn.

Without segmentation, c-store retailers are at risk of running blanketed offers to all customers, which can be costly, Otocki cautioned. Instead, she suggests sending two different offers to two different segments.

For example, retailers can send a free product or heavy discount to Segments 1 and 2 because it will motivate them for an incremental visit. With Segments 3 and 4, a BOGO promotion or a lesser discount might be more appropriate. Both moves will bring operators closer to motivating the right customers with the right promotions.

Continuous campaigns and machine-learning segmentation are other viable options that utilize data for maximum effectiveness. The first analyzes each guest’s unique visit cadence to trigger offers to the right person at the right time, while the latter discovers segments of similar guests based on what they do, which then can be translated into personalized, highly relevant offers.


Otocki had these final key takeaways for convenience store operators:

  1. Customers can change their behaviour.
  2. Get to know and identify all customers.
  3. Data is key to changing behavior.
  4. Think BIG.

Subscription services such as Burger King’s recently introduced BK Café Subscription in the U.S. are “perfect for c-stores,” according to Otocki. For $5 a month, customers can get a small coffee a day at the fast-casual restaurant at no additional cost.

“It’s a great model to be able to utilize because Burger King isn’t just doing this in order to get $5 a month from their customers and give them a coffee every single day. They’re doing this because they know it’s the way to get those visits to come back time and time again,” she explained. “If you already paid for your coffee every morning with your subscription, you probably will stop there because you know it’s been paid for. On top of that, the hope is that if these customers are coming in, they’re likely to purchase more items.”

A replay of “How to Drive Pump to Store Visits With Data” is available by clicking here. Originally published in Convenience Store News. 

Curb appeal and promotions drive fuel-only customers inside a C-store: Study

The majority of fuel sold in North America is sold at convenience stores. However, getting motorists to come inside the store after filling up has been an ongoing challenge for the convenience channel.

Citing State of the Industry data from NACS, the US-based association for convenience and fuel retailing, GasBuddy noted that a convenience store’s inside sales generate almost three-quarters of all gross profit dollars. Yet, some estimate that a similar number of consumers fill up and drive away — never coming inside to make additional purchases.

Forecourt_Lg_032619Converting those forecourt customers to inside customers is not impossible. In a new study, Canopy to the Store, GasBuddy found that conversion depends on a c-store operator’s ability to meet consumer needs of safety, cleanliness and hospitality. Additionally, consumers show “a strong interest” in specific strategies and promos that can move them from the pumps to the store.

First impressions count: Think curb appeal

GasBuddy released a report summarizing the findings from its surveys conducted in July 2018 and December 2018. Chief among its findings: Curb appeal matters.

Calling the forecourt “the first handshake that welcomes customers to the store,” GasBuddy explained that consumers are unlikely to go inside a store if they perceive it as dirty, boring or unexceptional. Reputation matters as well.

Frequent customers cite the following factors as having a strong or moderate influence in their opinion of a store before stepping inside:

  • Store design and upkeep (82.54 percent)
  • Cleanliness of the fuel area (79.7 percent)
  • Quality of lighting (79.6 percent)
  • Brand reputation (58.6 percent)
  • Opinions of friends and family (55.12 percent)

Moving inside, GasBuddy found that restrooms matter. According to the survey results, 22.6 percent of consumers said they frequently make a purchase after using the restrooms at a c-store. Another 56 percent said they occasionally make a purchase.

However, the restrooms must be clean. Nearly two-thirds of consumers said they have visited a gas station’s c-store with the intention of using the restroom, but decided to leave and go elsewhere.

Top reasons for avoiding a c-store’s restroom are:

  • Restrooms were dirty;
  • Restrooms were outdated and/or poorly maintained;
  • C-store was outdated and/or poorly maintained;
  • Restroom required a key or an access code; and
  • Customer did not feel safe.

GasBuddy’s report also revealed that knowing that a convenience retailer was committed to clean, quality restrooms would probably influence nearly 42 percent of consumers and definitely influence 27.19 percent.

“Every restroom visit is a sales opportunity. It’s a chance to connect with fuel-only customers who would otherwise rarely — or never — wander inside the store. Unfortunately, retailers who provide outdated, dirty, or poorly maintained facilities are not equipped to leverage this opportunity,” GasBuddy stated, calling restrooms “a litmus test for overall store quality.”

Offers and promotions drive sales

Beyond the look and feel of a store, convenience store retailers need to reach fuel-only consumers where they are — on their phones. According to GasBuddy, more than half of consumers look at their smartphone while refueling and, more notably, nearly three our of four consumers aged 18 to 34.

“This opens many opportunities to drive in-store sales through relevant offers and promotions,” the report noted.

Fuel discounts can hit the spot. In a recent GasBuddy study, 65 percent of consumers said gas prices impact their ability to spend money on other items and services.

Relevant orders also deliver results. When asked which kinds of mobile ads influence their decision to visit a convenience store brand, consumers said:

  • Healthy food options;
  • Redeemable coupons for convenience store products;
  • Loyalty rewards for convenience store products; and
  • Loyalty rewards for fuel savings.

The Canopy to the Store report also found that nearly 71 percent of consumers surveyed belong to a rewards program for a c-store or gas station. Of those, 48.78 percent use a rewards program very frequently, 34.2 percent somewhat frequently, 12.84 percent somewhat rarely, and only 4.17 percent very rarely.

Minimal savings and discounts on products consumers don’t purchase are among the reasons why they rarely use a rewards program.

A c-store retailer can change consumers’ minds, however, if the program offers consumers the ability to: build up points to spend on what they choose; earn discounts on fuel for in-store purchases; and get discounts on products they purchase daily or weekly.

To download GasBuddy’s full Canopy to Store report, click here.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.