Dover Fueling Solutions (DFS) released its The Future of Fueling Report: Innovation at the Pump detailing how the experiences consumers are looking for from gas stations and convenience stores, and what will need to be done to win over new customers and retain repeat customer coming to your fuelling operation.
DFS surveyed 1,003 U.S.-based consumers in July of this year asking them what they looked for fuelling experiences, focusing on convenience, service, technology, amenities, and customization.
The study finds several key trends that will be of interest to Canadian fuelling and c-store operators:
The impact of experience: Half of those surveyed say they are shifting their focus from traditional fuelling factors such as practicality, price, and location to prioritize enhanced experiences. What is most interesting is DFS finds that 50% of consumers would switch to a competitor gas station if it offered a significantly enhanced experience. This number jumps even higher among millennial consumers, with 60% willing to pursue a better experience. In fact, consumers under 34 are less concerned about location when choosing their gas station, with 48% viewing it as a top-three factor compared to 66% of consumers over 34.
DFS suggests that to attract and keep customers coming back to one’s pumps and c-store operation, it is best to focus on creating a “better fueling experience. As a starting point, retailers can look to the fourth and fifth most important factors consumers consider when choosing a fueling station — physical safety and amenities, such as convenience stores, car washes, air stations, restrooms, and ATMs. In open responses, consumers also cited cleanliness, easy access, friendly staff and a wide selection of food and drinks as factors they look for in a great gas station experience.”
Payment concerns: DFS finds consumers are also looking for greater control of their payment experience. When asked what technologies they want to have at fuelling stations, consumers say it is the ability to pre-pay for a specific amount at the pump (47%) and the option to split a fuel payment on multiple credit cards (24%). DFS says that operators need to keep such concerns in mind and focus on easing “payment concerns, educate on payment security protocols and implement the latest payment and security technologies, such as contactless and EMV card readers and point-to-point encryption.”
"Protecting customers’ payment data at the pump should be a top priority for fueling retailers, since it’s clearly top of mind for consumers,” says Scott Negley, senior director, product management, Dover Fueling Solutions in the report’s findings. “There is nothing more frustrating than having to cancel credit or debit cards due to fraud, and retailers risk losing loyal fuelers if their gas station is perceived as a risk. First, ensure you’ve covered basic security protocol: change passwords frequently, make sure security jumper switches are removed from inside the pump and update to the latest code. Then, I’d recommend investing in a data security solution with point-to-point encryption, so you know you’re protected by the industry standard for security.”
Perceptions of self-service: Demand for self-service technology, driven by gen-Z (57%) and millennials (59%), is booming due to COVID-19. This presents a unique opportunity at the forecourt designers as DFS also finds that more than half (51%) of consumers “always” or “often” notice advertisements on or around a fuel pump. Some 32% say fuel pump commercials or ads have convinced them to enter a convenience store, and gen-Z and millennial consumers are more likely to be swayed to go into a c-store based on ads at the pump, and nearly half of them (46%) say those ads influenced their purchasing decision. As the report summarizes: “Outside of ads and commercials at the pump — which can be divisive among consumers — there is ample opportunity for gas stations to engage or entertain customers while they top off their tanks. In fact, consumers are even more interested in viewing weather forecasts (50%), loyalty program information (45%), and traffic reports (41%) than store offers or promotions (40%).”
What the study suggest is that fuel and c-store operators do not need to do major overhauls on their operations, but instead focus on using new technologies and systems to both enhance the fuelling experience and to create opportunities through technologies and services that can present sales options and ordering of c-store items directly at the pump to help to increase customer loyalty and repeat business.