Nearly every commercial fleet driver owns a fuel card. Operators of vehicle fleets issue them to drivers for convenience at the filling station, and to reap the benefits of commercial discounts and streamlined billing management back at the home office.
But the fuel retail market is changing rapidly. Commercial fleet operators that own or lease vehicles such as cars, lorries and trucks, are being provided with a growing range of options including connected cars, electric vehicles (EVs) and mobile solutions. These new modes of transport are in turn forging new paradigms of fuel types, payment mediums and fleet segments. Fuel retailers need to pivot their business models to keep pace.
Convenience drove the mobile payment revolution in the consumer retail space, and many commercial fleet drivers now want a similar experience when at work.
To cater to this demand, fuel retailers could, for example, introduce mobile offerings such as a "digital wallet" for drivers’ fuel cards. Drivers would pre-purchase their fuels and need only tap their devices at payment terminals to authorize fuel purchases.
Even more radical is the integration of creative payment methods onto the fuel card platform itself. One technology that might fit the bill is blockchain, which has the potential to enable real-time virtual energy trading. This approach would allow customers and businesses to:
- Interact directly with each other and the power grid to trade electricity capacity
- Buy or sell electricity when prices best fit with their demand needs
In a future where EVs will inevitably be the status quo and electricity a hotly traded commodity, fleet managers will be able to buy their electricity stores when prices are low and use their stores to subsidize or even offset the cost of recharging their fleet on the fuel retailer’s charging network.
Smart vehicles, smart drivers
Another vehicle technology that is already commonplace but has not yet had its full value realized is the ‘connected’ car, with onboard electronics dashboards connected to the internet. Currently, the technology is still in its infancy with fuel retailers partnering with original equipment manufacturers to enable mobile payments through vehicle dashboards.
Based on Accenture’s recent Fuel Retail Digital Survey, the consensus among fuel retailers is that data and analytics enhances performance. There is a wealth of business value to be unlocked in the commercial fleet space for fuel retailers to make smart use of these metrics. Since an interface between the connected car and the fuel retailer’s platform already exists, let fuel retailers use a vehicle’s data to empower commercial fleet managers to maximize fleet productivity and cost savings.
Charging up ride-share fleets
The impact of EVs on the ride-sharing fleet segment should also be highlighted, as their consumer-grade vehicles will be at the forefront of the EV revolution. This segment represents a huge opportunity as spending on such services is estimated to exceed $400 billion by 2021 with automakers planning up to $300 billion worth of investments in the global EV industry over the next 5-10 years.
It would be synergistic for fuel retailing businesses to serve this new demand to capture the ride-sharing fleet segment while making up for the subsequent decline of traditional transport fuel sales.
EVs can be charged from the convenience of the driver’s home—or in the case of a lorry driver at their local depot – and a fully charged battery has an extended range. These two factors mean that frequent visits to fuel retailing sites are less necessary. This signals that a shift in the broader fuels retailing operations will inevitably be required. Instead of traditional brick-and-mortar retail sites, retailers should consider establishing a virtual “fueling site” presence.
Driving future innovation
Fuel retailers can capitalize on the experiences commercial fleet customers are looking for by:
- Empowering managers to improve their fleet’s operational efficiencies
- Capturing the non-traditional ride-sharing fleet segment with EV-centric benefits
- Collecting and using fleet data to better stay in tune with customer demands
Fuel retailers have an opportunity to partner with relevant experts to plug any leaks in operations. Once a solid business engine has been tuned, fuel retailers can drive digital innovation across their markets to help them address the evolving needs of commercial fleet operators.
All references in this report have been checked and verified via Factiva.