Capturing a return on investment is a key lesson taught in business school. But with digital technologies empowering customers way beyond what even science fiction writers once imagined, a new lesson is required. In today’s fuels retailing industry, customers expect brands to deliver nothing less than a return on experience through compelling physical and digital interactions at fuel stations.
The fuels retailing experience has largely been untouched for decades. Around the world, customers drive to a fueling station, pay for and dispense fuel, and leave. This experience has now exceeded its shelf life. Today’s consumer expects personalization and speed. They want the human touch of the bricks-and-mortar experience with the perfect digital experience—the so-called "clicks-and-mortar" experience. Fuels retailers therefore need to deliver a return on the customer’s physical and digital experience—doing so can increase sales through retention and conversion.
Fuel retailers need to move beyond traditional models
Personalization and communication through digital channels have driven greater interaction and engagement of customers with brands. The fuels retailing industry must catch up with digital trends, creating more innovative customer engagement models through flexibility in offerings and personalized experiences. This will allow fuels retailers to generate revenues from new opportunities by utilizing digital technologies.
The return on the physical and digital experience measures business value created from providing differentiated products and services—while tying it to a digitally engaged experience.
Three actions to take now
At Accenture, we see three strategic plays that fuels retailers can deploy to move beyond a traditional industry model with commoditized offerings into a more digital-savvy industry with various offerings.
The diversification of offerings in a fuels station could lead to greater returns, as there would be a wider capture of diverse customer needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution these days and retailers must determine the best course to satisfy customer needs. The diversification of offerings can be focused on fuel offerings and non-fuel offerings.
Case study: A major Southeast Asia oil and gas company is refurbishing stations to provide meals in key markets—as well as banking services and bill payments in the coming years. The CEO has seen diversification as a means of meeting changing customer needs.
There is a need for fuel retailers to transition from the traditional model into a business that embraces digital innovation. The use of analytics, mobile platforms and cloud solutions can create value for businesses through operational speed and customer convenience. Analytics, for example, can be leveraged to determine market trends to meet the ever-changing customer needs for personalization.
Case study: A major Middle Eastern oil retailer has integrated digital capabilities into their transaction, business process, and operations. The retailer is using cloud platforms to speed up application development, sensors at fuel dispensers to determine tanks that need refueling, as well as analytics to coordinate customer patterns with specific locations.
The ideal case to maximize returns—on both investment and on the digital and physical experience—is to adapt to the new era of consumer behavior. Fuel retailers must transition into businesses that have differentiated offerings tied with the implementation of digital technologies to capture maximum return.
Case study: One retailer in the Middle East has diversified non-fuel retail offerings in convenience stores offering quick service restaurants, car servicing and even providing jet fueling services.
Shifting into high gear
Customer experience should be the driving force for brands in a saturated market such as fuels retail. With the close tie of digital technologies to positive customer experiences, the return on the physical and digital experience model can illustrate how fuels retailers can move beyond a conventional industry with commoditized offerings into a more value-added experience for the customer.