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October 16, 2018
It’s a wrap: Customer experience is alive @ DreamForce 2018
By: Brian D. Gray and Edward Laughrin

Recently we had the opportunity to attend Salesforce’s annual conference, DreamForce 2018, in San Francisco. We were joined by 170,000 of our closest friends—complete with never-ending traffic jams, epic views, rolling hills, unimaginable hotel prices, streets lined with artificial grass, colleagues gathered together from near and afar, and to top it all off—Metallica as a headliner (yes, they are still rocking after 37 years). This week was outstanding, and it had nothing to do with the above. This week proved to us that experience is absolutely everything, and here’s why:

  1. DreamForce IS experience
    From the second you land in San Francisco, you know that something is different, and special. There was a buzz about the city that in most cases we don’t feel when we get off the airplane. The Uber drivers chatting about the event, the national park setup in the middle of downtown San Francisco, the new Salesforce tower, thousands of sessions, etc.

  2. Mindsets are changing before our eyes
    It is a fact that the wave of disruption is here for the Fuels and Convenience Retail industry. We have always found that most in the industry would agree that disruption is coming; however, there was general belief that the disruption is starting now. We had the privilege to host Accenture’s Oil & Gas Roundtable this year at DreamForce where we were joined by Executives from many of the world’s largest oil companies and convenience retailers. Each of our participants shared their perspectives on the disruption they are seeing, the impact to their business, and the relative timing of the impact. The results of this exercise were quite profound—the majority of the disruptions were seen to be within the next five to 10 years.

  3. Consumer experience is everything
    In the Roundtable, once we landed on the disruptors, the next question was “what do you do about it…?” All roads led back to the customer and experience. Changing the game, challenging the status quo, and being there for the customer at the right place, right time, with the right service. The discussion was all around re-inventing the experience of today. What’s interesting is that the concept of paying for fuel with a mobile app at the pump was so 2017…it didn’t come up. What came up was taking the experience a step further and delivering fuel to the consumer, convenience items, services, autonomy. As electric vehicles become more prominent, fuel and convenience stores will become increasingly irrelevant if they maintain the status quo).

  4. The industry must disrupt itself, but it will be hard
    There was general agreement that it will be difficult to disrupt the business models from within. Another challenge raised was that the decision makers of today are not incentivized to setup the business for tomorrow—they are short-term results orientated. There is belief that a new generation is needed to reorientate the business.

  5. The challenges are global
    We had the privilege to speak with fuel and convenience retailers from all around the world and the messages are extremely consistent. From Europe, to Asia Pacific, to South America—all industry players are trying to solve for common challenges: how to engage customers and provide a differentiated experience—leveraging data to make better decisions and drive personalization.

  6. The future is bright for those that act now
    Oil and gas and convenience are two of the largest industries on the planet with a significant amount of history in their role in shaping the world to what it is today. Without these industries, our world would not be the same. There is also significant amount of capital and infrastructure embedded in these industries. Change cannot wait until tomorrow… new entrants in the market are not burdened by the infrastructure, the capital and the old mindset. The new entrants are armed with the latest technologies, creative ideas, extremely fast pace, and ultimately put the customer at the center of the universe.

The time to start changing is now…be the disruptor vs. the disrupted.

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