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November 24, 2017
When a fuelling station isn’t a fuelling station: How can oil companies reinvent the service outlet?
By: Mark Gregg

Oil companies around the globe are finding themselves on the threshold of complete reinvention, as rapid changes are impacting all their business. With the rise of consumer trends such as car sharing, the advent of autonomous vehicles and even options such as delivering fuel directly to consumers, oil companies are rethinking the purpose of the fuel station into something less traditional.

The conventional fuels retail set up of fuel, snacks and drinks is now becoming outdated. As countries move toward electric vehicles (EVs), for example, the service outlet of tomorrow will likely include a charging station. In Norway, EVs already make up 30 percent of all new car sales. As a result, the country is making changes to its fuels retail stations (with one company piloting new charging points capable of charging vehicle batteries in as little as ten minutes.1)

But it will not be enough for fuelling stations to offer basic charging, as that might quickly become a basic commodity. They also need to offer an enhanced customer experience. From partnerships with food retailers and restaurants to on-location fuel delivery while drivers shop or sleep, a fuelling station can no longer be secure in the knowledge that it is a destination for consumers.

Fortunately for fuels retailers, technology offers them some solutions for future customer experiences. For example, fuels companies can partner with other companies to implement application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow companies of all types to share and connect software, platforms and apps with each other. These new types of partnerships are unprecedented and could not have been imagined a few years ago.

This open business model is redefining how businesses engage with customers across many industries, allowing them to provide far more value than they could as a sole operator. According to one recent report, global telecom API revenue is forecast to reach $207 billion globally by 2022, with further growth expected as platforms generate and exchange more information.2

With customers demanding a better experience in an increasingly connected world, APIs can act as the gateway to engaging consumers across multiple channels to offer a more personalized experience, such as the partnership between a major European car manufacturer and a supermarket, which provides a platform where goods can be ordered from within the car and then collected in the supermarket itself. They can also act as enablers for new partners to connect and trial things quickly, allowing them to rapidly swap out what doesn’t work for what does.

These technical protocols can provide the connected experiences customers have come to expect. It has allowed one global fuels retailer to revolutionize its customer experience at its service stations using APIs. Its customers can use their mobile app to locate a site, fill up, pay and receive loyalty points without ever having to exit the vehicle.

Beyond the consumer space, API opportunities extend to the business to business realm. From introducing fleet management protocols to onboarding customers, adopting an open, API-enabled business model will drive new value propositions for fuels retailers. Adopting that model allows retailers to fast-track innovation, offering them quicker go-to market opportunities and an avenue to develop better customer loyalty.

In a fast-moving digital world, adopting an open, API-enabled business model is not an enhancement—it’s a must. Fuels retailers must ensure they remain ahead of the competition to capitalize on business from customers who expect far more than they did just several years ago. Partnering in such an ecosystem is essential to future success.


Footnotes
1 Gas stations get ready for the electric future, Bloomberg Technology, Nov 6, 2017 © Bloomberg (2017) via Factiva

2 $200+ Billion Application Programming Interfaces (API) Markets 2017-2022: Focus on Telecoms and Internet of Things, Research and Markets via PRN Newswire, September 7, 2017 © © 2017 PR Newswire Association LL via Factiva

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