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October 09, 2014
Why fuels retailers need “connected sites”
By: Zahra Bahrololoumi

The Industrial Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything—whatever you call it, the universe of interconnected devices is expanding. By some estimates, the installed base of connected “things” will top over 200 billion, with more than 30 billion of them autonomous.1

Compare this with the average site run or branded by a large fuel retailer. The retail site represents a complex network of IT systems, at least in current terms. However, the fuel retailing capabilities these systems support are historical and rarely supporting today’s ever increasing demands for interconnectedness. While price competition remains a major driver in consumer choice, the customer experience is a key to differentiation in fuels retail. Changes in consumers’ behavior will be driven by the emergence of new, disruptive technologies. For fuels retailers, the “connected site” is essential to keep pace with today’s time-crunched, tech-savvy consumers and to outpace competitors.

A connected site exploits its Internet connection not just for essential operational data, but also to realize the opportunity to deliver enhanced customer offerings, control running costs and improve operational efficiency. Some early applications and benefits include:

  • Real-time marketing and customer services. Connections are active 24/7, allowing updates to loyalty and marketing schemes to mobile devices within moments of transactions. Opt-in services can notify staff of the arrival of customers who need special assistance, or travellers who wish to collect pre-paid goods or loyalty rewards. Having analytics-powered systems that suggest appealing personalized offers to people who buy high-margin items is another way to stay close to customers and boost profitability.
  • Building systems management. Lighting can be switched off and temperatures controlled without requiring intervention or oversight from site staff, which can drive down costs during off hours. Industrial hardware, such as fuel retail forecourt devices, can provide alerts to impending failures, thereby allowing for preventative maintenance.
  • Maintenance monitoring and analytics. Systems verify that machines operating on remote forecourts are no more than a click away from the organizations responsible for ensuring they are utilized well and fully functioning. Predictive analytics is used to drive preventative maintenance schedules that confirm equipment is available more often, which in turn increases customer perception of the brand, leading to increased sales.

If implemented correctly, the connected site should be the core of the retailer’s ability to drive down the total cost of ownership for their retail site systems and improve operational excellence. Decreased costs open the door to competitive pricing, while better maintenance and reliability instils in customers a sense of a well-run estate.

Coupled with the means to implement modern customer engagement offerings such as personalized offerings and newly emerging payment methods, these outcomes all support the retail business’s ultimate objective of increased and happier customers. The tools to implement the connected site are readily available. Although success of connected sites will also require careful development of the business case and design expertise in IT architecture, the opportunity is there for the taking. Are you ready to get connected?

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