The petroleum retail industry has evolved over the past three decades – in terms of structure, layout, ownership, and technologies. Processes are more streamlined through integrated process and systems, from mechanical DU, tank gauges, to electronic, automated Desktop Underwriter (DU) /Automatic Tank Gauging (ATG) and Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC), and integrated Point of Sale (POS), Back Office System (BOS) and Hours of Service (HOS).
But the traditional forecourt model where the processes are manual is, once again, ripe for disruption. Take for example the process of filling up your tank and purchasing goods at the convenience stores. With technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics, the possibilities are endless.
If we have a look at macro-trends in the Retail Energy sector – including environmental concerns, new forms of biofuels, price pressures, and the advent of driverless cars – they are changing the game for fuel retailers. Our classic petrol forecourt scene may not be around for much longer, as forward-thinking energy players use advanced technologies to redefine the forecourt experience.
Petrol stations are under pressure from a number of retailers as they look to adapt to changing demographics (digital natives, millennials), and new technologies like e-commerce, robotics, mobility, and the Internet of Things (IoT). All these trends are upending site operations and customer service.
Here are a few ways to deliver new offerings and value propositions, enabling forecourts to evolve in the future – enhancing customer engagement, marketing efficiency, business capability:
– A shift to format fewer forecourts
– Smart Payments
– Loyalty on steroids
– On-demand, drone delivery
– Electric charging
– Integration into connected cars
– Beyond energy for autonomous cars
– New business models to complement or supersede
Where to start the forecourt transformation journey
Petroleum retailers are well placed to leverage digital disruption to develop and enhance their site formats and operations in order to deliver differentiated offerings and customer experience. Future sites will assume significantly extended features which extend beyond the physical site. These extensions may include homes, vehicles, microsites as well as a virtual store – providing a seamless customer experience. Within the next five to ten years, we will see the best in class petroleum retailers seize new opportunities by enabling future-ready adaptive forecourts. This will extend the service offering on many levels – from opening the door to new and emerging segments to highly personalized customer engagements and the ability to offer the seamless end user experience across physical as well as virtual realms.