CANADA'S MOST READ CANADIAN OWNED & OPERATED CONVENIENCE, RETAIL PETROLEUM AND CARWASH PUBLICATION

PETROLEUM

Technology for the Fu(el)ture

by: Trinity Stennfeld

Retail fuel dispensers have come a long way in the last 110 years. The original curb-side pump introduced in 1907 was hand-operated and delivered a measured amount of gasoline with each crank of the handle. This design separated the pump from the tank – increasing gasoline capacity and reducing the risk of fire – and was revolutionary for its time. As automobiles grew in popularity, however, the curb-side pumps began to create unintentional traffic jams. This led to the development of designated service and refueling stations later that same year. Today, there are forecourts that boast as many as 120 fueling positions, and gas pumps that talk, upsell, and even tell the weather! Fuel dispensers are now equipped with some of the world’s most advanced technology. With this technology come many unprecedented and exciting opportunities for retailers and c-store owners.

One of the biggest technological opportunities new fuel dispensers have to offer retailers, which is projected to arrive in Canada in the near future, is media at the pump. Media-at-the-pump programs enhance brand recognition and loyalty, increase in-store product purchases, and improve the customer’s overall fueling experience. What has historically been recognized as a “distressed purchase,” becomes less so when customers are able to catch up on sports scores from the night before, get the latest scoop on their favorite celebrities, or watch the morning news while filling up their vehicles.

And the benefits of media to the retailer go far beyond customer experience alone. Studies have shown that through the use of custom retailer promotional ads (RPAs), c-stores with media-at-the-pump programs have seen a 16 per cent lift in traffic from the forecourt to the c-store compared to the national average. Overall in-store product sales have shown increases of three to five per cent, which equates to around $10,800-$18,000 in annual gross margin. Research from one popular media-at-the-pump platform revealed that 91 per cent of consumers agreed the media-at-the-pump program made pumping gas a better experience, and 73 per cent said it increased their likelihood of returning to that c-store again in the future.

Another fantastic element of 21st-century dispenser technology that is especially advantageous to the retailer is additive dispensing. Some retailers in Canada are already reaping the benefits of premium diesel dispensers, and others are beginning to take notice. Research has found that many diesel-powered vehicle owners are willing to pay a higher price for premium diesel fuel, even if theirs is not a high-end turbo diesel vehicle. These consumers find that the premium diesel offers cleaner burning and higher performance, and even gives better mileage per gallon. A higher quality product for the consumer and higher profit margins for the retailer mean that everybody wins.

In the past, the only way for retailers to offer an additional product, such as premium diesel, was to install a separate tank and the necessary extra piping. This not only required space but also was cost prohibitive for many retailers. Now, however, there are premium diesel dispensers able to provide a second diesel fuel grade using additive injection technology. These dispensers blend an additive with the diesel fuel on a proportional basis, allowing retailers to offer their customers this additional diesel option, without the expense of an additional fuel tank.

Also currently available, and being used in dispensers throughout Canadian forecourts, are contactless/NFC readers, which allow payment from the user’s mobile wallet, and support retailer loyalty rewards programs in a new and effective way. The contactless technology means no credit or debit card must be physically present to pay at the pump – all the customer needs is their phone! With contactless/NFC readers the swiping and inserting of cards become a thing of the past, so the customer can enjoy the convenience of a faster, simpler transaction. (This is especially good news during those cold winter months!) This method of payment is safe and efficient, allowing customers to be confident that all their card information has remained secure.

Contactless/NFC readers also present the ability for special retail promotions, such as mobile wallet coupons, to be used right at the pump, which can be incredibly effective in building brand loyalty and increasing customer retention. Imagine being on the way to fill up the tank and receiving a coupon for a few cents off per gallon, or a free cup of coffee. A customer who is made to feel special and taken care of in that way is a customer who is more likely to return to that fueling point. The potential gains this payment technology gives way to are virtually limitless and can make all the difference in the world when it comes to winning customer business.

The world of fuel dispenser technology has come a long way and continues to advance further every day. Savvy c-store owners who have positioned themselves and their forecourts at the forefront of this progress are already realizing the rewards. As the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” It’s a truth that holds validity across every field of business, including this one. Simply stated, the c-store industry leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are proactively seizing opportunities to leverage technology in their favor today.

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