The real world: Lessons learned from our fuel retail customers Pt3

We recently hosted a discussion with some of Kalibrate’s fuel retail customers from Europe and North America about the challenges they’ve had to overcome in the past year. The first two installments focused on the challenges faced by fuel retailers in the past year and the changes that have been observed in different regions. Part three focuses on one big question. Where is the future of the fuel forecourt heading?

Read parts one and two here

Where is the future of the fuel forecourt heading?

Although the pandemic is not over, it seems as though fuel retailers have weathered the storm and hopefully we are now past the worst of it. But as we look ahead, what will happen to fuel stations in the future? What new trends or changes can be offered that might alter the customer experience?

We spoke with a selection of Kalibrate’s fuel retail customers from across the globe to find out their views on the future of the forecourt, starting with a European fuel retailer, who typically offers fuel without a convenience offering:

“Actually, a couple of weeks ago, we got a comment from our customers in Norway asking for two things, fast chargers and good coffee. And that’s exactly what we need to deliver.”

Norway are well known for being ahead of the curve with EV adoption, with 86% of cars sold last year being electric.

“I think the challenge with EV charging, is really the location, as many people who live outside of cities will have the availability to charge their cars at home. Today, people driving ICE vehicles fill up when they have to and they generally fill up quite a lot. But in the future, people will charge more when they can or when it’s convenient to do so. If they need to stop at a station for charge, it’ll be for just enough to get home and charge up fully. So we’re changing our approach. For the first time, we’re actually going to be venturing into a convenience offering with our most recent acquisition, where we will be focusing on finding a quality convenience offering with locally sourced products for the consumers.”

A US fuel and convenience retailer gave us some insight into what they consider to be the most important element of their site right now – and how that could all shift with the rise of electric vehicle ownership.

“In the convenience industry we offer our customers convenient products and services, convenient speed, and convenient prices. But the most important element to us is a convenient location. I ask myself, can location continue to be one of our core site strengths once we shift to EV? and I don’t think it can.
So in the future, the very core of our businesses will shift. Our customers may not venture out in their cars to see us. Why don’t we start thinking about us visiting our customers? I see the future convenience store being about delivering energy, merchandise, and food products to our customers anywhere they are, and any time they need them.”

Some vital locations, like highways, will still be required to serve long distance vehicle charging needs, but we’re starting to see fuel retailers experimenting with different locations for EV charging points.

“We’re heavily focused on EV at the moment and will have a lot of charging stations out there within a few years, starting in California. We’ve started placing chargers away from the fueling stations and away from the stores even a little. But we have other set ups where chargers are integrated into the fuel facility itself. It’s something that is still evolving, and we’ll learn a lot over the coming years about what is most important to consumers as their behavior evolves.”

EV is not the only factor impacting the future of fuel stations. ICE vehicles are becoming more and more efficient, and rising prices may cause demand destruction in the near future. The rise of new digital solutions will change the way both fuel and convenience stores operate, and consumer behavior will continue to shift.

The pandemic accelerated consumer changes, and the brakes haven’t been put on yet. It is both an exciting and challenging time for fuel retailers as they navigate the evolving market.

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