Meet the team: John McMullen, Director of Solutions Consultancy
What is your role at Kalibrate?
I am the Director of Solutions Consultancy for Retail Fuel Pricing.
I joined Kalibrate straight out of college over 30 years ago, and have held roles in different departments across the fuel retail arm of the business. Often in Fuel Pricing, but I’ve also been heavily involved in our Fuel Network Planning solutions and other areas that utilize data and information, and applying our data science, which is really the heart of the entire business.
Over the years I’ve worked with over 200 clients and have been lucky enough to visit many of them all over the world – so I’ve built a specialism in fuel retail and am proud to have helped so many clients improve their fuel pricing strategies.
What does a typical day look like?
The best part of my job is there is no typical day! I could be meeting with prospects and discussing the Kalibrate Fuel Pricing software or our bespoke fuel pricing consultancy offers. Or communicating the needs of our prospects and clients back into the other parts of the business. Or researching and analyzing data to generate the ideal client solutions.
Our consulting projects are always different, but I’ll spend time with clients to discover what the problem is and the different ways we could go about resolving it. Communication is really important here and we make sure we clearly share, and agree on our intentions. Almost all our consulting exercises are underpinned by data so there’s a large amount of research and analysis carried out on the data available, and I’ll often involve our data science team to develop mathematical solutions and AI that can help to remove any guesswork from our recommendations.
And then finally — I spend time making sure the outcomes and solutions we’ve generated are understandable, and truly applicable to our clients’ challenges. I help them to understand the insight we generate so that they can maximize the benefit from it. The goal is to solve their business problems and help them to make better and more confident decisions.
What do you love about your role?
I get to do so many different things and it’s new every day.
Every client I speak to has different problems and challenges that they’re working through. Quite often the end results are the same — every business wants to be more profitable — but the nuances of how they get there are completely unique. I work with clients in markets across the world who use different strategies and have different success criteria. But the thing that makes the most difference is the individual strengths and weaknesses of each business — and we can make sure we offer solutions that are a great fit to fill any gaps they may have.
It’s a process of listening and continual learning — and it’s always interesting.
A great part of my role is that I work so closely with clients, and I get to actually apply our solutions and tools into the marketplace so I have hands-on experience in delivering what Kalibrate can do. And I get rewards when I hear directly from clients about the results we’ve delivered and their positive feedback.
How does data help you to remove the guesswork in your own role?
We are a solutions company at heart; myself and many of my colleagues utilize data to remove the guesswork and inform decision-making within the business. We analyze data to find out which of our solutions, analysis, and consulting actions bring the most value to our clients — and to highlight areas for improvement.
In more than 30 years at Kalibrate, I’ve built up a bank of experience and knowledge — underpinned by data — that helps to effectively solve client problems. I’m able to combine my decades of experience with Kalibrate’s vast data capabilities to remove the guesswork from my own role, and to help our customers overcome their challenges.
Clients come to us with all sorts of challenges, and all sorts of ways they want to approach them. Over the years I’ve worked with over 200 different clients in multiple markets, so although every business is unique and their challenges can be diverse — I have worked with enough different businesses to be able to draw conclusions on which solution generated the best results in the past, and why — and work out which approaches are most applicable to their challenges.
How do you help clients to make more informed business decisions?
One of the important things we do for fuel pricing clients is to help them define who their competitors really are. In a competitive business like fuel retail, this helps to inform many decisions both strategically and operationally. It ensures they consider the right competitors in their pricing strategy to set the right price — which impacts volumes, margin, and profit, as well as their costs and expenses. Many times we’ve uncovered that fuel retailers are spending time visiting stores or purchasing data from third parties for stores that they aren’t really competing with at all – so our analysis saves costs as well as increases revenue.
What do you think are the greatest challenges and opportunities for growth in the fuel retail sector?
Rising costs create significant challenges to fuel retailers. Despite public opinion – when pump prices rise, retailers make less per gallon. When there is less margin available, fuel retailers often tread with caution – but these may be the ideal times to sharpen strategies and make money in different ways, so that when margins improve again – they can really capitalize.
As driving patterns change, fuel retailers are starting to look for new ways to generate revenue and are focusing on inside sales and complementary businesses – presenting big opportunities for the companies that can define, and offer, the perfect mix to their customers.
Much of what I do is provide data and that helps fuel retailers to make those decisions confidently. We can analyze the link between fuel sales and inside sales to help determine which sites could use a lower fuel price to attract more customers and increase in-store sales, and which are attracting mixed or uninfluenced customer groups and could therefore increase the fuel price without negatively affecting store profitability.
Mass mobility data can help fuel retailers to understand exactly who is entering their store or forecourt and even where they come from – to help determine the products and services that would be the best fit for their customers’ needs, and ultimately, make the retailers more profitable.
Although there are some real challenges faced by the fuel sector right now – those that work to overcome challenges, rather than endure them, can quickly gain a competitive advantage.
Where do you see the fuel markets heading?
I can see that the fuel market is changing. Rather than working in silos, fuel retailers are starting to look at the whole picture and how each element of their site works together to the benefit of the overall business – and its profitability.
A greater understanding of who their customers are is coming up frequently in conversations. It allows for very targeted advertising, specific product offerings, and even tailored pricing. This requires a deep understanding of who your customers are, where they come from, and what they really need from you.
All of this is underpinned by having the tools and data available to inform your plans and help you make the right decisions – at the right times. And I’m really pleased that this is something I can help forward-thinking fuel retailers apply to their businesses.
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