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Five Things We Learned from the Forecourt, Power and Convenience Conference

Five Things We Learned from the Forecourt, Power and Convenience Conference

Our Forecourt, Power and Convenience Conference was a real success, and I wanted to share some of the things I learned:

1. EV development is stuttering, but it’s still the direction of travel. A Labour government confirming its policy of bringing the ICE ban back to 2030 might bring some more urgency to the shift to EVs, but there are other factors holding this back regardless of the election result: consumers are anxious about cost, range and charging infrastructure; forecourts and other potential providers of charging facilities are unable to make the case for these costly investments with so much uncertainty and challenges in accessing adequate power supply. But if EV is limping along in second gear, other solutions like Hydrogen are in reverse. That’s not to say they won’t be part of the future, but over the next two decades the story of powering private vehicles is going to be a transition (however imperfect) from oil to electric. 

2. It’s time to think again about Outside Payment Terminals. The prevailing logic in this sector has been that retailers need to convert as many customers as possible from filling up their cars to also using the shop. We’ve been so good at enticing customers into the store that they’re increasingly coming just for that purpose, and every fuel customer paying for fuel at the till doesn’t support they, or many shop-only customers, want. Add in the potential to save labour costs and deter drive-offs and there’s a case for taking a fresh look at this – Maxol under the leadership of keynote speaker Brian Donaldson have done this with strong results. 

3. I picked up a new term: Micromarts. This was coined by BP’s Dom Casby and I hope he won’t mind me using this a lot because it’s quicker than saying, “that bank of machines and self-serve units selling food and drink that you see in more shops now”. Dom talked about the value generated by bringing these offers together and creating a destination even in small stores – I’ve seen plenty of evidence for this in recent years and the images of the way BP have developed this offer looked really compelling. 

4. We heard some great descriptions of consumer types and site segmentation, but we also heard how every single site is different. Whereas that might once have meant small range edits, it now means radically different strategies on big investments like the EV offer, food-to-go, seated areas, valeting and the aforementioned OPTs. That’s great news for independents like Danyal Shoaib who can tailor his offer precisely, and larger dealers like Patrick Sewell who knows each of his thirteen sites so well that he can curate what they offer individually and collectively across the estate. It might be getting harder to visualise and explain the “typical” forecourt site, and I think that’s a good thing. 

5. Danyal also shared his business’s experiences on social media, and he seems to have struck the perfect balance: building relationships and trust, never “selling”, but always communicating about what he’s offering the community. Sharing the latest (very competitive) fuel prices isn’t a promotion, it’s communication for the benefit of his community – who appreciate the chance to fill up for less. This is a fine line, hard to scale and totally dependent on the skills and authenticity of the individuals running the site. This was one of the best examples I’ve heard of a retailer taking their face-to-face customer conversations and transposing them to social media. 

Whether you were at the event or not, I’d like to hear your views on these and other dynamics in the forecourt and convenience market. 

This entry was posted by Chris onThu, 01/02/2024 - 08:59
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