When motorists pull into a gas station today, they experience information overload.,
Compared to today, fueling up a vehicle was much simpler decades ago. Consumers may have only had to choose from a couple fuel dispensers (depending on which grade of gasoline they wanted), lift the handle, insert the nozzle, fuel up and head inside to pay.
When motorists pull into a gas station today, they experience information overload. They are bombarded with choices and information to absorb–especially at the fuel dispenser. Numerous grades/types of fuel (some of them higher ethanol blends or diesel) are available, plus there’s a card reader, contactless/mobile payment technology, possibly a touchscreen, a media platform and a host of marketing promos and warning stickers that can all be located on a single dispenser.
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While there are merits to being able to provide customers choices, the chances of them selecting a fuel that their vehicle is not approved to use are higher than ever before. It is also unlikely that many customers truly understand the benefits of choosing one fuel type/grade over another. If customers don’t understand what value they are getting from a station’s fuel, why should they return to that station? There is a great opportunity for petroleum marketers to address this and to improve the customer experience. Here are three considerations for doing just that.
1. Establish a brand standard for communicating fuel grades that is consistent and clear.
Regular, mid-grade, plus, premium, super, super premium, special, flex fuel, ethanol-free. These are just some of the terms used to describe grades of fuel and their associated octane ratings at the fuel dispenser. Ethanol blends pose another issue. E15 is sometimes referred to as just that, but it is also known as Unleaded 15, Regular 88 and Unleaded 88. It would be easy for a customer to mistake Unleaded 88 or Regular 88 for a higher-octane E10 that contains 10% ethanol as opposed to E15, which contains 15% ethanol. At some stations, diesel equipment is colored green, while at others it may be yellow or black. This overall lack of consistency is a disservice to customers.
2. Display educational information about the fuel choices available to customers.
Many motorists probably don’t truly understand what value different octane ratings and fuel grades bring to their vehicles. Stations should provide information about the fuels they sell to help educate customers about the choices available to them. This could be as simple as a sign placed in every row of fuel dispensers that includes details about each grade/type of fuel, what model year vehicles and engine types are approved to use the fuels and information about brand-specific benefits, such as detergent additives. Messaging could be placed at the dispenser to direct customers to the sign for help selecting a fuel that is safe to use in their vehicle.
3. Leverage “part look-up” technology to help customers navigate their fueling choices.
Many people who perform minor maintenance on their car–such as replacing windshield wipers or changing the oil–are accustomed to using a kiosk to help them identify the correct part for their vehicle. A similar tool at the dispenser could help guide customers to the fuel that is compatible with their vehicle and serve to remove all the clutter that can overwhelm the consumer. For example, entering a few basic details about the vehicle would automatically lock out the fuels that are not appropriate for the vehicle. If the customer was presented a promotional ad for a product inside the c-store at the end of the selection process, that promo would earn the attention of more eyeballs than marketing served in less engaging ways.
It’s time for petroleum marketers to put motorists in the driver’s seat by empowering them to make informed choices. Brands that simplify fuel purchasing through innovative station equipment and accessible informational resources will deliver a more positive experience to their customers. This effort will help boost customer loyalty and generate repeat business.
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