Turning Fuel Pumping Into an Experience
NATIONAL REPORT — The constant innovation around technology is catching up to convenience store fuel pumps, as c-store operators look to provide a more interactive, engaging and entertaining experience to customers as they are fueling up their vehicles. And in some cases, elevating the experience is also allowing them to upsell products and services available inside the c-store, directly benefitting the bottom line.
Whether it’s video monitors advertising in-store products while keeping consumers up-to-date on local news, or customers placing a foodservice order while at the pump, today’s c-store operators are stepping up their game on the forecourt.
“We are always looking to see how we can give customers a more interactive and hassle-free experience at the pump,” Joe Brecknock, director of brand and communications at Chicago-based BP, told Convenience Store News. “Our insights show customers want to get through the pumping experience quickly and for it to be as seamless as possible, which is a reflection of how customers want all their experiences to be, whether it’s gas or a cup of coffee. They want it fast, easy and smooth.”
In the latest Convenience Store News Technology Study, c-store retailers reported an increase in their use of fuel pump technology — particularly video monitors, which increased in use by more than 7 percent from the prior year; and merchandise ordering at the pump, which jumped from 1.9 percent using the technology in 2015 to 7 percent in 2016.
Some recent examples of c-store operators stepping up their game are:
- Nashville, Tenn.-based Tri Star Energy LLC, operator of 86 c-stores, started utilizing the NewsBreak Media Networks platform at its pumps. The program runs on a five-minute loop broadcasting news, weather and other related information, along with targeted advertising to encourage customers to go into the store. The chain reported that it saw in-store sales increase considerably after implementing the technology.
- Quality Oil Co. in Winston-Salem, N.C., recently started offering Linq3’s Play at the Pump lottery technology so customers can play the lottery while fueling up.
- BP unveiled its “Personality Pump” named Miles, which uses proprietary interactive technology to audibly greet customers and initiate the fueling experience.
- Colbea Inc. dba Seasons Corner Market, based in Cranston, R.I., installed Gilbarco Veeder Root’s Passport POS with EMV functionality and FlexPay IV terminals at the pumps across its network of more than 100 stores. While doing so, the retailer also installed Applause TV as part of the upgrade.
- Rutter’s Farm Stores, based in York, Pa., and operating 66 locations in central Pennsylvania, is upgrading to the NCR OPTIC Solution at the pump, which accepts EMV, magnetic stripe, contactless, mobile wallet, and 2D barcode scanning. The NCR OPTIC Solution, which offers two different sizes of screens, is a combination of the EMV payment method and either 5-inch or 12-inch screens at the pump that present opportunities for interaction and marketing with customers.
“We set out to see how we could turn the three or five minutes at the pump into less of a chore and make it more interesting and fun to do,” BP’s Brecknock explained. “When you drive up, it activates the pump with a motion sensor and as you get out of the car, Miles will greet you and invite you to play some music.”
BP partners with Pandora to offer a large selection of music — pop, rock, holiday and country — that can be played at the pump. Customers can also interact with Miles in other ways, such as trivia games or creating an e-card.
“…It’s really quite different, and the first of its kind for this type of innovation at the pump,” Brecknock said.
EMV AS A CATALYST
Many c-store operators are working to install EMV at the pump, and this upgrade is prompting them to introduce other technologies for use now and in the future. EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the three companies that originally created the new security standard for credit cards.
“Offering EMV at the pump helps to ensure customer payment security and reduction in fraudulent purchases, so we’re happy to assist customers in this way,” said Michael Schiemer, digital marketing manager at Colbea. “We are always looking to stay ahead of the curve with technology and ways to maximize transaction security. We have found a lot of value with Applause TV providing data-driven content at the pumps to drive in-store sales. It’s also useful for the customer to enjoy personalized media and useful coupons. Overall, it’s really a win-win situation for everyone.”
Another c-store chain taking the EMV mandate a step further is Rutter’s.
“If we needed to replace the equipment for the EMV mandate, we wanted to make it the best long-term solution,” said Scott Hartman, president and CEO of Rutter’s Holdings Inc. “We were looking at the best combination of both the EMV payment methodology solution, combined with how that could improve our customer interaction at the pump.”
The NCR OPTIC Solution offers an open source platform, so instead of prepacked marketing from a national media company, Rutter’s can develop and insert its own content, according to Hartman. Furthermore, it’s an interactive touchscreen that allows customers to do multiple things, just as they would at a self-serve kiosk.
Rutter’s views the rollout as a multi-phase project. Ultimately, the screens will provide Rutter’s with opportunities to inform customers about the products offered inside the c-store. For example, Rutter’s stores just began selling beer, so this would be a way to let customers know that, Hartman said.
Look in the May issue of Convenience Store News for a more in-depth report on “Elevating the Fuel Pumping Experience.”