Technology is the catalyst for transformation in the digital era. As in other industries, digitisation has changed customers’ experience of mobility beyond recognition – a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Technology is vital to understanding what today’s consumers want from forecourts and service stations, as Ali pointed out. And it is key to building loyalty – to getting people to return to your locations.
But leveraging technology and data to sharpen customer focus is tough when working on legacy systems.
It can be difficult to know whether your data is providing a realistic picture of customer needs; to create the digital experiences they demand; and to engage them on an individual level.
For Welcome Break, the problem is complicated by the ‘multi-franchise’ nature of the business, which means getting numerous brands’ systems to talk to each other.
“Even within a forecourt, there’s a catering offer, a retail offer and a refuelling facility, which may all be on different systems,” John explained. “Customers don’t want to have to deal with three different apps or checkouts.”
Interestingly, he predicted that customers of the future won’t just be human beings.
As connected vehicles get smarter, they’ll hold more data on drivers’ habits and preferences when on the move. So systems will need to be able to communicate with the vehicle as well as the person. How will forecourt operators access the data within the connected vehicles that enter their sites? Without it, they’ll be unable to tailor their service to the passengers’ preferences.
An additional challenge – and opportunity – is for joined-up technology to underpin operational efficiency and profitability.
In Sarah’s view, that could be through automation, real-time data, inventory tracking, or the dynamic pricing we already see in other sectors, such as energy and consumer goods. Why shouldn’t such pricing models transpose more widely across the mobility space?