ACAPMA released the inaugural results of the 2015 Monitor of Fuel Consumer Attitudes at its Annual Conference and Expo earlier this week. While, at one level, the survey reinforced the view that price is the most significant factor for fuel consumers, deeper analysis revealed that the location of a retail site was also a major consideration in the purchase decision.

It is generally accepted that Australian motorists are highly price sensitive when it comes to fuel purchases.

In fact, our industry is full of stories where consumers have travelled half way across a capital city to save a few cents per litre even though they ultimately paid more for the fuel given the fuel they burnt travelling to a distant service station site.

In a recent survey of fuel consumer attitudes, ACAPMA found that consumer behaviour was not as price-centric as most of us have come to believe.

The 2015 National Monitor of Fuel Consumer Attitudes was commissioned by ACAPMA earlier this year.

Conducted by independent research firm, Survey Matters, the survey canvassed the views of 1000 fuel consumers across Australia. These views were then supplemented with focus group research conducted in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

“Analysis of the survey results provided some surprising insights into consumer behaviours and actually highlighted some contradictions between what consumers say and what they do”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

At face value, the survey revealed that 60% of Australian motorists chose to purchase fuel on the basis of price – a finding that is only surprising in that it is slightly lower than might otherwise have been expected.

When asked whether customers purchased fuel from the same site, a staggering 89% of survey respondents indicated that they either “always” or “generally” purchased fuel from the same service station.

“This latter finding highlights a contradiction in consumer attitudes and behaviours”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

On the one hand consumers cite price as the most important, yet 89% of consumers are generally loyal to their local service station.

“That either means that 89% of service stations are offering the lowest price or that ‘location’ of a retail is a more dominant factor in terms of customer loyalty, said Mark.

Another interesting contradiction related to consumer price sensitivity and the use of supermarket discount vouchers.

A significant proportion of survey respondents openly acknowledged that, even after taking account of their supermarket fuel discount voucher, they were actually paying more for fuel than they might otherwise pay at an alternatively branded fuel provider.

“Motorists desire to redeem the supermarket voucher actually appeared to be stronger than their stated desire to secure the best possible price for fuel in their local area”, said Mark.

“The key message for our industry is that while price remains important to consumers, there appear to be other sub-conscious factors at play that mean motorists are generally loyal to a small number of service station outlets – largely because they are conveniently located and provide an attractive and welcoming environment”, Mark said.

The 2015 Monitor is the first time that ACAPMA has sought the views of motorists on their fuel retail experience.

“Our intent is to conduct this research every year, track changes in consumer attitudes, and share the findings of our research with our members and the wider industry in an effort to ensure that we are taking full account of changes in consumer purchase behaviours”, said Mark

A copy of the 2015 research can be obtained here.

Members wishing to discuss any aspect of the research are invited to contact or call 1300 160 270.