If you had spent the last 5 years outside of Australian and just returned home, the industry-wide changes that have occurred in the service station industry would be self-evident.  Specifically, the vast majority of fuel retailers in Australia have invested in changing their service station sites from just being a retail site selling fuel (perhaps with some ‘chips, chocs and drinks’) to being an integrated retail business selling fuel, groceries, coffee, prepared food and a range of convenience services such as pre-paid mobile phone sim cards.

“Our industry has invested large sums of money in recent years to create a national network of local community retail sites that provide a convenient one-stop location for Australian consumers to fill up their cars, top up their groceries and get good food fast”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“And like most retail markets, individual fuel retailers are using very different retail models that convey very different looks and feels”, said Mark McKenzie.

As evidenced by the findings of the 2019 Monitor of Fuel Consumer Attitudes that was released by ACAPMA last week (see https://acapmag.com.au/2019/11/australian-service-stations-more-than-just-fuel/), eight out of 10 consumers are still only buying fuel when they visit a service station.

“The results of our recent research suggest that consumers have still not recognised the large scale transition that has occurred in our industry in recent years”, said Mark McKenzie.

A very probable explanation for this fact is the current way we ‘talk’ to consumers. Service stations have, and continue to, attract customers via the display of our prices on three story price boards that are prominently positioned at the front of the site.  While this practice allows people to compare prices between fuel retailers before entering a given site, they reflect a customer conversation that is wholly price centric.

“In the main, we don’t talk to our customers beyond a big price board that displays the price of our fuel – and we wonder why many don’t consider us for groceries and high quality grab and go food”, said Mark McKenzie

“Our industry must find a way to talk to our customers differently – not one that continues to be founded in fuel prices”, added Mark McKenzie

“We must find an innovative way to make them aware that we sell value for money groceries and food products as well as a range of convenience services – and a new app called EzySt may just be the answer”, said Mark McKenzie.

In an Australian first, a new open digital marketplace for the petrol-convenience industry called EzySt is set to launch this month.

EzySt is a game-changer: it will enable fuel retailers to publish special fuel prices and convenience product deals directly to consumers’ mobile phones. Consumers will then be able to indicate their product preferences, so retailers can give personalised offers on products that matter most to the individual.

A pilot program involving 40 Puma Energy sites in Perth has just finished, with several thousand users redeeming fuel and shop deals. Initial industry feedback and the customer response to this trial has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The EzySt pilot provided us with some really interesting insights about our customers, including their buying preferences and frequency of purchase,” said Alan Plews, General Manager Retail at Puma Energy.

“It was also great to see our staff get behind the initiative and feedback from customers has been really positive as well”, added Alan Plews.

The app is the brainchild of Sydney-based company The Pricing Project – which is led by former Caltex executives Mick Jarvie and Ben Everitt, and technologist Damian Funnell. The business has previously launched other useful fuel industry software such as PriceScape and PriceSync.

“This is all about P+C retailers building a direct relationship with their customers, communicating their value proposition, and encouraging loyalty and repeat business,” said Mick Jarvie.

“Motorists are increasingly connected to the digital world and coming to expect easy access to information about the offers available to them” said Mick Jarvie.

“While there have been a range of individual fuel purchase apps launched by different networks, the industry has not developed an app that addresses this customer need and so we set out to develop one”, added Mick Jarvie

The Pricing Project team saw there was a particularly strong case for independents as well as majors. Smaller businesses don’t necessarily have the resources for ‘above the line’ marketing of their products in the same way as bigger businesses, but even bigger businesses appear to have struggled to engage customers in discussions about their total P+C offerings.

“With EzySt, all market participants are literally now on the map,” said Mick Jarvie.

Buying group New Sunrise will participate in EzySt from launch, publishing offers on behalf of New Sunrise member sites.

“In this this dynamic, fast changing competitive market we need to be smarter about how we communicate with our customers”, said New Sunrise Managing Director Steve Cardinale.

“Simply having instore promotions is not enough, we need the ability to connect and reach out to people driving past our sites who are not aware of the great offers inside the store”, said Steve Cardinale.

“We also need to understand who is visiting our stores and how often, and appeal to them directly with offers both on shop and fuel that will reward them for loyalty – EzySt enables us to do this and the best part is its use is very straightforward and accessible”, added Steve Cardinale.

P+C retailer Urbanista – owned by Sydney based Nader Petroleum Group – is also participating in the EzySt launch.

“The Urbanista team has always tried to push the boundaries of the traditional P+C business and our team was really impressed by how EzySt can be used to create bundled petrol-convenience offers and make them instantly known in the marketplace ” said Manging Director Eddy Nader.

The team behind EzySt believe the app represents a rare ‘win-win’ for consumers and retailers in a market that is becoming increasingly challenging.

“We want the EzySt experience to be first class not just for motorists but for retailers setting offers,” said The Pricing Project’s Ben Everitt.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that almost any form of fuel or convenience deal can be published in EzySt, and set to be displayed at given times in the day (e.g. peak hour) or made available over multi-day periods”, added Ben Everitt.

The EzySt app allows retailers to readily assess the impact and take up of their offers in real time. If the offer is not bringing in customers, then changes can made instantly.

The customer segmentation functionality is very powerful. It allows EzySt users (i.e. consumers) to be grouped in a way that makes sense for individual fuel retail businesses operating in local markets, with bespoke offers made directly to chosen market segments.

The EzySt launch will include WA, Qld and NSW, with the rest of the country to follow shortly afterwards. The app will display the board prices of all retailers using publicly available information. It is estimated that fuel and convenience offers will be displayed for approx. 800 – 1,000 sites operated by participating retailers at launch date.

“EzySt is an open platform that is available to all retailers and, at least on the face of it, looks to be a critical solution to the challenge of how we get Australian consumers to recognise that fuel retailers do more than simply sell fuel – by talking to them in a very different way than just sticking a price board in their face ”, concluded Mark McKenzie.

More information including registration of interest form can be found by visiting the EzySt website:  www.ezyst.com.au