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The Future of the Forecourt

By Charlotte Hurd, on 25th March 2021

When we look specifically to the automotive sector, despite the pandemic, the switch to electric driving powers on. The category is accelerating way into the future, but is the way we service consumers in this space adapting quickly enough?

 From digital sales associates to super-fast and flexible delivery apps, the customer service landscape itself is growing and changing to meet the needs of people in new and innovative ways.

With the growth of EV, the changing expectations of service and the news of EG Group taking a majority share in the Asda Group we consider the implications on the petrol forecourt and how these will work in the future.

Previously, visits to the petrol forecourt were focussed just on fuel, however the introduction of convenience and ‘to-go’ culture began to break this down, offering opportunity for retail, F&B and adjacent services to take up residency and catch consumers when convenient.

Caltex, for example now offer services such as laundry, parcel collection and meal kit pick-ups; Shell have arranged for hair dressing services on their forecourts in China and Moto are launching click-and-collect food ordering schemes at a number of sites.

Currently, only 19% of forecourt shoppers cite fuel as their main reason for visiting a forecourt. In the future, the expectation around convenience will remain, however wider mobility and EV trends will mean that the role of services in these environments will have to advance.

One of the biggest considerations for those purchasing an EV and for those providing forecourt charging points is time. Offering adjacent services will be key for those drivers who are waiting for batteries to charge.

In future – these spaces will need to become one stop multi-use hubs offering a variety of services such as entertainment, leisure and fuel.

At a secondary level, retailers will also have to consider the overall infrastructure to provide clean buildings with innovative interior design using environmentally friendly materials and smart technologies to create pleasant micro-climates for people to enjoy.

Fuel stations will convert into multi-use ecosystems, with separate relaxing spaces for those who want to read or work, clean and bright areas for eating, and even green terraces for social gatherings. Bigger parking lots will also be necessary to cater for larger crowds that stay for longer periods.

Copenhagen practice Cobe for example, has realised two EV charging stations in Denmark that swap the artificial lights, smells and noise of traditional petrol stations with natural materials, daylight and greenery. Timber structures that resemble trees have a canopy-like roof covered in carbon-quenching sedum, while more plants on ground level, seating and a swing offer a restful break.

Alongside these architectural and service considerations, behind-the-scenes tech is also essential. Like all retailers, fuel companies and EV providers must offer a comprehensive digitally enhanced offer which puts convenience at its heart. 

Get this right and customers will be choosing the forecourt while they wait for their car to charge, instead of the retail park opposite.

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