Forecourt technology, equipment keep pace despite market, environmental uncertainties.
“A lot goes into these decisions,” he says. “If I’m going to put in new dispensers, when should I do it?”
Gearing Up for Tomorrow
From a manufacturer’s perspective, the market is taking steps to meet the challenges of changing fuel formulation, EMV and loyalty marketing. Travis Bouck, vice president of marketing for Gilbarco, says all of those factors are driving a current rise in upgrading or replacing dispensers.
During the past year, Cary, N.C.-based The Pantry has rolled out an upgraded TV and marketing element to pumps at more than 1,000 sites, with other companies graduating from testing TVs at five to 10 sites to rolling it out to networks of 50 or more locations, Bouck says. While he would not give specific numbers, he says Gilbarco doubled the number of units it shipped last year and is now on track for another record year.
Gilbarco is seeing growing demand, he says, especially in large metro areas and higher-volume sites. In line with that growth is the demand for its larger 10-inch TV screens, double the size of its former standard.
“A big part of why the industry adopts … TV is to give customers information while on the forecourt, whether it’s a promotion or advertisement or news,” Bouck says. “But some do it to subsidize the price of the equipment.”
In terms of new equipment, Bouck mentions the company’s EMV retrofit kit, something he believes will become popular as deadlines approach. Similarly, as the dust begins to settle on the uncertainty of renewable fuels, equipment options have risen to address those needs, he says.
“As fuel margins decline, customers are asking us, ‘How do I get return on my forecourt investment?’ ” Bouck says. “They ask, ‘How do I drive traffic in store, where I have a vast majority of my profit?’ ”
Taking a futuristic turn, Bouck says Gilbarco is working with online-payment engine PayPal, San Jose, Calif., among other partners, to test mobile payment. Tying the option to lower transaction fees and customer discounts are crucial factors for this movement to gain momentum, he says.
“At the end of day, refueling points are about convenience,” he says. “That means simplicity … even though trends in the industry work against speed.”
Adding fuel grades and expanding the number of payment methods adds to confusion and slows down transaction speeds, Bouck says. “But we’re doing everything we can to innovate the user interface so that in the future, we deliver a faster, more convenient experience,” he says.
A Modern Take
For Austin, Texas-based Wayne, a GE Energy Business, refreshing its dispenser’s visual presence is an important part of pump upgrades. This fall, it announced an update to its Ovation dispenser.