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Which Oil Company Is the Most Innovative?

Indexes rank top fuel providers based on consumer perceptions
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK — Chevron took the No. 1 spots among fuel companies in the second annual American Innovation Index, which measures company innovativeness based on customers’ perceptions and experiences, and the Social Innovation Index, which measures innovation that benefits society and the environment.

The indexes are compiled by Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, New York; the Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway; and market research firm Rockbridge Associates Inc., Great Falls, Va.

For the fuel sector, the scores are based on the experiences of consumers who purchased fuel or related products in the past 12 months.

Following San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron in the American Innovation Index were Shell, Houston; Phillips 66, Houston; ExxonMobil Corp., Irving, Texas; BP America, La Palma, Calif.; and Valero, San Antonio. The indexes did not rank convenience stores.

For the Social Innovation Index, the ranking consisted of Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Phillips 66 and Valero.

“Our research shows that brands are viewed as more innovative when customers notice changes in the products and services, the ease and speed of service delivery, customer care and physical and digital presence,” Charles Colby, principal, chief methodologist and founder of Rockbridge, told CSP Daily News.

In the fuel sector, several factors drive customer perceptions of innovation, including perception of the fuel as being of higher quality and of a company being a leader in the energy field. Customers also notice positive changes such as improved or redesigned convenience stores, expanded store services, a wider array of products, faster introduction of new products on shelves, rewards programs and upgraded fuel pumps, he said.

Social innovation consists of perceptions of a company being a leader in and placing a priority on benefiting society and the environment. In the fuel industry, customers focus on activities and product superiority that leads to social benefits. At the national level, customers are aware of efforts by companies to invest in renewable and cleaner energy. Customers also credit more efficient fuel blends with contributing to cleaner air, lower carbon emissions and cost savings that yield a social economic benefit.

The fuel industry in general performs lower than other industry industries on their innovation index, according to the study. Out of 174 companies, the American Innovation Index Scores range from 80.5 (Apple) to 43.9, for a median of 63.6. All the fuel companies Rockbridge captured have scores below the median. Chevron is the leader with a score of 60.2, but the range for the fuel industry is tight (the lowest rating is 51.5).

“One specific area that may lead to customers rating Chevron high in innovation is its ExtraMile convenience-store concept, which is designed to provide a better store experience, customer rewards and value, Colby said. “Chevron also promotes its Techron additive as a unique feature of delivering better performance and fuel efficiency.”

“In the past, Chevron invested significantly in alternative energy, which to this day may contribute to its social innovation profile even if Chevron has scaled back in this area,” Colby said. “In an environment where millennials are becoming concerned about climate change, Chevron should consider the long-term benefits to its brand by renewing an emphasis on clean and renewable energy and getting this story out to its customers.”

Although Apple took the No. 1 spot overall, the survey found that the most innovative companies are not always in technology. Weber, a manufacturer of grilling equipment, ranked No. 3 on customer-perceived innovation, higher than No. 5 Amazon, No. 7 Google and No. 8 Netflix. Food retailers Trader Joe’s and Chick-fil-A tied at No. 15, out of 174 U.S. companies. Major tech brands such as Uber (No. 35), Facebook (No. 95) and Twitter (No. 125) lagged behind.

“In a competitive market, innovation propels companies to the top of their industry and drives their growth and financial performance,” said Lerzan Aksoy, professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. “The American Innovation Index recognizes the companies with the highest innovation index scores based on customer ratings.”

“Companies can excel in satisfaction, but if they do not deliver an innovative customer experience, they face obsolescence,” said Gina Woodall, president of Rockbridge. “Your industry does not matter. For example, among airlines, Southwest is an innovation leader while other airlines rank near the bottom.”

The study was conducted in May 2019 and covers 174 firms from 21 industries. It surveyed 8,863 consumers and covered more than 38,000 customer-company relationships.

Click here for a full list of company rankings.

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