4 Ways to Connect With Fuel Customers

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

BOSTON -- When it comes to choosing where to fuel up, price is paramount. But is it everything?

In a February 2018 survey of more than 2,200 fuel-price app GasBuddy members, conducted in partnership with CSP, Boston-based GasBuddy found that more than 88% said price was the reason they preferred a particular gas station and brand for buying fuel. But the same survey found plenty of other leverage points for retailers to consider in winning fuel customers’ business—especially that of millennials.

Here are four that stood out …

1. Build brand loyalty beyond price

Among the GasBuddy survey respondents, price and fuel quality are the two biggest drivers in their decision of where to fuel up. But other factors also hold sway. For example, 61% of respondents said they prefer to refuel at specific gas stations, ones they're familiar with, and 39% say they chose the best offer based on all their options.

“This shows that consumers are willing to be loyal to brands with the right customer experience and product offering,” said Frank Beard, convenience-store retail analyst for GasBuddy.

Other important factors include a fueling location’s:

  • Cleanliness (34%)
  • Brand reputation (33%)
  • Safety of its premises (31%)

2. Protect your reputation

For 27% of consumers, “speed of checkout” was key in their fueling location choice.

“This highlights the importance of maintaining a strong online reputation since today’s consumers can—and will—form opinions based upon what your customers share online about the experience both in-store and at the forecourt,” Beard said. In an earlier GasBuddy survey, 69% of users said they would not visit a fueling location that had a rating of less than three out of five stars in the GasBuddy app, he said.

Having a good loyalty program can also be a powerful influencer. Although only 28% of respondents said it dictated their brand preference, this is an area where millennials skew differently. They were nearly 9 points more likely than the overall respondents to say a good loyalty program would influence where they buy fuel.

3. Mind the food-fuel gap

The GasBuddy/CSP survey also found a link between fuel and food purchases. Of the 53% of respondents who said they purchased food at a c-store in the past month, about two-thirds (67%) refueled at that same location.

It underlines the importance of having a strong store offer, Beard said. “Rather than visiting multiple locations, today’s busy consumers are often looking for a one-stop shop,” he said. “Brands who stand out with a differentiated foodservice offer can drive significant foot traffic and boost fuel sales.”

4. Connect with millennials over mobile

In the GasBuddy survey, nearly one in three consumers said they look at their mobile phones while filling up their vehicle. For 18- to 34-year-olds, this number jumps to 61%. Within that two- to three-minute window, retailers have a prime opportunity for connecting with consumers, especially the coveted millennials.

“Effective use of location-based advertising solutions with a well-tailored offer is one strategy that can help drive millennial customers into the store,” Beard said. He pointed out that 61% of 18- to 34-year-olds say a mobile coupon for food or beverages would influence their decision to enter the store, compared to 52% for all consumers.

Click here to view more results from the survey.