How to Offer a Digitally Disruptive Experience

Employ the right mix of digitally driven customer services

Sudhansu Choudhury, Consulting Partner, Oil and Gas

As digital disruption hits the forecourt, what could it mean for the average fuel customer? For one, they would experience ultra-personalized offerings and engagement based on their behavior and demand. They would have an effortless voice- or gesture-driven interaction for search, order or service from anywhere. There could be pre-emptive demand identification and fulfillment of all their requirements—energy, lifestyle and leisure—backed by artificial intelligence (AI). And they could sell surplus electricity from solar or wind power to their community through a blockchain network facilitated or set up by the petroleum retailer.

In an age of ever-increasing customer centricity, petroleum retailers must deliver a seamless experience, accelerating the digital journey to keep pace with changing preferences. At the same time, they must respond to numerous challenges related to growth, customer loyalty, market dynamics and regulations, as well as startups and digital predators such as Amazon.

Petroleum retailers can generate greater value and quickly shift from being predominantly a fuel provider at physical forecourts to being a one-stop destination hub for diverse energy and lifestyle needs. While some retailers have pilot initiatives to deliver a superior customer experience, there is greater potential to create a stronger customer intimacy by delivering this digitally disruptive customer experience, with differentiated, seamless and effortless engagement across all customer journeys.

The Disruption Toolkit

As the world becomes hyperconnected with connected cars, stores, workplaces and even people, gas-station retailers can digitize the entire customer journey, moving from reactive to proactive engagement. This includes understanding behaviors, predicting preferences, offering the right content and promotions, and providing products and services that exceed expectations. A digitally disruptive customer experience will be powered by new-age technologies such as blockchain, AI, advanced analytics and augmented/virtual reality. How will these technologies deliver personalized, compelling customer engagement and experience across all channels and moments of contacts?

Blockchain. Blockchain is essentially a chain of blocks of digital currency transactions interlinked with a unique identity and stored with agreement among all blockchain participants. As site definition moves from physical to virtual and fixed formats become formatless, blockchain will play a crucial role in fulfillment, speed and convenience. It will do this by supporting emerging customer missions as well as new products and services such as the energy marketplace, touchless loyalty and payment and settlement.

Advanced analytics and AI machine learning. These will leverage the volume and variety of customer data from connected things, including transactions, emotion and behavior.

Intelligent agents will help influence customer decisions and actions, and enable touchless and effortless interactions. Customer intelligence will also help optimize marketing and sales efforts, creating more commercial success. Ultimately, customer data can support a seamless path to purchase, including real-time location-based services and contextual engagement.

Virtual reality. Virtual and connected stores could provide a more immersive and engaging experience with augmented and virtual reality supported by AI, chatbots and the internet of things. This will enhance service delivery by retailers, enabling a faster and better customer journey and a unified and enriched experience across sites and formats.

Employing the right mix of digitally disruptive customer experiences, powered by new-age technologies, will improve time-to-market and insights-to-actions for gas-station retailers. This will turn their smart gas stations into a destination hub for fuels, energy and wider lifestyle needs, enhancing returns on investment with a sustained competitive advantage and differentiated customer experience.

Sudhansu Choudhury is consulting partner, oil and gas, for Wipro Ltd. Contact him at [email protected].