In his blog, Don Williams, Business Development Manger at Urgent, examines the importance of automation for fuel retailers.
Realising the potential of retail automation.
The fuel retail sector has changed significantly over the last 10 years. It is now common for service stations to be more focused on their retail offering, rather than fuel sales, with sites raking in $5 billion in sales from shops annually. In fact, oil giant BP estimates that half of its customers do not even buy petrol when they visit a forecourt. Will petrol forecourts even sell fuel in 10 years’ time?
With fuel retailers adopting more of a traditional retail-focused mindset, it may be time to learn from the world of retail. The global retail automation market is predicted to surpass $19.5 billion by 2024. This is a huge market with great potential and if your competitors aren’t already jumping on board, they will be soon.
What is retail automation?
Retail automation is an umbrella term for anything that you set on auto-pilot in your business. This means that you set specific parameters, or rules, that determine when a specific action should take place. If the conditions are met, then the systems and tools running behind-the-scenes in your business will automatically kick off the next step(s).
Why adopt retail automation?
According to McKinsey & Company, automation is reshaping business models and all retailers now face four new realities that make automation a must:
- Margin pressure has made automation a requirement, not a choice.
- The bottleneck to automation is internal, not external.
- If you aren’t already implementing automation, you are falling behind.
- The automation opportunity is bigger than operations.
Benefits of retail automation for fuel retailers.
There are several benefits of retail automation, but I believe that these are the 5 main benefits to fuel retailers:
1. Maximise sales – By minimising the downtime of revenue-generating assets (pumps, car washes, coffee machines, fridges, food equipment etc), fuel retailers can ensure that they are extracting as much revenue as possible. Automation facilitates this by monitoring these assets, identifying any potential issues before they occur and then taking actions to avoid them. It also reduces the time-to-repair when they do break thanks to automatic allocation of issues to engineers.
2. Cut costs – Retail automation allows you to reduce staff costs. More automation means fewer tasks being performed manually thus reducing staff hours needed to perform those tasks.
3. Improve customer experience – Through automatic allocation and prioritisation, automation can help fuel retailers to resolve issues faster thus enhancing the standard of their physical surroundings – improving the customer’s experience of the store and maintaining the company’s brand image.
4. Become more efficient – Simply put, automation saves you time and helps you maintain 24/7 operations even when people aren’t working. Automation can reduce the number of steps required to complete a process and reduce the amount of time between steps as you aren’t waiting on a human to instigate the next step.
5. Fuel growth – Maximising sales, cutting costs and becoming more efficient all adds to the bottom line giving businesses the financial resources to grow. Automation of workflows also allows staff time to look at expansion strategies and focus on optimising processes to allow for growth.