Fuelling petrol station innovation with ESL

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Written by
Edin Osmanovic

Head of Supply Chain Solutions DACH

Fuelling petrol station innovation with ESL

Everyone can remember that late night search for an open fuel station when they desperately needed more essentials, such as nappies for the baby, or wanted a snack or treat.  For many years the fuel station retail store was the only option out of regular shopping hours. But as supermarkets and convenience stores extend their opening hours, competition has increased and margins have become tighter. Fuel stations are now looking for innovative ways to continue to attract customers and maximise their returns.

One of the great challenges for a retail outlet of this type is that they have to routinely stock up to 2000 different products in a space of 100 square meters - just 10% of the size of a regular supermarket store. In an ideal world, these fuel stations must remain attractive to customers by keeping up to date with the latest product trends, catering for regional tastes and having the flexibility to make special offers.

Forward thinking filling station operator, team energie GmbH & Co. KG, in the north of Germany, is an organisation that is pioneering the use of technology in its fuel station retail areas to address these changing market needs. The company is deploying Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) in its retail areas to enable innovative marketing campaigns, improve the presentation of products to customers, reduce pricing errors and save valuable labour time.

When the company ran a pilot trial with Panasonic Connect at its first fuel station in Flensburg, near the German and Danish border, 800 electronic shelf labels were installed and working in just one day. Each ESL is connected to the central Point of Sale (POS) system, enabling pricing to be changed at the touch of a button. The easy use of the system also helps with the fast introduction of new trends (iced teas were popular last summer) and to quickly add regional favourites to individual stores – being close to the border makes Danish delicacies popular at the Flensburg site.

As well as pricing accuracy and convenience, the first installation proved that labour could be cut by 30 minutes a day using the automated system – allowing staff more time to spend with customers. Marketing is another great attraction. The electronic labels can be customised to display logos, flash special offers or provide more product information. In addition, using NFC and QR Codes, shoppers can scan labels to see special offers on social media or look-up additional information. For example, the Flensberg store uses this functionality to enable people choosing oil to look-up the right type for their vehicle.

Moving forward, the organisation sees the opportunity to further target its marketing by using transaction data to spot trends and to tailor specific offers for customers to be sent directly or shared over social media. Ultimately, the ESL system is also the perfect foundation for the introduction of dynamic pricing, where product costs could change in real-time depending on demand, the time of day or customers in the store.

So, the next time you pop into the fuel station for something, remember to look out for those innovative technology changes!

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