Petrol stations that just do petrol are a dying breed. The emergence and growth of electric vehicles (EV) is reshaping forecourts around new customer missions, and more and more frequently, customers are visiting the forecourt for shopping missions that don’t include petrol. So how are things changing? And how can forecourt retailing and retailers get ahead of the curve by designing environments their audiences want in the coming decade?

The changing nature of forecourt retailing

Roadside retail design is evolving to better serve the needs of modern travellers. For example:

  • 38% of global car sales will be electric or hybrid by 2025
  • According to the European clean power for transport directive, there should be one publicly available charging point for every 10 electric cars by 2020
  • By 2040, 54% of new car sales and 33% of the global car fleet will be electric
forecourt retailing electric vehicles
Electric charging is surging.

One of the key features of EV charging is that the physical charging takes considerably longer than filling up a tank with petrol. This means that customers will endure longer dwell times, and retailers that take advantage of this trend when reevaluating their concepts will evangelise their audience and win new customers. 

Changing customer expectation

On some occasions, longer customer dwell times will result in a customer hungry for more points of engagement in your store. Forecourt retail stores can’t only be places to buy meal deals and petrol.

Forecourt retail food
Food and beverage offers play a growing role in forecourt retail.

They should cater for a range of customer journeys, including:

  1. The quick in-and-out refuel: The convenience customer, on a specific mission to refuel to continue with their journey. No thrills, just looking for friction-free service.
  2. The rest and recharge: EV owners need stimulating while they wait for their EVs to recharge. Whether it’s a coffee in a quiet space, or somewhere to stream the next episode of their favourite show in a comfy chair.
  3. The community store: The odd-job, DIY-er who needs to pick up some equipment for a late night emergency job when the DIY store is closed. 
  4. The social hub: The social butterfly or worker, who needs some where central and convenient to have their next gathering or meeting. 

There are more, but hopefully, the above highlights that forecourt retailers considering “what’s next?” can’t simply give stores a quick once-over with a paint brush call that a job well done.

Expanding customer behaviours

Alongside the customer journeys referenced above, retailers must recognise that the consumer of tomorrow has different values to the present-day shoppers. As Bonnie Walsh, senior insight manager at HIM explains: 

“Younger shoppers behave differently to older generations. Retailers need to adapt their approach to cater to both”. 

Roadside retailing
Take a break while your vehicle charges.

18-24s are +46% more likely to buy a meal deal compared to CTP average. They are also more likely to have a food to go mission in mind when entering a convenience store. Perhaps by implementing more of these options in convenience stores, engagement of younger shoppers will grow.

Technology-enabled choice

Technology can also play a part in engaging with younger generations. 

Just Eat fulfilled 220 million takeaway orders in 2018 while Gousto, Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef et al delivery boxes are popping up on doorsteps across the nation.

According to Harry Walker, industry head of grocery retail at Google, April 2019, 

‘Technology and digital experiences don’t eliminate choice – autonomy and freedom of choice are still very important, as Schwartz insists – but they do help us cut through choice, organise information and deliver that all-important convenience to the consumer.’ 

Technology can be used to help facilitate the customer missions described above. For example, in Europe, Albert Heijn and Auchan have launched their own autonomous store, following the initial success of Amazon Go. 

A new wave of start-ups offering to implement autonomous retail tech are now cropping up, such as Inokyo. In China, the technology has become relatively mainstream, and concepts like Moby Mart have become commonplace.  Bringing this technology into roadside retail could be transformative as part of the overall retail mix.

Inokyo’s autonomous retail. Courtesy of Tech Crunch.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of where things are going in forecourt retailing. One thing’s for sure, though: if your next retail redesign is a straightforward refresh, you’re at risk of losing marketshare.

As food, beverage and experience design experts with nearly 30 years’ experience building retail experiences that are centred around customer needs, and forecourt retail concept and rollout experience, CADA has amassed a lot of data and insight into where roadside retail is heading. If you’d like to book a short introduction call to run through our insights and trends presentation for service station retail, get in touch. 

For Hong Kong, contact enquiries@cada.asia, for London, contact enquiries@cada.co.uk.