Fuel and convenience

Blog: Building the Connected Forecourt of Tomorrow

October 31, 2023  |  BERND KRAUS

Customers visit a fuel station for many reasons. Filling up their car is only one of them. Getting a coffee, picking up a parcel from the e-locker, or buying cigarettes, lottery tickets, and ingredients for tonight’s dinner are other reasons. And some customers might not be looking for gasoline at all, but rather for a charging station to refill the battery of their electric vehicle (EV).
The role of the fuel station has quickly emerged from a ‘petrol dispensing area’ to an access point for a whole range of convenience services that make customers’ lives easier. The forecourt plays a key role in all this, which leads us to the so-called “connected forecourt.”

Connected forecourts offer a range of services
According to analyst firm Arthur D. Little, the forecourt of the future will be a connected forecourt, which can be described as a combination of hardware and software solutions to improve both the customer experience and operational efficiency of gas stations. 
Examples of what you could find at a connected forecourt today that are directed towards a better customer experience include:

  • Digital payments. Drivers can use their phone or smartwatch to pay, while retailers can collect additional data on consumer behavior.
  • Digital signage. Communicate with customers about fuel prices or promote in-store products and loyalty benefits.
  • Customer engagement. Combining various data streams allows you to offer personalized promotions and loyalty campaigns. Integrated with e.g., digital signage, these offers can be presented in real-time to the customer.
  • Adjacent convenience services. Forecourt players are expanding the range of services to cater to customer needs that go beyond their car. Think about pharmaceutical services, parcel pickup, laundry services, local grocery delivery, and co-working spaces.

Some other examples relate primarily to improving operational efficiency, although, being part of the ”connected” forecourt, they usually also contribute to a better customer experience:

  • Smart pumps that can provide real-time information about fuel prices, amount of fuel already dispensed, customer purchase history, and so on.
  • EV charging stations that communicate directly with cars to simplify the charging process. Using “plug & charge” technology, the car becomes a ‘connected hub’ itself meaning car owners can simply plug their car into the charging station and all authorization and billing transactions are handled between the charger and the car directly.
  • Real-time fuel pricing leveraging AI technology to define the optimal price point for fuels using input variables like location, time of day, sporting events, competitive pricing, weather conditions, etc.
  • Monitoring and security using cameras and other IoT devices to monitor the forecourt 24/7 for safety purposes. These solutions not only reduce drive-offs and vandalism, but also help detect fuel leakage and other dangerous situations at the forecourt at an early stage.
  • Predictive maintenance to prevent station downtime by using sensor data and AI-driven maintenance models to predict when equipment is about to break and needs maintenance.

Building a connected forecourt
The success of the connected forecourt very much depends on (real-time) data exchange between the various systems and technologies involved. This, however, is easier said than done. It starts by investigating customer needs and expectations of connected forecourts and aligning these with your commercial objectives. Do they want digital payments, are they (also) EV drivers, do they like real-time discounts?

Once this is clear, the next step is to select the right technologies. Given it should all be “connected,” modular technological solutions that foster openness and that are based on industry standards are preferred. Together with your business partners, you can then work out a plan and start the implementation process, preferably in a phased rollout with smaller steps and continuous testing to prevent ‘surprises’ at the end of the project.

Modular hardware, open software, scalable services for a future-proof forecourt
One of these business partners is Diebold Nixdorf. Diebold Nixdorf is a well-known and trusted solutions provider that serves 8 out of the top 10 of global fuel retailers today, and for good reason: Diebold Nixdorf offers hardware, software and services that are built with openness and flexibility in mind. Highly modular point-of-sale (POS) and self-checkout systems, but also self-serve kiosks, and mobile retailing solutions for example. This modular approach enables easy integration in a complex multi-vendor ecosystem of store and forecourt systems.

Software based on the API-first design principle while using open and documented APIs allows you to connect with existing software applications faster. Diebold Nixdorf’s cloud-native Vynamic FCx solution, which uses best-in-class technologies and is built from the ground up to serve fuel and convenience retailers with their forecourt and store operations, is a perfect example of this. It lets you manage all forecourt processes, handle fuel stock management and fuel reconciliation; offer full payment flexibility including cash, digital, fleet card and discount-based payment methods; and keep all operational and transaction data in a central cloud repository so it can be shared with other connected forecourt applications if needed.

Also, the DN AllConnect Managed Services proposition to implement, support and maintain the connected forecourt is open and modular. It incorporates services for third-party technologies, too, to provide you with a single point of contact for everything services-related, taking away the hassle of working with multiple providers. Moreover, using data-driven AI tools the services team can predict and prevent failures before they even occur, resulting in “always-on” availability of your connected forecourt solutions. Last but not least, Diebold Nixdorf offers dedicated installation, maintenance, and support services for EV charging stations to keep your charging infrastructure up and running at all times.

With decades of experience in building robust hardware and software, and delivering reliable services to leading fuel and convenience retailers, we are here to help you build and operate the connected forecourt of tomorrow!

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