Big Bang

Covid-19 hit the entire globe like a big bang, something never seen before. Suddenly the world we knew has been turned upside down in our private lives as well as professionally. One can never be fully prepared for such a sudden change. A big bang requires a high level of adaptability. In nature, the evolution of species is determined by the way they adapt and at what speed they change. What counts for nature also counts for business. The level of adaptability and speed of change of your business defines the level of success in the future

During the COVID-19 crisis customer behaviour has changed drastically. The necessary lock-downs in most countries have impacted traffic flows and shopping behaviour. Sales patterns at forecourts, carwashes and in convenience shops have been showing a significant change. The situation required a thorough assessment of sales volumes to manage this sudden and unexpected business challenge. Sales numbers are very useful for capacity and financial analysis, but they are only showing the result of customer behaviour. In order to understand the dynamics involved with the changing business environment, it is crucial to have a deeper understanding of customer behaviour itself.

Best practices

More than ever during the COVID-19 crisis and the post-covid reality, retailers that have been able to adapt rapidly to the changing circumstances and customer behaviour, are winners. First of all, local staff have been crucial actors in managing a safe customer experience during lock-down conditions. They needed all possible support to be able to act at their best. And that’s where technology comes in to play?. Retailers that were already accustomed to working with technology, as a means of removing unnecessary human actions in the process, have definitely taken advantage of that and relieve the increased pressure on their staff.

Fuel retail companies with a high standard of technology and data integration have been able to boost their control tools with small and incremental investments. In the field of smart camera technology we have been able to support our customers by generating new data insights as well as creating new functionalities on top of their safety, security and control standard. Those new functionalities are built on PumpWatch, our intelligent camera system, and therefore easy to implement. Running operations and securing safety from a central point for instance, has helped in managing the forecourt business efficiently over the past months.

The right digital standard

In addition to managing the current, unpredictable business environment, setting up a technology standard at petrol stations that supports the need for speed and flexibility to meet with an unpredictable changing customer behaviour, will increasingly make a difference in the future as well.

Having the right level of integration and technology already in place will allow your organisation to adapt rapidly. Innovation becomes just a matter of extending the existing standard with specific solutions that fit the changed demand for safety procedures, operational control, and customer insights.

“The level of adaptability and speed of change of your business defines the level of succes in the future.”

When it comes to camera technology, being able to extend basic security functions with controlling and data generating functionalities, is extremely valuable. Hence, the fact that building on existing technology does not require large capital investments and supports short lead times. On top of dealing with new safety and security circumstances, PumpWatch is supporting retailers in understanding customer behaviour by enriching transactional data with licence plate and car information. This is a good example of a small technical supplement on the existing standard of data integration PumpWatch supplies, with a big functional impact. That is the real value of incremental innovation: By taking small steps forward in technology, you are on your way to big transformations. The system architecture of camera technology determines, to a large extent, the ability of adding incremental functionalities.

All in all, the challenge retailers have been experiencing during this COVID-19 crisis, on the level of adapting their business, is not different from the challenge they face in the light of the fuel retail transformation that is ongoing. Understanding customer behaviour remains crucial for any change.

Next steps

The priority of fuel retailers today lies therefore in securing the right path to a high and integrated standard of camera technology on their stations, to be fast in adapting their business and transform their fuel stations to serve their customers the day after tomorrow.

Published in ForecourtTech e-magazine: Edition June 2020.

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