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Smart Gas Stations: How Technology Influences Convenience Retail

During a recent talk, Mark Wohltmann, NACS Europe director, shared the 11 current big trends impacting Russia’s gas stations.
March 31, 2017

​MOSCOW – Earlier this month, Mark Wohltmann, director of NACS Europe, spoke in Moscow at the “smart-gas-stations” conference, which was co-organized by a NACS partner, the Russian association of roadside service and tourism companies. While the conference mostly focused on how to grow Russia’s vast network of highway gas stations, Wohltmann focused on the big trends that influence convenience retail globally as well as in Russia.

Wohltmann discussed 11 current big trends, which he classified into three buckets:

  • Things to act on
  • Things to react on
  • Things to watch out for

“Acting-on-trends are rising opportunities,” he said. “They are here today and they are growing and it is time to jump onto the bandwagon if you haven’t done so yet.”

The top five trends within this area are:

  • Better customer targeting and less promotional wastage through mobile technology and ever better becoming algorithms.
  • Maximizing impulse sales opportunities through next generation, pump-TV-enabled fuel-dispensers.
  • Leveraging increased consumer-spend on on-the-go food though implementing modular foodservice solutions.
  • Expanding services (banking, dry cleaning, Amazon locker, etc.) to shift the convenience store to a destination instead of a stopover.
  • Offering a range of alternative fuels that make sense in each respective location.

“Reacting-on-trends are things that you can’t ignore or it will hurt you badly,” Wohltmann said. In that category are regulations, shifts in mindsets and societal changes.

The top five trends within reacting-on include:

  • A different attitude and expectations towards work and the workplace. Millennials will have employers rethink employee engagement if they want to secure their future workforce.
  • An ever-increasing progress of technology, information availability and insights shifts business planning from the classic five-year-plan to a more agile, iterative effort with the need for constant review.
  • The rise of “recipe box” providers is a threat and an opportunity. A box with “everything you need” to prepare a meal eliminated the necessity for emergency purchases. But as convenience stores have everything in stock you need… why not offer one yourself?
  • Regulation (tobacco, alcohol, sugar, etc.) is here and it’s not going away—rather, regulation will likely increase. Experience shows that those who prepare for the next round will lead the market.
  • The immensely growing shift of consumer mindsets toward all things healthy means not only having fresh and healthy food, but also provides a lot of additional opportunities on products such as beauty and sports.

The final topic that’s a big one to watch: Driverless cars. “They are on the road already, but small in numbers,” Wohltmann said, adding that he predicted the market will grow. “Just some food for thought about this: A driverless car means a hand-free-driver. That means more opportunity for retailers to offer things to eat, drink and entertain—all purchased at a convenience store of course.”