Retailers need to continue to look for ways to improve their forecourt and convenience offer, and how they engage with customers whether that is face to face or increasingly online, David Moss general manager for Shell’s northern European retail business told the audience at last night’s (February 26) Top 50 Indies dinner to celebrate the publication of the latest listing.

“The demand for greater convenience is changing the face of retail,” he said. “People are looking for efficient shopping experiences to give them back time to do the things they want to do by offering more products and services under one roof; they want this experience to be personalised, efficient and supported by great customer service.”

He also referred to ‘millenniums’, 25-34-year-olds who have a larger disposable income and are willing to spend it provided there is the right shopping environment. “As well as making a decision about their own purchasing, they’re also highly connected and influential when it comes to other consumers, because they just network all the time.”

Mobile payments, he said, were due to increase by more than 1000% worldwide, and 50% of all transactions by 2020 would be via a smart phone. “That’s worth thinking about – that’s just over four years away,” he stressed.

“While we are all keenly aware of the IT challenges we face as retailers, dealing with millions of transactions each month, we must adapt – and quickly – to this changing consumer behaviour and meeting customer expectations, with, for example different payment options.” Shell has just announced a link with PayPal to become the first fuels retailer in the UK to offer mobile payment at pumps nationwide via a smartphone app.

With the benefit of customer feedback in the form of 25,000 comments received every month on the company’s ‘tell Shell’ customer satisfaction website, Moss said: “Listening to our customers, offering more ways to pay, and better services and facilities, this is how we in this sector can win in retailing…

“There’s no doubt as retailers that we have to balance the many challenges that the business faces, with the opportunities to change and improve. But this really is a very positive time for all of us. The car parc has surged to 34 million vehicles in 2014 of which 2.5m are brand new – just in 2014. These new cars are on the road for a decade - that’s a lot of customers through our forecourts.”

The annual Top 50 Indies dinner was held at The Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth, and featured former England rugby international and TV commentator Brian Moore as guest speaker.