Many of the major grocery multiples have already adopted pay@pump on their forecourts, but for smaller, dealer sites it seems this technology would need very careful consideration. However Andrew Banks, head of petrol and unattended at Verifone, reckons the payment solution can work almost anywhere: "Some forecourts might want to try one pay@pump first as a fast lane or a queue buster to give their customers a choice at very busy times of day like 5pm or 7.30am," he says.
He gives another example: "If you are running a rural site, giving a service to the community, you might want to be home for your tea at 6pm every night and only want to work on Saturday mornings. Employing staff for those extra hours would cost you an arm and a leg. Pay@pump means you can carry on selling fuel at those times and even on Christmas Day. Your volumes will increase and the pay@pump technology will give you peace of mind," he says.
Globally pay@pump is an accepted way of selling fuel. Banks says the UK’s adoption of the technology was initially hampered by signature verification on credit card transactions, but that all changed with the advent of Chip & PIN technology. "Using pay@pump and keying in information is far less alien to consumers now thanks to Chip & PIN."
However, Banks adds that there’s a lot to consider when looking at a pay@pump solution. "The key to the success of pay@pump is to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to use. The consumer is exposed so transactions need to be quick so they can fill up and go.
"Ease of use is key the equipment needs to lead the user through the transaction, asking whether they have a loyalty card and whether they want a receipt, for example."
He continues: "The forecourt is a very hostile environment, open to all weathers. There’s moisture, dust, wind and atmosphere. The equipment has to be good. The keys need to work and must not stick. And the card reader always needs to work."
There will always be those dissenters who worry that pay@pump leads to lost shop sales, but Banks reckons there’s never been any real evidence to support that theory.
"The small village retailer we’ve already mentioned could turn pay@pump off when he wants to serve his customers, but turn it back on at 6pm when he wants to go home. That gives him the best of both worlds. At certain times of day he might lose sales but at busy times it means more throughput; customers can get off the forecourt faster."
Meanwhile, Baljit Tank, managing director of Indigo Retail and TQIPS, says a number of retailers asked him about providing outside payment terminals (OPTs) during IFFE at the NEC in March.
"Indigo has a lot of experience in installing OPTs, both for national retailers and independents. The key is to optimise the use of OPTs. For example, creating a fast lane for customers who just want fuel so they can fill up quickly. An OPT lane minimises queues on the forecourt," he says. Regardless of what pumps a retailer uses, Tank recommends that they have a forecourt maintenance contract. "There is now a much greater emphasis on sustaining serviceability of assets such as pumps.
"Fierce competition, coupled with the volatile nature of fuel prices and narrow margins, mean it’s now more important than ever for retailers to maximise utilisation of their retailing equipment as well as achieving the fastest possible ROI where applicable," he says.
"More retailers require problems resolved in much shorter periods of time in many cases within hours. In years gone by this would normally only apply in situations affecting ability to trade. Nowadays we are seeing this for problems ranging from a single nozzle or an OPT outage."
Petrol stations are a hub of activity so why not provide customers with information and entertainment? That’s the thinking of Tokheim’s UK sales manager, Adrian Beeby. His solution is the company’s new TQC-VGA (which stands for Tokheim Quality Calculator-Video Graphic Adaptor). According to Beeby, the new system "captivates the audience through promotions, information and advertisements".
Beeby is fully aware that many retailers got their fingers burned with Big Media. However, he says with TQC-VGA nothing is free the system belongs to the retailer. That system is a calculator and media head all in one. It means fuel volume and price, plus the media/promotions are all displayed on the 17" screen. Beeby says this combination ensures that the captive audience is looking directly at the display as the fuelling takes place.
He continues: "We don’t just provide you with a screen, we’ll provide you with a full media package that’s effective and easy to use. You can create playlists with various types of media even live internet sites such as AA travel. Then you simply schedule the promotions to run at different times."
Beeby says the TQC-VGA provides full control over dispensers, either locally or remotely via an online connection. You can add any number of screens from different forecourts and control them from anywhere in the world. "This is a powerful feature for oil companies or dealers with more than one station, as it allows the same or different media to be played on screens on any number of forecourts."
Tokheim has successfully installed the system on a number of sites across the UK and Europe. One of the UK sites, is the Fraser brothers’ BP Lower Earley site in Reading. The Frasers are very enthusiastic about the system. Hugh Fraser comments: "Since installing the equipment we have seen a great increase in the use of Ultimate grade fuels and car wash sales. Our advertising displayed on the screens has contributed to this."
Beeby says simple ideas prove effective, such as broadcasting "Would you like to advertise here?". And Tokheim has recently teamed up with a specialist media agency for forecourt owners wishing to attract outside business.
Beeby is keen to stress though that it’s not all about advertising and promotions: "The TQC-VGA provides an excellent user interface for customer guidance and instructions, and can run safety information or quizzes that can make the experience more enjoyable. We want forecourt managers to get the most out of their screens. We can help them with creating more elaborate advertisements and we can offer a cost-effective design service that will add media-rich content to their screens."
Advertising at the pumps comes in a much simpler form utilising the nozzle. Alvern Media is a leader in this field. Its clients can tailor their campaigns by selecting the forecourts they want with either a national, regional or local focus ranging from 10 to 4,500 sites. They can also target consumers in proximity to a particular location.
Its FMCG clients have so far included Lucozade, Cadbury, and Wrigley.
Alvern Media’s latest retail partners include the Lakeside Group, The Co-operative and Waitrose, which has expanded its network to 91,500 petrol pump nozzles on over 4,500 forecourts across the UK.
An agreement with Alvern can generate revenue paid to the retail partner directly or, alternatively, the space can be used to promote ’own-use’ products and services, such as car washes and lubricants.
Moving on from media and onto fuel, and tighter European emission limits for heavy-duty vehicles are increasing the demand for AdBlue filling stations across the UK. AdBlue is a non-toxic aqueous urea solution used to chemically reduce NOx-emission from heavy-duty diesel powered vehicles. It is neither explosive nor harmful to the environment and is classified under the minimum-risk category of transportable fluids.
The use of AdBlue is legally required by vehicles with SCR (selective catalytic reduction).
AdBlue is stored in a separate tank on the vehicle. This tank is replenished in a similar way to fuel on the forecourt this can be from 10ltr canisters or, on particularly busy sites, at the pump. About 75% of new heavy commercial trucks, buses and coaches require AdBlue and this is likely to rise to 100% over the next four years as emissions legislation gets even stricter.
Vehicles can be replenished from facilities in transport company depots, but many now need AdBlue on the road.
The Air1 brand is available at the pump on over 45 sites in the UK and Ireland, and many more stock Air1 canisters. There is a partnership arrangement between BP and Air1 and agreements are in place with other oil majors as well as independent site operators.
Moto Hospitality will be the first motorway services operator to offer bulk dispensed AdBlue on its HGV forecourts. The bulk AdBlue dispensers, supplied by Air1, will be available at its Chieveley and Wetherby locations from the end of October with plans for more locations to follow. The introduction of these dispensers follows the successful development of AdBlue sales in canisters from the company’s shops.
However, Eric Denivelle, marketing director for Gilbarco Veeder-Root, reckons AdBlue poses very serious challenges when handled at the forecourt.
"It can literally destroy filling equipment and the expensive catalytic system of the truck, as it is highly reactive with other materials, is temperature sensitive and instantly crystallises in contact with air."
Gilbarco has an answer to all these problems its new SK700-II AdBlue integrated solution. The company says it is the ideal product for customers who want a fast and easy installation of an AdBlue dispensing solution on their forecourt. The Integrated solution incorporates the existing SK700-II AdBlue dispenser and an above-ground storage tank. With a capacity ranging from 4,000 to 10,000-litre tanks, the integrated solution can be set up single-sided or double-sided, or even as a satellite installation on the forecourt.
Finally, this summer, Dresser Wayne’s Global Star for AdBlue will be available in its latest Global Star V version. The dispenser’s hose handling design keeps the AdBlue in the hose and nozzle from freezing while providing user-friendly operation. Special internal dispenser components designed for the corrosive nature of the product help protect the quality of the AdBlue.
What retailers say about pumps...
Susie Hawkins, Simon Smith Group, Gloucester:
"The age of our pumps ranges from a few weeks to 15 years. We have recently re-pumped one location at great expense. We have a pump maintenance contract so they are regularly checked. It is important to have a good company to support you to minimise the time that a pump is out of action. We use Edensure to monitor the measurement of our pumps and identify those that are over-measuring. We then have our own measuring equipment to check the pumps and have them cut back if they are over-measuring. It is important, especially with some of our older pumps, to be constantly looking at over-measurement to reduce potential losses from our business!
"All our sites have pump-nozzle advertising and we are increasingly using this space for our own promotions and advertising. We don’t have any with media screens but I can definitely see the possible advantages."
Paul Sykes, Shaws Petroleum, Huddersfield:
"We renewed all our pumps two years ago. They are on a service contract with Tokheim. The only problems we tend to have are with filter blockages from biodiesel. All our pumps are linked into Fairbanks who then can tell us if and when pumps are out of service, over- or under-dispensing.
"All our nozzles have advertising on them (Total/Alvern), though I am not sure if it is more hype than anything else. We use pump crowners for our DSL promotions.
"Pay@pump will come. We tried pre-pay during the night and it stopped all the drive-offs during those hours. But we also lost a lot of regular custom so pay@pump would be better. However, the economy is not conducive to the investment at present."
Jonathan James, James Graven, Cambridgeshire:
"My three sites all have different pumps. Slade End’s are Gilbarco Eurolines they’re 15 years old but were fully refurbished three years ago. West Park Street’s are Tokheim and are five years old. Ely’s are Gilbarco Euroline GMs and are eight years old. Meter drift is the only problem we get but Edensure monitors that. I’m not too worried about biofuels issues but time will tell!
"I am putting media screens onto my new site as I think they are a great opportunity to sell products."