PetrolPrices.com leverages assets to provide new products and retail insights

PetrolPrices.com, the service that allows members to save money on fuel, is leveraging its assets to deliver new product, retail and insight solutions to forecourts, convenience retailers, QSRs and coffee brands. Fiona Briggs reports

PetrolPrices.com has a bold and unique ambition. According to the company’s managing director Jason Lloyd, the platform aims to become the petri dish that petrol retailers and convenience brands will turn to in order to assess new products and services via its panel of users. The data collected from users should enable partners to make more effective decisions on consumer facing problems.

Lloyd likens the concept to a laboratory, where experiments are run with the output being data and the end result increased footfall and sales plus valuable insights. However, Lloyd concedes that there will be times when the results, while interesting, will not always be that useful. This is the nature of running experiments: famously it took Edison 10,000 times to discover a lightbulb that worked thousands of times in the home, but it was invented by 23 other people before him.

Where PetrolPrices.com aims to have an edge, he claims, is its ability to draw comparisons across all stations and brands, to segment and analyze data and identify and predict new trends. Data agnosticism is key, all the brands have data, PetrolPrices.com’s goal is to be the Switzerland of petrol retail data that they all trust and use.

That’s the new business model or plan, which is being launched on the back of a rich history in data collection.

PetrolPrices.com was founded in November 2005 and over the last 12 years has helped 4 million members locate the cheapest fuel locations all over the UK at no charge. The pricing data comes from fuel card transaction data, which PetrolPrices.com buys from Experian Catalist, along with the leading oil majors and supermarkets for competitive pricing intelligence.

“We were the first to display that data to the public for free,” Lloyd recalls. “The driver for that was to provide price transparency for the consumer market and to help customers make the right buying choices.” The business has remained independent of petrol retailers and continues to display prices impartially, Lloyd adds.

There are currently 1.9 million PetrolPrices.com members but 500,000 so-called engaged users. “That’s half a million people who are interacting with us every month either by opening emails, visiting the web or searching on the app. Of those 500,000 engaged users, 60,000 use the app but the vast majority are web-based.

“So it’s only the app users who need to know where the cheapest or nearest fuel is right now,” Lloyd says.

The challenge for the new business model will be to become an app business rather than web and email, Lloyd asserts, since for the required data collection methods to work, it needs to be app based.

However, while PetrolPrices.com has a few strategies for transitioning users to the app, the demographic is quite old and will not necessarily all want to make the shift.

“The core audience is aged 45-70 and there’s a very heavy male bias,” Lloyd says. “A lot of people who are retired are on a budget, so saving 2p a litre at the pumps is quite significant, if you are on a pension. That’s been quite a big driver but the older demographic is also more interested in the notion of fuel and knowing where to find the cheapest fuel,” he says. Typically older members are not smart phone users either, so PetrolPrices. com intends to retain web and email services to cater for this customer base.

• At the same time, the business will be honing in on new groups. Lloyd reports the company identified four main personas at the start of 2017 and so created a series of paid subscriptions designed for each category. What it found was that only some worked and others did not, but it gave the company insight into what data driven product solutions it could develop for the new business model.

• Members with high performance cars, who buy premium fuels such as super unleaded and premium diesel. This group is relatively small but they can make big savings via PetrolPrices.com’s service

• Retirees, who are watching the pennies plus families on a limited budget

• Members who drive for a living be it truck or van drivers, the armed forces and services, public sector workers etc. These are the heaviest users of the PetrolPrices.com service

• Company users, including the fuel card industry and petrol retailers - a small sector but high frequency users

According to Lloyd, these latter segments are the groups PetrolPrices.com is moving towards with its new business model.

New model

PetrolPrice.com’s business model is being transformed, Lloyd reports. The company now plans to combine the Experian Catalist data with a crowd sourced data approach, similar to the GasBuddy concept in the US.

“We are going to be taking the best features of GasBuddy and its crowd source data approach and apply that into the UK marketplace,” Lloyd says.

It will be a hybrid model, however. “We will continue to use data from Experian Catalist but in addition we will encourage and ‘gamify’ members to submit their own price information,” Lloyd explains.

According to PetrolPrices.com, the combination should make the data more robust and will unlock new product, retail and insights solutions over time.

Under the new model, PetrolPrices.com will harness and gamify its engaged member base to submit petrol forecourt price information in order earn points, which they can then redeem through rewards.

Lloyd reports the company also plans to engage with petrol retailers, convenience brands, QSRs and coffee chains to provide their location-based offers, which will be aggregated onto the PetrolPrices.com app. New partners will get preferential rates before the end of the year when the prices go to rate card, he adds.

In future, an app user will be able to search for the same price information that they can today but will also be sent notifications of offers at any point nationally. In addition, PetrolPrices.com will place a geo fence around every forecourt in the UK so, that when a user arrives at a particular petrol forecourt, they will be notified of any offers, games and competitions at that exact location. The offers could be from the petrol retailer or any of the site’s brand partners such as convenience or coffee brands. “It’s then up to the user to choose which offer they would like to redeem,” Lloyd explains.

PetrolPrices.com has teamed up with Liquid Barcodes to supply the technology for the gamification aspects on the app but it’s an non-exclusive partnership and retailer and convenience brand can also ‘piggy back’ the app. It is a game changer, however.

“It’s a major move on from the current petrol prices app to providing loyalty offers, which are triggered via someone visiting a forecourt,” Lloyd says. “Or we can communicate regionally via a broadcast push method to drive people to forecourts.”

This year the new version of the app will enable users to earn points by various means such as confirming or updating pricing information. In the New Year, PetrolPrices.com plans to provide users with the mechanics to spend those points such as entering prize draws to win £100.00 worth of fuel a week, for example.

A further feature of the new look app is providing an overview page of every individual petrol forecourt in the UK. This will provide an opportunity to crowd source customer reviews. “We will be encouraging our active engaged users to submit reviews about the stations they are visiting,” Lloyd says.

In TripAdvisor-style, users will score sites across a range of criteria such as service, friendliness, queues, coffee, cleanliness etc. The data will be aggregated and relayed via the app and PetrolPrices.com website. Users, meanwhile, will win points for their reviews. “It will help to build up nice, rich profiles of every petrol forecourt and their respective categories,” Lloyd says.

Product solutions

PetrolPrices.com is also developing opportunities to generate insights for petrol retailers and convenience brands through new product solutions.

One is via loyalty and it includes two types of offer. In the first instance, the company simply partners with Shell or Costa, for example, to promote their existing loyalty offers to members through an API on the PetrolPrices.com app.

In a second scenario, which takes into account the fact that only 29% of operators have a loyalty scheme (ACS), PetrolPrices.com can create a product solution or loyalty platform, using Liquid Barcodes’ technology, that enables partners to run campaigns via its app and website. The beauty of this technology is that it’s channel agnostic, states Lloyd. “It’s not exclusive to us so that the same coupons on PetrolPrices.com could be used for press or display or any other marketing channel. That’s exciting for those retailers that don’t have existing loyalty mechanic,” he says.

Advertising is another tool PetrolPrices.com plans to deploy to drive footfall, sales and insights for its partners.

Lloyd reports the company plans to partner with Cuebiq to record the advertising ID and journey history of users. If a user is a regular visitor to McDonald’s, for instance, Cuebiq will know that particular ad ID is visiting that location a lot and PetrolPrices.com can display targeted and relevant advertising based on those historic journey records.

The technology also enables segmentation such as by vehicle type (currently 20% of members reveal what car they drive, although the target is for 90%). This will enable partners and brands to win insights about specific segments and bundles of segments such as Ford, or Ford plus Shell, or Ford plus Shell plus McDonald’s, for example.

In app advertising for partner brands is also on the cards, which will behave and appear in a similar way to petrol listings.

Retail solutions

A number of retail solutions are on the horizon too. They include PetrolPrices.com leveraging its listings management by reselling its station data to Navads, a global local marketing platform used by the likes of BP, Shell, Gulf and M&S and Jet. The plan, says Lloyd, is to the plan is to allow petrol retailers to control their site listings information on PetrolPrices using the Navads platform that works on 11 other global mapping platforms. A forecourt market report is also on the cards, which will draw on the company’s growing number of data points and sources. It will enable retailers and brands to benchmark their performance, Lloyd reports.

A reputation product, based around the user reviews is also scheduled for early in 2019. “Once we have accumulated the data we will develop a tool so that retailers can see their aggregate review scores and take action,” Lloyd says. “We will notify retailers if they need to take action so it will be feeding into their customer service station. It will also provide an opportunity to identify any trends as to why scores are low, for example. This could be due to queue size, pricing or coffee, for instance. The ultimate goal to enable partners to build custom review questions that helps them to make better decisions about specific customer issues they can take action on,” Lloyd reports.

Insights solutions

Insights solutions are the third prong of the PetrolPrices.com new business model.

These will include a quarterly insight report, a query builder and data lab.

Lloyd anticipates the rich data sets it collates for partners will in turn raise queries and reveal insights but that it will be an experimental approach. “We’d love to be able to turn insights into products that we can roll out to the rest of our partners,” he says. “For example, if, in the future we are running experiments for partners and querying the data, we could develop a predictive model to help operators find the best time to sell specific products or how to optimize staff on manning tills to reduce queuing time, for instance.”

A data lab will enable trend prediction too such as how much footfall will go through a newly acquired forecourt over the course of a year. According to Lloyd, PetrolPrices.com would be able to showcase the history of that forecourt: the footfall, the offers that were redeemed, the user reviews etc and therefore predict what likely patterns could be expected in future or if any changes were to be implemented such as introducing electric charge points or a bigger shop. These tools could also enable convenience brands to analyze the impact of changes in the environment including which products are sold on forecourt locations, for example. “It’s about using the power of crowd and extracting information from that crowd to feed the lab,” Lloyd says.

PetrolPrice.com’s third insights solutions centres on providing API products for the wider marketplace.

Lloyd reports the company has been approached by numerous businesses - insurance firms, car makers/dealers, media agencies etc - who are interested in PetrolPrice.com’s fuel finder capability to enhance their own offers.

“It’s brilliant for us because we are accessing a new audience and accumulating more data,” he says. Insurance firms, meanwhile, benefit from closer and more regular engagement with customers, particularly through the gamified aspects of PetrolPrice.com’s reach. “Using fuel finder or gamified rewards on a partner, we still get the benefit of aggregating the data and they get increased engagement, which gives them a stronger story to talk to the customer about. It’s a massive win,” Lloyd says.

He even envisages API mash ups in future, where PetrolPrices.com mixes its own data with data from partners like insurers to create a big data platform to drive further monetization opportunities. Combining insurance history and driver data could reveal significant correlations such as whether purchasing behaviours and buying patterns correspond to the level of insurance risk. Now that’s petri dish thinking indeed.

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Fiona BriggsFiona Briggs Freelance retail business journalist

Fiona is an experienced journalist and editor, writing exclusive content for GCSF. She is founder of retailtimes.co.uk. She contributes regularly to NACS Magazine and writes articles on omnichannel shopper trends for Radial. Fiona is available for commissions at fionalbriggs@gmail.com

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