Opinion: The impact of EV charging stations on P&C retailers

Paul Sharpe, General Manager ANZ at FranConnect, looks at how EV charging stations are transforming convenience retailers.

In a world steadily shifting towards sustainable transportation, electric vehicles (EVs) are taking centre stage. This transition is not only reshaping the automotive industry, it is also having a profound effect on various ancillary businesses, including convenience stores at petrol stations and service stations.

The integration of EV charging stations into motorway services operations is proving to be a game-changer, offering numerous benefits while also posing unique challenges. In this article, we will delve into how EV charging stations are transforming convenience retailers and why they are becoming a vital addition to these businesses.

Increased foot traffic: One of the immediate advantages of installing EV charging stations at petrol-convenience outlets is the potential for increased foot traffic. EV owners require charging infrastructure, and retailers that provide it become a natural stopover for these drivers. Whilst their vehicles are charging, customers are more likely to enter the store, browse its offerings, and make purchases. This uptick in foot traffic can significantly boost convenience store revenues.

Extended dwell time: EV charging inherently takes longer than refuelling a gasoline or diesel vehicle. Charging times can range from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the charger’s speed and the vehicle’s battery capacity. This extended dwell time presents a golden opportunity for retailers to engage with customers.

Retailers can now leverage this time to promote in-store offers, discounts, and promotions. For example, digital signage near the charging stations can display special deals on snacks, beverages, or exclusive products. This strategy encourages EV owners to explore the store and potentially make impulse purchases, thereby maximising sales.

Market positioning and brand image: In today’s market, a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility can set businesses apart. Offering EV charging stations aligns retailers with the green movement, enhancing their brand image. Customers appreciate businesses that contribute to reducing carbon footprints, and this perception can attract eco-conscious consumers. When consumers perceive a retailer as environmentally conscious and forward-thinking, they are more likely to choose it over competitors.

Customer Loyalty: EV charging stations can become a powerful tool for building customer loyalty. EV owners, like all customers, seek convenience and reliability in their service providers. A retailer that offers dependable and user-friendly charging services can establish a positive reputation among EV users.

Partnerships and marketing opportunities: The introduction of EV charging stations opens doors to various partnerships and marketing opportunities for retailers. These partnerships can be with EV manufacturers, energy companies, or government initiatives promoting sustainable transportation. For example, collaborating with an EV manufacturer to install their branded charging stations can attract a dedicated customer base interested in that particular brand. Energy companies may offer subsidies or incentives for installing EV chargers as part of their sustainability initiatives. Government programs aimed at expanding charging infrastructure may provide financial support or promotional benefits for participating retailers. Such collaborations not only help retailers cover installation costs but also generate additional marketing buzz. They can lead to co-branded marketing campaigns, driving more traffic to the retailer.

Data analytics: EV charging stations can provide valuable data on customer behaviour and charging habits. This data can be harnessed for market research and targeted marketing campaigns. By analysing customer charging patterns, retailers can gain insights into peak charging hours, preferred charging speeds, and even the types of vehicles that frequent their stations.

This information can inform inventory management, allowing retailers to stock products that align with the preferences of their EV-driving customers. It also enables more effective marketing efforts, such as sending promotions to customers’ smartphones when they are charging their vehicles.

As the adoption of electric vehicles continues to grow, competing retailers that do not offer EV charging may find it challenging to attract and retain customers who drive electric vehicles. Therefore, having this infrastructure in place can be a strategic move that sets a retailer apart in a crowded market. As the automotive industry continues to evolve, electric vehicles are just one piece of the puzzle. Autonomous vehicles and other innovations are on the horizon. Retailers with existing EV charging infrastructure will be better positioned to adapt to these emerging trends.

Additionally, as EV technology advances, new charger types and faster charging speeds will become available. Retailers that stay updated and invest in the latest charging technology will remain competitive in the evolving EV landscape. In addition, as retailers move into the future, they may also need assistance in enacting change and growing their business, and it’s important to be across what technology can now offer.

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