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Forecourts have undergone a massive evolution from the stand-alone fuel dispensing kiosks of the '60s to supermarket and convenience retailing zones of current times; from personnel operated to self-service to automated pumping and also the transition from a fuel station to a pit stop. Over years, forecourts have transformed in accordance with the shift in consumer preferences and requirements. Be it brand owned and operated, licensed or franchised, the evolution of forecourts has not been just restricted to transformation of real estate but to changes in business models, introduction of newer players, inclusion of alternative profit opportunities and upgrades of services.
Gas diesel fuel station isometric composition.jpgIntroduction and adoption of electric vehicles, inclusion of increased digitization and connectivity in cars and the altering landscape of alternate fuel options have all raised significant interest on the future of forecourts. Will forecourts become redundant? Who will operate the forecourts of the future and what will be their formats are just some of the lingering questions.
YS Shashidhar, Partner & Managing Director, Frost & Sullivan opines that “Even if there is a 100% replacement of all petrol/diesel cars to e-vehicles, it would take about 35 years for such a replacement considering the e-vehicles production capacity, capital involved, etc., and moreover 100% replacement is not possible. Hence, it is safe to say that conventional fuel vehicles shall continue to run on roads for the next 3-4 decades and the need for petrol/diesel fuel stations is unlikely to die during this period.”
Ownership and business models are expected to change drastically and the evolution shall largely be characterised by individual country/regional dynamics including demographic shifts, vehicle ownership patterns and regional technological developments. Newer business models are expected to warrant larger collaboration between fuel retailers, APP developers, digital payment service providers, convenience/supermarket retailers, and fleet operators. The price of fuel unlikely to have a marked difference between brands implies that differentiation has to purely come from the nature and bouquet of services offered and this is where the forecourts of the future shall largely witness development.
“SMART shall be the keyword of forecourts of the future - connected cars, vehicles on the Cloud, BOT operated stations, analytics for customised services and promotions, pre-scheduled refueling based on usage and location, and connected stations are some of the futuristic trends in fuel retailing that oil companies and fuel retailers across the globe need to be prepared to embrace”, noted Shashidhar.
Even as the forecourts of the future evolve on the platform of Convergence, the transformation journey is expected to be highly influenced by the interplay of global fuel trends and other regional dynamics. The evolution is expected to be highly diversified across various economies within the larger Middle East and Africa region itself.
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