How to boost gas station visits and revenue with forecourt advertising

Updated January 29, 2021

When you pull into a gas station to fill up, you’re standing at the pump for an average of three to five minutes. Too short to play on your phone or fire off an email. But too long to have nothing to look at. And who wants to squeegee their windshield anyway?

A growing wave of convenience store and fuel retailers are getting savvy about that idle time. Instead of leaving you standing there whistling or clearing fast food bags and bottles from the passenger-side footwell, they’re catching your attention with entertainment content, weather reports and splashy ads on the pump’s video display screen.

That’s because these c-store retailers know the time customers spend filling their tanks is an opportunity to make them aware of discounts and promotions—and increase revenue. And the forecourt or petrol forecourt, i.e., fueling area, is a great place to entice a person inside with a tempting foodservice offer or free carwash.

It’s an especially great opportunity for first-time customers; it’s their first up-close impression of the store. Creating positive experiences here represents arguably a retailer’s best opportunity to enhance their gas station’s financial performance.

Related: Do your customers see your store as just a stop or their one and only neighborhood go-to? Read how c-stores are innovating to become a destination.

 

Customers are a captive audience

A major advantage of forecourt advertisements is that they have a captive audience for several minutes—and it’s at eye level. Digital signage here can be effective awareness platforms, particularly for millennial customers. A forecourt advertising study by CSP Magazine revealed that 18- to 34-year-olds were more open to influence, with nearly 41 percent somewhat or very likely to go into a store that promoted food on the forecourt, compared with 31.3 percent of all study participants.

 

Convenience drives additional non-fuel sales

If you’re a fuel retailer, you already know your filling stations face a few challenges in increasing revenue per customer. Your core product—fuel—is subject to daily price volatility that can translate to volatile store profitability. Also, most customers—70 percent—feel strapped for time and only purchase fuel in a typical stop. According to Statista.com, those in the other remaining 30 percent spend 55 cents of every dollar on age-restricted items such as tobacco and alcohol.

The dual challenge in forecourt advertising is enticing more of the 70 percent to go inside the store and make other purchases while maximizing revenue from the other 30 percent. You have multiple marketing platforms at your disposal:

  • Dynamic advertising on the fuel dispenser
  • Mobile apps
  • In-store digital signage and kiosks

You can use these to advertise discounted food, beverages or other merchandise, lottery tickets or promotions such as fuel discounts with a car wash. You can also use them to promote your loyalty programs.

 

High-octane content fuels more views

Some retailers use static signs to advertise in the forecourt, such as on gas pump nozzles and ice boxes. But those looking to deliver more impact should invest in digital and video content; it gets noticed more easily and offers significant potential as a forecourt marketing platform. In fact, digital signage captures 400% more views than static signage. And 80% of brands saw up to a 33% increase in additional sales with digital signage. 

One cost-effective way to use video to engage customers at the fuel pump is to subscribe to a content syndication service such as NewsBreak, which broadcasts news, sports and weather information, and gas station ads, on a video display located on top of the pump or on the LCD display of the outdoor fuel payment terminal itself. This service schedules content according to key consumer buying variables such as time of day, weather conditions and household income; it continuously adjusts to optimize exposure.

Related: Drive more revenue for your c-store by engaging your customers at the pump. Read the white paper to learn how.

 

Mobile apps matter, too

Although digital monitors on outdoor fuel payment terminals offer high engagement potential, retailers are pairing them with mobile app advertising to get the attention of younger customers. The forecourt advertising study revealed that 18- to 34-year-olds are 18 points more likely to look at their smartphones while fueling than other fuel customers. That’s why you should consider offering mobile apps as an additional engagement platform.

Mobile apps enable you to capture customers’ purchases and app activity and use the data to customize offers for their next gas station visit. The sophistication of these apps is increasing and the following capabilities are now available to customers:

  • Unlock the pump
  • Pay for gas with secure EMV technology
  • Order food and store items, also using EMV
  • Access customized promotions and content
  • Earn and track loyalty program points

For instance, mobile commerce and digital marketing platform company P97 has created a mobile app that enables customers to locate a gas station, get real-time offers, use mobile order-ahead to order and pay for food, which is a rapidly growing trend, and more.

And speaking of mobile order ahead—it's rapidly becoming a smart way to encourage fuel-only customers to come inside the store for higher-margin foodservice purchases. And once they're ready to pay for their food item, you've got another chance to increase revenue by upselling (ask them if they're interested in another item). 

With mobile order ahead, they can simply pull up your app, create and customize their order. They’ll have the option to pay on their mobile phone or pay inside, but either way, they’ll have to come inside to pick up their order, boosting your in-store sales and revenue.

 

Mix up your forecourt advertising and content flow

Don’t underestimate the marketing potential of your digital signage or video displays: The forecourt advertising study indicated that fuel customers are about twice as likely to read promotional forecourt content as they are to tune into TV programming. But non-advertising content can be effective, too; that could include weather, entertainment content, trivia and TV-style content.

Because this kind of content is not entirely ad-based, you gain the potential to offer customers an interesting, positive experience they’ll remember—which can help build loyalty. And once you have customers’ attention, the ads in the mix can direct them to promotions in the store.

One gas station TV subscription service includes a food-ordering menu, offering customers extra convenience right at the fuel dispenser. After they order at the touchscreen, they have to come inside the store to pick up their orders, generating sought-after store visits. You could also enable pickup at the curb or have employees run foodservice orders out—they might not come inside but they’ll remember that convenience, which drives more sales over the long term.

 

Using data to drive additional shopping decisions

Data-powered forecourt advertising also has the potential to integrate with non-mobile forms of digital marketing. For example, using the data captured at the fuel dispenser, you could determine that every gas station visit a given customer made within a certain period of time resulted in only a fuel purchase. To cross-sell, you could email an offer for a free cup of coffee during their next in-store visit. In many cases, the technology serves as another way to deliver marketing campaigns that have already been created.

 

Road trip!

Apps can also capture customer activity data that trigger existing campaigns or serve as platforms for micro-campaigns that direct customers to existing promotions. For example, they can be developed with location-based capability so customers can receive offers based on their geographic location.

The shopping experience begins when you send the customer a location-based push notification; once they get within a specified range of the gas station, the promotion pops up on their mobile phone. When they pull up to a gas pump, they’re invited to tap to open the app and, lo, what awaits? All kinds of deals, reward points, discounted snacks, beverage promotions and even videos promoting deals on merchandise or service station offers—anything that you’ve included.

Increasingly, such apps will be built into car dashboards, further boosting customer convenience.

 

3 ways to maximize your forecourt advertising

Captive audiences, technology and evolving know-how lead to successful forecourt marketing programs. Here’s some advice on how to use all three to boost your forecourt retailing success.

1. Make your static environment as engaging as your digital one. A clean, well-lit store and forecourt all give people a reason to come back, increasing customer loyalty. Along with a wide range of snack, beverage and fresh food options, forecourt design has a large bearing on non-fuel sales volume. Customers tend to spend more at a gas station that has an open forecourt with sufficient pumps and fueling positions.

Also, the store layout should synergize with the forecourt. You want customers to be able to locate products quickly but also include services, signage and displays for items such as food and coffee that drive impulse purchases and extend customer visits.

2. Prioritize items based on their short- and long-term revenue potential. Foodservice, for instance, accounts for 21 percent of retail sales but contributes 34 percent of profits inside the store. If your gas station sells lottery tickets, promote growing jackpots with your fuel dispenser display and signage to build excitement. And don't forget your loyalty program. Make signup quick and easy, right at the gas pump. Provide helpful reminders to check their tire pressure or oil level—that will make a good impression.

3. Use customization and clear communication to maximize forecourt marketing effectiveness. Use customer activity data to personalize their experience. You can uncover their preferences by digging into their purchase details or tracking their social media likes. Use the data to send them customized offers. Updating signage or digital ad content several times throughout the day gives returning customers timely, relevant experiences and differentiates your business. And make sure forecourt ads on bollard sleeves, dispenser nozzles and high-visibility flags contain clean, simple messaging.

As forecourt advertising strategies increase in sophistication, their potential to boost store revenue also increases. Get this part of the customer interaction right and they’ll be more likely to come inside the store and make purchases beyond the fuel sale—higher margin purchases, too. Providing a good first impression right on your fuel payment terminal raises the odds they’ll come back, improving loyalty and long-term cash flow. 

And it’s a lot more fun than squeegeeing the windshield.

Not engaging your customers at the pump could be a lost revenue opportunity, learn why.

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