Petroleum Retailers Would Do Well to Focus Harder on Storytelling and the Customer Experience, Writes Veteran Design and Branding Consultant Joe Bona
The need to create and develop meaningful brand experiences is critical for retailers today, but petroleum companies in particular face these challenges when planning their stores of the future, writes Joseph Bona, president of Branded Environments for brand agency and retail design consultancy CBX, in a March 6 column for Oil & Gas Monitor online.
“While petroleum companies will continue to try to differentiate themselves at the pump — offering the cheapest gasoline and/or the highest-performance additives — the fact remains that gas has become a commodity purchase for most consumers,” Bona writes. “How, then, do you get people to purposefully drive past your competitors and spend their money with you?”
In the column (‘Know Thyself’: For Petroleum Brands, The Future of Retail is About Looking Within), the veteran convenience store/fuel station designer highlights the role of the customer experience in cementing brand loyalty. He cites the examples of industry leaders such as Wawa, RaceTrac, Speedway, QuickTrip and Sheetz, all of which emphasize a brand-consistent customer journey.
“The idea is to make sure all aspects of the experience — from seeing a sign on the interstate, to pulling up to the pump, to walking out of the store with a steaming cup of java in your hand — will deepen your connection to the brand,” Bona writes.
He goes on to describe several ways in which petroleum companies can make both the fueling and c-store experiences feel brand-right and engaging, and invites readers to imagine what would happen if Richard Branson, the visionary founder of Virgin Group, were to get his hands on a portfolio of gas stations. “You can bet the journey would be more whimsical, futuristic and fun than what we have come to expect — with a social conscience thrown in to boot,” Bona writes.
Like the individual words in a sentence, all elements of the fueling/c-store experience — from the design of the canopies and pumps, to payment-processing interfaces, to the types of fuels available, to the look and feel of the store itself — send messages to customers, he explains. “Whatever the future brings in terms of technology, site configuration or anything else,” Bona writes, “do some careful thinking about how to make those changes in ways that reinforce your brand and encourage people to see the experience as consonant rather than dissonant.”
The full column is available here.
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