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Pump up the value
The new face of petrol retailing

Petrol is fast turning into a commodity and if hard-pressed retailers want to increase their margins, they need to be inventive, says Robert Onion.

The world of fuel retailing has been slow to embrace a basic truth of marketing that people make choices on emotional grounds more often than for purely functional reasons.

In virtually every other retail market where products are commoditised, companies compete for customers space with an array of brand ideas and marketing tools that go far beyond mere price. From air travel to mobile communications, companies strive to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Offering  and delivering a brand idea like service delivery, glamour, youthfulness, or fun means they can reach beyond commodity status. And if they succeed, customers will choose them for their brand instead of merely comparing prices.

With some notable exceptions, however, the petrol retailing industry is still largely competing on price. Few retailers have built associations around their name or offer a specific promise. Yet in a commoditised market, the only way to stand out is to stand for something. It's time to get emotional.

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