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May 06, 2021

Service Stations & Payment Experience: A need for Innovation

With the constant and many innovations in the automotive industry and the evolution of consumer expectations, service stations are continually being challenged to change and to offer solutions to all needs.

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Service Stations & Payment Experience: A need for Innovation

With the constant and many innovations in the automotive industry and the evolution of consumer expectations, service stations are continually being challenged to change and to offer solutions to all needs.

What have been these developments and what could be the next ones?

A little bit of History

You probably don’t know it, but the oldest store that served as a gas station is a German pharmacy located in Wiesloch. In 1888, it distributed petroleum ether.

After the advent of gasoline-powered vehicles and the multiplication of service stations, their number has been greatly reduced in France. Since the 1980s, the number of gas stations has decreased significantly, from more than 41,000 in 1980 to less than 13,000 in 2010. The arrival of electric vehicles and the reinforcement of an already complicated regulation may accelerate this decrease.

Today, filling up the tank is not a pleasure, it is a constraining but essential purchase. Faced with many changes, service stations must therefore reorient themselves to offer new services and improved payment services. In addition to the traditional payment methods of cash and credit cards, many service station brands offer alternative solutions.

What are the solutions today?

Today, whether at gas stations or at charging stations for electric vehicles, there are different payment solutions, some of which are available at one but not at the other. Let’s focus on 3 proposed solutions.

Geolocation-based App

Market Pay now offers an app with a geolocation-based payment experience for a major retailer in Spain. When you arrive at a station, the application launches automatically. The user confirms the pump to be unlocked and authenticates himself to initiate the payment. All that’s left to do is fill up and payment is made from the application. In short, you arrive, you help yourself and you leave without having to go to the cashier or swipe your card in the payment terminal.

Moreover, thanks to geolocation, you can easily find an available pump, saving you a considerable amount of time. This innovative solution meets a need for speed and ease of use for a time-consuming task. Eventually, this application could be deployed in other service station networks.

Fleet card

Even if you are not obliged to take it, a fleet card can be proposed to you when you acquire an electric vehicle. This card, provided by the car manufacturer, allows you to access all of the brand’s charging stations. All you have to do is find a station and swipe your card.

The card is linked to payment information that has been filled in beforehand to complete the transaction. It’s a quick and easy way to operate, but not without its drawbacks.

Indeed, with a brand-specific fleet card, you only have access to the charging stations attached to that brand, considerably reducing your scope of action. If there are none close enough to your home, it quickly becomes complicated. Fortunately, there is another solution to this problem.

Mobility operators

As mentioned just above, access to a single brand of charging stations can quickly become a problem. That’s where mobility operators come in. In principle, it’s the same thing. Users have a card/badge that can be used at a charging station to make the payment.

The difference is that the mobility operator connects you to several networks of charging stations, whereas the fleet card limits you to one. This makes it much easier to access the charging stations available around you. However, compared to using a fleet card, using a mobility operator is more expensive.

Although not mentioned above, credit card payment is not available for most electric charging stations. This forces electric vehicle owners to take out a subscription with a fleet card or a network operator. This is a blocking point for users who mainly charge their vehicle at home and do not need such a subscription

In France, a deputy had questioned the government in order to ask for the possibility to directly pay by card to recharge his car. Indeed, today, the number of recharging stations is still reduced and has difficulty to develop. Adding popular payment methods such as credit cards would facilitate the use of charging stations and would undoubtedly contribute to the increase of their installation.

Filling up has never been a pleasant part of the day. It is therefore necessary to offer a wide range of choices to improve the user experience.

In a competitive environment where the number of gas stations is decreasing due to specific regulations and where charging stations are multiplying as well as the operators offering them, it is essential to stand out and offer the best possible solutions.

What tomorrow holds?

Today, the evolution of payment methods tends to erase the physical elements and to reduce interactions. Yesterday, to pay for our fuel, we had to insert our payment card into a terminal and enter the code. Today, we can pay contactless with our card, or even with our smartphone, without having to enter a code (except in France where payment with a smartphone is prohibited in service stations). Tomorrow, we will probably be able to pay directly from the vehicle.

The idea of integrating payment into the vehicle is not new. At the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, the car wallet functionality had already been presented. Since then, the idea has evolved to better fit the need and should be an integral part of our vehicles within a few years.

Once you’ve filled up your tank, you won’t have to worry about paying. The car, to which you will have previously given your payment details, will perform this step autonomously. In addition to paying for fuel, you will be able to make transactions for other services, such as drive-ins or tolls.

We talked about it earlier, Market Pay is working on its application to perfect it so that it meets all the expectations of users. In addition to that, we remain attentive to the market’s evolutions in order to propose even more innovative solutions.

And in a near future, we may integrate your vehicle to assist you in your payments. Who knows?

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