Oliver van Bilsen, Global Head of Digital – Retail, Fuels & Lubricants at Shell 

Oliver Van Bilsen, Global Head of Digital – Retail & Lubricants at Shell, recently presented his thoughts on how the digital revolution is changing the face of retail at the MMA Forum. Here he expands on his thoughts and outlines how Shell is pushing innovation forward.

Digital consumers are different. Their shifting expectations are redefining retail and demanding new strategies to deliver experiences that attract new customers, boost loyalty and improve satisfaction.

These changes are being driven by the sharp rise in our dependence on digital devices. Deloitte’s Retail Trends 2017 report states: “The growing popularity of connected devices in the home and car will have a profound impact on how we shop.”

This is backed up by a raft of statistics: a recent Ericsson Mobility Report states that 2022 there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally and, according to Visa Europe, by 2020 60% of all sales in the UK alone will be made via smartphones. By 2024 we will have similar internet access inside our cars as 89% of new cars, and 48% of all cars, will be connected.

This revolution in the way we shop has bred a new generation of consumers who demand convenience, value and more choice. Shell understands that the digital customer experience is fast becoming the main differentiator for brands. We see this as a real opportunity to use digital technology and innovation to create the ultimate convenience and quality of service at key moments in the consumer journey.

As we serve 30 million customers in nearly 80 countries every day, and already have a digital relationship with around a quarter of our customers, Shell are uniquely placed to drive this change forwards. Indeed, we are already working to seamlessly integrate digital technology to deliver the personalised, engaging, connected and simple experiences that make customers journeys better and more enjoyable.

In the Netherlands we are currently piloting our new Shell Tap Up fuel delivery service. This allows you to order your fuel via an app and a purpose built electric vehicle, largely made from recycled materials will deliver fuel to your desired location. We have also partnered with Jaguar Land Rover to launch the world’s first in-car payment system. This allows you to locate a participating Shell service station, order and pay for fuel from your car. Both of these digital services illustrate how we are using digital technology to make refuelling more convenient for our customers.

We know that 61% of our customers want to pay for their fuel quickly and get on with their journey. Our Fill Up & Go App allows them to do just this, by paying for fuel direct from their phone. In the UK alone we have had an estimated 150,000 Fill Up & Go transactions in a year, proving that this is a solution customers are eagerly embracing.

Our heritage is as a fuel provider, but our future is as a mobility services provider and retailer. Already 1 in 3 purchases at Shell service stations in the UK are for non-fuel items and we sell an average of 17 million cups of coffee and six million sandwiches per year. This is another area where we see real potential for digital innovation. In Turkey, Thailand and the Netherlands, we’ve installed screens at the pumps where you can pick out your meal, snack or coffee order as you fuel.

Alongside our digital loyalty card, the offer of WiFi in many of our service stations and support for contactless payments we are raising the bar for customer experience. This helps us to acquire new customers, increase satisfaction and create differentiation for Shell.

This is just the beginning, as stores of the future evolve, they need to offer more than just convenience. “The retail store is being re-imagined for the digital consumer. A new balance needs to be struck between transaction and fulfilment. We believe the store experience will increasingly focus on one of two things: inspiration or convenience”, according to Deloitte’s Retail Trends 2017 report.

Shell is already imagining the future, where a single app travels with you from planning your route, to locating charging stations for your electric/ hydrogen vehicle, booking your slot, greeting you by name when you arrive and even pointing out interesting events along the way. Where recharging means more than just topping up your car, but a whole reenergising experience. Where you can enjoy local food, relax on a massage chairs, work in meeting rooms, or simply chill out and watch a band play in a carbon neutral service station.

To make this become a reality Shell is continually pushing the boundaries of digital technology to explore how we can make peoples’ journeys of the future even better.

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