Loyalty360: Q&A with PDI Technologies on the Future of the Fuel Industry, EV Technology, and Customer Loyalty

PDI Technologies has decades of industry experience, gathering customer data and providing expert consulting to fuel stations for increased efficiency and profitability.

Adapting to new changes in the industry, like electric vehicles (EVs) and sustainability, PDI Technologies has supported clients in their loyalty strategies to attract all kinds of customers — and drivers — to make the most use of their space, bringing shoppers from the fuel/charging stations to inside the convenience stores.

Loyalty360 spoke with Brandon Logsdon, President of Consumer Engagement Solutions at PDI Technologies, about his experience within the loyalty industry, new trends in sustainability, and how brands can leverage data to support customer engagement. Logsdon has over 20 years of customer loyalty experience under his belt, adopting innovative strategies to shape customer loyalty programs for various brands.  

The Fuel Industry & PDI Technologies
Logsdon has spent 5 years with PDI Technologies, joining the company’s 40-year history in supporting convenience store (C-store) and petroleum station profitability. The former CEO of Excentus, Logsdon came aboard and implemented PDI’s first foray into customer loyalty.

Logsdon explained that PDI’s core business has been back office/ERP solutions, helping convenience stores and petroleum wholesalers with data collection, like tracking trucks as they pick up fuel and deliver it to terminals around the country.

The other side of the business is technology and services that support brands’ customer engagement and loyalty strategies and programs. With growing interest in loyalty and rewards programs, it's crucial that brands have the right systems in place to gather and connect customer data, which can, in turn, be leveraged to offer rewards and discounts. Today, PDI Technologies partners with brands with over 152,000 fueling stations around the United States. With so much data to analyze, network connectivity is a necessity for providing effective customer engagement solutions.

“With so many locations across the U.S., we’re making sure there's strong network connectivity, that we’re PCI compliant, and that our technologies and customer data are completely secure. The ability to securitize the sites is important. We make it our business to be that one-stop-shop full solution for convenience retailers and petroleum marketers.”

The Rise of EV & Convenience Store Loyalty
With EV models growing in popularity, customer loyalty strategies are adapting to best serve customer needs and keep drivers coming back to their C-stores and fuel pumps. How do fuel station brands attract customers who don’t need fuel?

“EVs are coming, they’re relevant, and we see them on the road now,” says Logsdon. “We expect by 2040 that 40% of cars on the road globally will be EVs, so now is the time to attract drivers in this emerging market.”

Convenience stores are adapting to this industry change by placing charging stations on their properties. Because charging EV models can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, this gives fueling stations a greater need to support customers with their in-store offerings. Finding new ways to invest in physical space and fuel station property is top of mind across the industry.

"Should C-stores invest in creating space for picnic tables outside? Are stores sure that they have adequate Wi-Fi? Is there room to carve out space and make an expansion if your pad allows, or spaces for interior seating? These are the questions companies are asking themselves,” explains Logsdon. “I think right now, one of the things that convenience operators are being cautious of is overbuilding to stay ahead of a trend. As EV models charge faster, how long are those customers going to stay in store?"

Focusing on easy wins and innovative problem solving can give convenience stores an edge in today’s market while providing the flexibility for changes to the industry in the near future.


Adapting Customer Loyalty Strategy
Adapting to all the changes occurring in the fuel industry is no easy task, and certainly not made any easier when various priorities are fighting to receive attention. Logsdon understands the dynamic set of challenges within the C-store space.

A challenge unique to the fuel and c-store industry, fuel pumps, known as the “frontcourt,” and the physical convenience store, known as the “backcourt,” are not always aligned with the same brand and can even require customers to enroll in separate loyalty programs.

"There can be some channel conflict and confusion for the consumer because there's oftentimes two loyalty programs at a store. This is especially interesting with EV and charge ports,” says Logsdon. “There's EVgo and Volta, Electrify America, and then there's the Tesla supercharging network. So, you already have this brand dichotomy between fuel and convenience stores. EV charging may add to the confusion.”

Logsdon has also seen difficulties in integrating various brands in the digital space. Having separate apps for fuel rewards, convenience store loyalty, mobile ordering, etc., can be frustrating for consumers. Focusing on erasing friction between customers and their digital experiences is key to success in the loyalty industry.

Logsdon suggests that brands leverage data and consumer insights to create optimal customer experiences. By creating a cohesive brand message, integrated in-app rewards programs, and consistent user experiences, brands can reduce friction and deliver valuable offers to their consumers.

Providing Data Solutions
When working with brands on revitalizing or enhancing their rewards programs, Logsdon notes that consumer engagement and personalization are often top of mind. However, brands struggle with gathering the right data or actioning on it to truly make an impact. PDI Technologies supports convenience stores and fuel brands by providing technological assistance to gather the data to understand customer behavior for the millions that use their services day in and day out.

"With our technology platform and capabilities, C-store operators and petroleum wholesalers can run and operate their own white-label loyalty program. The same technology that we're asking retailers to use, we're using for ourselves,” says Logsdon. “We're also doing a lot of work focused on driving consumers into the physical convenience stores and leveraging these loyalty programs. The GasBuddy program and the GasBuddy app have been a phenomenal integration for brand reputation and loyalty.”

When thinking of leveraging customer data, Logsdon describes how brands can utilize first-party data to drive successful strategies for a variety of clients. That data is imperative to developing an understanding of how customer trends are changing and where brands can best position themselves for the future.

“Let the customer tell us what the winning strategy is,” Logsdon finishes. “Even if the data is incongruent with what the consumer thinks they want, we can develop our programs and make investments to improve overall customer experience and build brand loyalty.”

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