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A gas station chain gets its fill with near-real-time data

Situation

Modernizing competitive intelligence in a dynamic environment

The US boasts about 150,000 gas stations, so competition is steep.* Fuel margins drive overall financials.

Historically, gas stations acquired consumer and competitor insights primarily via manual consumer surveys and market research, targeting only a small fraction of potential customers and competition. It wasn't uncommon for gas station leaders and market research companies to drive around to gauge competitors’ fuel prices. Such methods offered a crude understanding of the market, at best.

To attract more customers, expand market share and drive profitability, gas stations can use analytic-driven approaches to price fuel at the pump.

The evolution of GPS data, competitor stats, digitized purchasing information and shopper movements has made near-real-time intelligence possible. If mined for insights, this wealth of data can set gas stations up for competitive advantage.

Winning the price war isn’t always about being the cheapest. Fuel station pricing is dynamic and changes minute by minute. Every cent counts.

Leaders at a regional gas station chain—with over 200 stores—knew that a holistic approach to data collection and analysis was key for gaining an edge, and for understanding both their customers and the competition. The chain's leaders turned to PwC for help.

*Source: “About NACS,” NACS Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Solution

Insights in minutes

Insights from new data would allow the gas station’s leaders to optimize pricing and expand market share.

PwC helped the company set up a platform that could easily ingest, crunch and clean their raw data. With BXT—which combines business experience (B), experience design thinking (X) and immersive technology (T)—we gained results in six weeks rather than waiting months.

Business

Hello, analytics-based pricing decisions

Without intelligent and actionable data, companies often take shots in the dark.

In fact, according to PwC CEO survey, 95% of the respondents define the data about their customers’ needs and preferences as a critical part of informed decision making, while only 21% classify the data that they use as comprehensive.

Pricing wars are like football: Teams study their opponents and hit the field anticipating potential plays. Similarly, a gas station's success hinges on understanding the competition and anticipating next moves.

Previously, the gas station chain tried to manually monitor its competitors—over 2,000 companies. It was a costly and time-consuming process.

The solution, built on the Microsoft Azure-powered Insights Platform, doubled down on competitive intel. Leaders at the company are now able to more precisely understand the landscape and use data to make decisions and price changes.

Experience

Opening up to experimentation

To start, we picked a handful of the chain’s gas stations and pulled their data using the Insights Platform, showcasing its ability to quickly deliver valuable insights.

The teams dug into the data, stacking surprising findings against typical operations. The deviations helped the teams see where they should shift their attention to glean customer and market-share trends.

It also set the stage for analytics-driven experimentation. For example, we helped identify a competitor who wasn’t on one store's radar, which enabled it to price its fuel accordingly. The margin may seem insignificant—five to 10 cents a gallon—but could translate to almost $200,000 in annual profit per location. Similar insights across even a fraction of the client’s over 200 stores will surely lead to material incremental profits.

Technology

Closing the information gap

Manual data tracking and assessment is unbelievably time-consuming to sift through and often riddled with errors. That’s no longer a top concern for the gas station chain.

Together, we iterated on numerous designs and worked to craft an interface. Powered by Microsoft Azure’s secure, flexible technology, Insights Platform ingests more than 60 million mobile device data points every day. We also baked in customer demographics data, like whether shoppers are price-minded, convenience-driven or brand-loyal.

Using a blend of custom and pre-built components, the platform combines information and insights from disparate sources to help close the chain’s information gap and drive success. The technology also harmonizes and structures the information, so employees don't struggle to make sense of it.

Results

Mobile-device data leads to pricing action

Our client redefined key competitors in each of their store’s geographic areas and can now more accurately price against them. They’re also tracking millions of mobile-device data points every day to understand how and when customers shop. While the magnitude of information processed is robust, the tool automatically maps it so it can be immediately used. That’s especially important in light of the pandemic.

Will consumers revert to pre-pandemic behaviors or are the COVID-19 buying patterns here to stay? Insights Platform will help the gas station chain answer that question and many more like it as new queries come to light daily.

60+

million mobile device data points ingested per day

6

weeks rather than months to roll out the Insights Platform and see ROI from pricing insights

60+

key competitors changed since the gas station started using the Insights Platform tool

“Supported by decades of industry knowledge, Insights Platform asks the right questions of the right data set, so leaders don’t just see the data—they know how to act on it.”

Remzi Ural
Managing Director, PwC

PwC goes beyond data aggregation to pinpoint the insights you need

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John Simmons

Principal, Data & Analytics Technologies, PwC US

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