Insight: BP fuelling change across retail estate
It might be known as a fuel company but BP is positioning itself more as a retailer for the future as it generates increasing amount of profits from its rapidly growing estate of physical stores.
Speaking at a recent conference, Rhid Tinkler, IT director for retail and new markets at BP, told delegates that 50% of its profit growth now comes from retail, which presently encompasses 19,000 sites around the world but which is growing by between 500 and 1,000 units each year.
“Fuel is where we started [with the physical sites] but we are moving them to being about retail. It’s a very exciting time for BP Retail. We are making great progress but we know we are only just scratching the surface. The reality is that a customer can buy a whole tank of petrol and a coffee and we make more money on the coffee,” he explains.
Part of this move involves shifting the technology infrastructure onto a standard global platform and avoiding “digital being overlaid onto legacy IT because it’s hard”.
Advantages enjoyed so far include much improved stock availability, which has driven increased margins, as well as stronger control on product price accuracy and ranging. As BP undertakes its transformation Tinkler says taking such Software-as-a-Service solutions is proving extremely beneficial as it enables the business to move a lot faster.
Despite this he says one of the major challenges the company is facing is deploying technology more quickly across the 19,000 sites. “We need to join the data sets and collaborate more,” he says, adding that the company has managed to automate some of the pilots through the use of robots to simulate multiple transactions.
Although the retail operations are working successfully Tinkler is very much focused on further development as the company works on how it turns its retail outlets into ‘hubs’. “Petrol and diesel will be a small thing in the corner”, and in addition there will be electric charging points, the units could also act as last mile hubs, and places where car sharing can occur.
“We’ve also done trials in Australia with Deliveroo. It all makes people dwell longer and we can get them to buy things. It becomes less about fuel,” he says.
This is one of many trials being undertaken by BP that utilise a variety of technologies including Internet of Things devices, beacons, augmented reality, and voice recognition. What particularly excites Tinkler is linking these various elements together.
“We want it all to be frictionless for the customers and to not make it freaky stalker-like. We need to take people on a journey. We’re looking at how to leverage all this technology and the key here is the data,” explains Tinkler.
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