Designed to help customers save time, the app can be used to locate the nearest BP service station and pay for fuel at the pump, without the need to queue instore. Around 500 BP service stations up and down the UK are already linked, with plans to grow that number over the coming months.
The idea was developed as part of BP’s ongoing efforts to give every customer a positive experience when they visit one of its service stations. “We always look for opportunities that might delight our customers,” says Matt Rich, BP retail commercial offers manager. “For example, our partnership with M&S Simply Food has been very popular. But we also look at experiences that could cause frustration and we realized that, for a lot of people, their biggest irritation is waiting to pay.”
Time is a precious commodity these days and BP realized that an app could be the perfect opportunity to give some back to customers who simply want to buy fuel and go.
BPme works by using cloud-based technology that links it to each participating service station. A BP customer registers their details, including payment information and – where relevant – Nectar loyalty card. Their smartphone’s GPS signal can then direct them to their nearest station. Once on the forecourt, the customer uses the app to select the correct pump number, sending a signal to unlock the fuelling nozzles. Payment is taken digitally, while the transaction and associated Nectar points are recorded on the app. For safety reasons, the phone must remain inside the vehicle whenever the app is in use and while filling the car up. “It’s probably the biggest change we’ve ever seen in our forecourt operations,” says Rich.
To help develop BPme, the team looked broadly at other retail categories to see what was working well. “Both Starbucks and Dominos Pizza stood out as the standard bearers for retail brands offering consumers the option to pay by mobile,” says Chris Bush, BP marketing technology manager. So successful was Starbucks’ introduction of mobile payments, in fact, that some 35% of all its transactions are now carried out via a smartphone. That percentage is only likely to continue growing if broader industry figures are anything to go by: in 2016 the UK’s mobile commerce sector as a whole was valued at £25 billion.
As well as paying for their fuel, customers using the app will also receive targeted offers, such as extra loyalty programme points, or a free coffee. Eventually, UK customers will also be able to order a coffee up to an hour before they’re due to arrive at their chosen service station. “We’ve already introduced the functionality in New Zealand, where the app launched about six months ago,” says Rich, “and we’ve seen coffee sales go up by 3%.” What’s more, the app is now handling around 7% of all BP New Zealand’s fuel sales. “As you would imagine, we’re tracking this really carefully and our New Zealand customers have told us that the app has helped them get on with their day,” adds Rich.
Early indications from the UK market suggest this success is being replicated. “We’re already seeing customers changing their behaviour,” says Bush. “We can see through our data analytics that customers are coming back more frequently and, as a consequence, spending more.” In other words, the app is helping BP to capture a transaction that might otherwise have gone to a competitor. “We think BPme offers an easier way for customers to get on with their daily life and it does seem to be saving people a significant amount of time.”
The ability to pay for fuel and pick up offers is just the first step, though. The team has plans to continue developing the app, building new features and functionality and continuing to make sure its as user-friendly as possible. “Just because the technology works, doesn’t mean customers will automatically use it,” says Rich. “We have to make sure that the app continues to offer things that will help improve their BP experience. The possibilities are really exciting. For instance, in the future, BPme could be used to help with all sorts of things—even paying for things like car insurance, or road tolls.”
This ambition is part of BP’s broader strategic ambition to bring about a digital transformation within its fuels business, while helping to deliver what it calls ‘brighter moments’ for its customers. “The way we shop is changing,” says Rich “Digital experience is fast becoming a brand differentiator and we’re seeing consumers shift from product to experience loyalty. Our focus on convenience, loyalty and data underpins our response to that change. BPme allows us to use leading digital technology to personalize the way in which our customers interact with us. We’re excited to see where this takes us.”