The fuel retail industry is at a crossroads. Although the demand for petrol is still going strong, the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing global conflicts have made drivers extremely price-conscious. In addition, the core of the industry is changing too. New initiatives such as sustainability and the mass adoption of electric vehicles (and their charging stations) have shaken up the operational model for fuel brands. But where there is a challenge, there is also opportunity. Being able to retain drivers’ loyalty with a fuel retail loyalty program can be the lifeline fuel companies need — not just to survive but to thrive.
Key Takeaways – TL; DR
- Fuel retail loyalty programs need to draw in drivers and motivate them to spend more time at the stores.
- Sustainability movements and EVs are transforming the industry.
- Coalition programs and card-based systems are a great fit for this industry.
- Dynamic segmentation and tier-based benefits can foster long-term engagement.
- Instant rewards, freebies and product-based offers are popular among members.
- We gathered eight loyalty program examples for inspiration.
Table of Contents
If you wish to keep up with loyalty program trends, make sure to download Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report.
What Are the Fuel Retail Loyalty Programs?
Fuel retail loyalty programs or simply fuel loyalty programs are customer retention tools designed with the specific goals of forecourts, gas stations and charging stations. For a fuel retail loyalty program, it’s not enough to just get drivers to stop at the station. In order to make customers truly loyal, the length and quality of the time they spend at the retail location must also improve.
In addition, fuel retail loyalty programs are generally characterized by a heavy emphasis on card-based interactions, because it’s vital for retail locations to recognize in-store members. Lastly, this vertical is very open to partner rewards and coalition-style programs in order to cast the widest net possible for drivers who are just stopping by.
Fuel retailers face a two-fold opportunity: competitive pricing to draw customers in, and improved customer experience to make them stay longer. However, the main challenge that many face is a lack of differentiation between retailers through the eyes of the customer. Focusing on fewer, hero products such as coffee or sandwiches, combined with competitive & consistent fuel pricing, and rewarding customers for returning are some achievable mechanics that most are not yet utilising efficiently.
Industry Challenges That Fuel Retailers Face, and How to Turn Them Into Opportunities
The fuel retail industry has officially entered an era of change and adaptation. Companies are currently facing a growing number of government regulations regarding CO2 emissions, financial uncertainty, constant geopolitical shifts, and consequential changes in the global energy trade. From O&G giants to smaller roadside chains, every corporation can feel the effects of those larger-scale changes trickling down and affecting their everyday operations and profitability.
Fuel companies need to find a way to rethink and reshape their current forecourt approach to retain their price-sensitive B2C and B2B customer base. At the same time, they have to accept and accommodate more sustainable fuel alternatives.
From extended convenience product offerings up to creating multi-faceted service hubs for local neighbourhood markets, the shifts we expect in the industry will open a wide range of opportunities for data driven targeting and personalised marketing. In this context loyalty systems and cross category partner networks will gain a new level of value and day-to-day relevance for consumers.
Let’s take a closer look at how these challenges could be turned into opportunities and cornerstones of a brand-new, stronger-than-ever foundation for fuel retailers.
Adapting to New Technologies Without Losing Profitable Ground – Including EV Charging Stations
Looking at the latest automotive industry initiatives, electric cars will undoubtedly play a significant role in the future of transportation, ergo in the future of the fuel industry landscape as well. In fact, according to certain projections, by 2030 every 2 out of 5 new cars sold will be electric. The rapid rise of EVs is not a question of “what if” anymore, but a “how”, as in:
- How can fuel retail companies stay profitable and petrol station employees keep their jobs, while embracing alternative methods, including electric vehicles?
- How can companies accommodate, educate, encourage, and most importantly retain their customers in this period of adaptation?
The answer is simple: by embracing change, instead of fighting it! Sufficiently accommodating former customers who have switched to EVs, as well as attracting new customers (EV drivers included) by providing outstanding and complex services, including:
- Fast charging EV stations,
- EV maintenance basics,
- Satisfactory payment methods,
- A comfortable in-store experience,
- Clean and easily accessible amenities,
- A digital approach – app availability,
- Next-Gen loyalty programs that entice drivers to give chargers a go.
Making Sustainable Fuel Alternatives a Priority – Paying Attention to What Customers Want
Sustainability, and the lowering of carbon emission rates has been a topic of discussion for years now. Besides by-law directives, customers have also made their expectations and needs for greener options loud and clear, especially the environmentally conscious younger generations. Moving away from fossil fuels, and instead investing in biofuels and hydrogen-based solutions naturally presents a challenge. At the same time, it could be a lifesaver for fuel retail companies operating roadside forecourts.
Accommodating government-level decarbonization regulations, while appealing to their customers’ beliefs and emotional sides by introducing sustainable, low or zero-emission fuels to their product lines may be the perfect way to diversify their portfolios. It could also be an exceptional way to put a clear emphasis on corporate-level commitment, and also attract an environmentally conscious target audience, turning them into frequent buyers or even loyalty members, which naturally leads to a much longer CLV and lowers the retailers reliance on pricing alone.
Gas Station Rewards on the Coalition Loyalty Landscape – All for One and One for All
Instead of building a loyalty program from the ground up, why not use the power of partnership or join retail communities? Establishing or entering into a coalition loyalty program is an outstanding opportunity for fuel retailers. For instance:
- Cost-effective: The promotion of the program is in every participant’s best interest, so you don’t have to shoulder the marketing costs all by yourself.
- Jumpstart: Coalition programs pick up an available audience much faster than single-brand programs because of the diverse set of brands they offer promotions from.
- Cross-industry promotion: Participation from different industries basically works like cross-promotion for brands, with the possibility of partner promotions.
- Time-sensitive incentives: When certain brands take part in limited-time loyalty campaigns, depending on the conditions, it can drive up sales for all participants.
- High usage frequency: Loyalty program members can earn and spend points at many different stores/brands.
- High engagement rates: Shoppers open the app multiple times a day to earn points/vouchers — the perfect opportunity to engage them with personalized offers and push notifications.
One of the biggest challenges with engagement loyalty for this vertical is its dispassionate nature. This is both a necessity spend and one that usually lacks a service interaction. Loyalty programs tend to compete on price and contain mostly rational benefits. Infusing some enthusiasm or competitiveness into the loyalty program could transform the dispassionate nature of fuel retailers. Also, partnering with relevant, non-competitive businesses can add value and an emotional spark.
Digital Passes – Always on Hand
Having retail locations, it’s imperative for fuel retailers and charging stations to be able to associate customers with their loyalty profiles. Without making that connection, there will be holes in the customer journey, and the brand won’t be able to collect as much useful information.
Above all, strategies deployed need to be flexible to the realities of the unique network considerations of forecourt retailers. The loyalty program must be designed to work across the different customer experiences and underlying business models – company owned sites and dealer owned sites as well as the large number of franchises, concessions and brand offerings present these days. Having a multi-mechanic program and partner collaborations will be key.
The go-to method is scanning the member’s loyalty card. The issue with this method is that people frequently leave plastic cards at home or in their other bags or wallets. That’s why forecourts should go digital. If a customer’s membership ID is available through a digital pass (or placed inside a branded app), all they have to do is show their smartphone’s screen. After all, drivers are more likely to have their phones at hand than any physical cards.
Key Fuel Retail Loyalty Program Features
Standing out from the crowd in one of the most price-sensitive industries is definitely not easy. Here are a few detailed, industry-specific features and strategies that can positively impact fuel loyalty program performance and popularity.
A major opportunity for fuel retail loyalty programs is partnerships (e.g. relevant everyday spend such as groceries). An effective partnership strategy can increase engagement and differentiation, and help gain a deeper understanding of customers. An ideal partnership strategy builds a strong foundation, but true customer engagement is rooted in a deep understanding of individual needs. Also, incorporating gamification elements can help stimulate engagement, data sharing and habitual behaviour, which can further strengthen long-term brand loyalty.
Accessibility is key: Loyalty programs for gas stations and forecourts should be free to join. Considering how price-sensitive the audience is, the benefits should be immensely valuable to offset any entry fee. The registration process should also be quick, making it easy for new drivers to register at checkout.
Bring merchandise into the picture: Physical gifts are always more memorable and more desirable than coupons. Provide an elevated customer experience by providing more point-earning and rewards options. This may just be the tipping point for convincing customers to spend a little more at the station.
Choose the program type carefully: A traditional earn & burn program is easy to introduce and even easier for customers to understand. However, a tiered program is better for long-term engagement, and appeals to those who feel like they’ve truly earned and like to work for their rewards. Naturally, fuel retailers can also opt for a hybrid-style program.
Partnering up for better results: Partner rewards can come in many shapes and sizes, and striking a deal with a partner is more cost-effective than handling the production and logistics yourself. Plus, rotating the partner deals is a great way to keep the loyalty experience fresh — and worth coming back for.
Flexible point economy: When running a fuel retail loyalty program, you must be able handle different earning types. For instance, you don’t need to set a points-pending status for fuel or food purchases — usually, these aren’t returned. But for other product categories, such as accessories, returns may be more likely. So your loyalty platform should be equipped to handle a range of scenarios.
Loyalty perks based on status: If you are running a tiered program, one way to boost the appeal of higher tiers is to assign higher earning rates to them. For example, while members in your base tier might earn one point per dollar, those in the Silver tier might earn 1.25 points for every dollar spent. Also, VIP tiers can be created for members with certain occupations, for example, offering extra perks to taxi or truck drivers.
Surprise & delight: Sending a nice birthday reward can go a long way, and is only required once a year per customer. You can also add some hidden segmentation to the mix, assigning higher-value rewards to more frequent visitors or members in a higher tier.
Location-based push notifications: A noteworthy use case for fuel retail loyalty programs is when members receive frequent push notifications from their favorite fueling station, sharing members-only benefits, like double-point campaigns, bonus points on snacks, or a limited-time offer of free coffee.
Mobile wallet: Having some form of digital loyalty card is actually a must. The benefit of offering a wallet pass is that it’s stored with other passes in the same app. Wallet apps can also feature custom designs, giving the pass a different look when members join a new tier, or highlighting different seasons.
Rewards and Gamification
Freebies and instant discounts: Fuel loyalty program members love instant gratification. Earning a free snack for their purchase, or having the ability to earn cashback will undoubtedly catch their attention. Because these kinds of rewards can be expensive in the long run, consider offering them as limited-time welcome gifts, available for one week after the registration.
Gamified surveys: The best way to learn more about those visiting your fueling station is to ask them directly. And with a loyalty program, you don’t need to offer a direct voucher for those who answer the surveys — you can instead offer points, which would have a slightly lesser value.
Badges and challenges: Badges and challenges are important tools for engaging with customers over a longer period of time. The idea is simple: drivers who refill their gas tank a certain X times, or purchase Y coffees, can complete a corresponding challenge and earn a badge to recognize their effort. These challenges can be permanent, weekly, or monthly, with bonus points or rewards tied to them.
Prize draws and prize wheels: Invite your audience to participate in a rafflee where members earn one entry per visit (or by spending a specific amount), and, at the end of the month, the winner is selected. For more thrilling, instant gamification, add a prize wheel that includes smaller and larger prizes.
Best Fuel Retail Loyalty Programs with Global Examples – Features you absolutely need
Offering a complex set of services, including outstanding infrastructure, family-oriented features, alternative fuel and charging options are becoming the very basics a petrol station needs to attract customers. But when everybody already has all of that, what is the tipping point for customers? Easy: an engaging, and beneficial loyalty program. Here are eight real-life examples from the most innovative forces in the fuel retail industry.
1. Esso – Nectar / Tesco Clubcard
As one of the most well-known fuel retailers in the UK, Esso (owned by ExxonMobil) is a part of not one but two coalition loyalty programs: Nectar and Tesco Clubcard. Being a part of two coalition programs with similar concepts is a somewhat out-of-the-box approach from the fuel retailer.
Esso under the Nectar umbrella
- Fuel and store-based earning: Collectors can earn points with fuel and service store purchases.
- Extra linking option: Customers can also use their Esso App account to link to their Nectar profile, where they receive an instant 1,000-point welcome bonus.
- Special offers and promotions: Esso app members can also access special, limited-time-only offers, such as a multiplier promo called “2,4,6,8.”, where the 6th time members fill their tanks, they earn 6x the Nectar points.
- Redeeming the points: Loyalty members can spend their points with Esso or with other Nectar partner brands.
Esso within the Tesco Clubcard program
- Fuel and store-based earning: Members earn points for every refuel, carwash, and in-store purchase. Every 100 points equals a £1 voucher, which shoppers can spend at any Clubcard rewards partner.
- Redeeming the points: Customers can use their vouchers to pay for fuel or buy in-store items at Esso stations with a Tesco Express.
Why it works:
- Esso benefits from a ready-made target audience, brought to the table by the coalition loyalty program, and a diverse partner list.
- With the Nectar program making it possible for members to earn Nectar points through Esso’s own payment app, loyalty participation is made easy.
- Sign-up bonuses and limited-time offers are perfect companions for the traditional fundamental loyalty structure.
- With a double platform structure, Esso is able to gather an exceptionally comprehensive set of data about its customers and loyalty members.
2. Speedway: Speedy Rewards
US convenience store and fuel station chain Speedway (recently acquired by 7-Eleven) has created one of the most interesting fuel rewards programs on the market, Speedway Fuel & Speedy Rewards. Interlaced with partner offers and heavily focused on incentivizing repeat purchases, Speedy Rewards stuns with appetizing visuals and personalized offers.
- Fuel and store-based earning: Loyalty members get 10 points per gallon while refueling and 20 points per dollar spent in-store merchandise.
- Habit building with Clubs: Speedway offers Clubs, aka “buy X amount, get one free” elements on in-store purchases and services, reinforcing habit building every time a customer enters the station.
- Partner offers: Customers can earn fuel discounts by making a purchase at one of the many food markets that Speedway has partnered with.
- Redeeming the points: Customers can use their points to redeem special offers like gift cards for brands like Sephora, Macy’s, and Google Pay.
Why it works:
- Monthly Perks keep the loyalty program fresh, giving customers the opportunity to choose a different promotion every month.
- Reward Clubs, aka “buy X amount, get one free” are the modern-day equivalent of old-fashioned stamp cards, incentivizing customers to return to the store to purchase their favorite items.
- Sweepstakes is a gamified lottery-style loyalty program element, where customers can enter to win gift cards in exchange for a certain number of loyalty points.
3. Shell: Fuel Rewards
As one of the most well-known, globally operating fuel retailers, Shell developed a tier-based loyalty program called Fuel Rewards. As a tier-based scheme (Silver, Gold, Platinum levels), Shell cleverly groups its audience into targetable segments, which allows for more personalized offers based on previous customer actions and spend. Shoppers can join and start earning via the Shell | Fuel Rewards Credit Card, an Alt ID (usually your phone number), or other eligible credit or debit card options.
- Tier qualification: Members can earn points while dining out, shopping online, and using rental car services with participating merchants. They must also make a certain number of stops at the gas station and purchase a certain number of gallons each quarter to keep their tier status or advance to the next tier.
- Special offers and promotions: Shell offers limited-time promotions for customers shopping with partners (like Grubhub or Jamba) and for certain items in-store at Shell service stations.
- Entry bonus: All new Fuel Rewards members are automatically in the Gold tier.
- Redeeming the points: As the tier structure suggests, members belonging to different tiers are eligible for different rewards on fill-ups, stacking options, in-store rewards, and VIP Experiences.
Why it works:
- Shoppers are able to save more with each refuel as they advance through the tier structure (Silver 3 cents/gal, Gold 5 cents/gal, Platinum 10 cents/gal). It is a highly motivational feature in this price-sensitive industry.
- With the Saving Stacking option, customers can accumulate a higher discount by “stacking” different ways to earn (dining, online shopping, tier status savings), incentivizing members to use every earning method possible.
- By adding experiential rewards into the mix as well (so far only in the Platinum status), Shell manages to stand out from the crowd and constantly delights its loyalty members with highly coveted prizes.
4. BP: BPme Rewards
After parting ways with the Nectar coalition, BP launched its own fuel loyalty program, BPme Rewards, in the UK in 2019, providing an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand, program structure for its customers. Including instant rewards, long-term point-collection, and enticing partner offers in their rewards program, BP makes a strong case for diversifying your loyalty program.
- Fuel and store-based earning: Customers can earn a different number of points for certain types of fuels: 1 point/liter on Regular, 2 points/liter on Ultimate. Customers also earn points for in-store purchases.
- Special offers and promotions: The program offers time-limited bundle offers and special promotions, incentivizing customers to check the app every time they’re in need of a refuel.
- Entry bonus: New members are instantly rewarded with £2.50 worth of points.
- Redeeming the points: Loyalty program members can also redeem their points for gift cards at partners like M&S and Amazon UK.
Why it works:
- BPme Rewards Price (exclusive discounted price for members) means lower prices for loyalty members, providing the feeling of exclusivity and care.
- Limited-time offers, such as the ‘Win £250 Every Hour’ promotion, keep the program fresh by delighting members and drumming up interest in participating.
- Offering partner gift cards as a point redemption option takes the program towards delighting customers with experiences as well as transactional value.
5. Cepsa: Cepsa Gow Club
Spanish-based global energy company Cepsa offers digitized options in the form of complex fleet card management programs and loyalty plans for corporate customers and individuals. In 2023, they revamped their “Porque TU vuelves” loyalty concept and relaunched as the Cepsa Gow Club loyalty program for individual customers, keeping digital access and an elevated customer experience in focus through the Cepsa Gow app.
- Fuel and store-based earning: Customers at Cepsa Service Stations earn 5 cents/liter credit on certain fuel types and 5 cents/€ on in-store and selected service purchases.
- Green options: Gow members can also earn 2 cents/kWh when they charge their electric vehicles.
- Partner offers: Loyalty members can earn points through special partner promotions (from brands like Ikea, MediaMarkt and Amazon).
- Redeeming points: Loyalty club members can redeem their points to save on fuel and in-store or online purchases.
Why it works:
- Cepsa offers multiple ways for customers to quickly earn credit, including refueling, in-store and service purchases.
- Offering electric charging as a way to earn credit is an attractive way to include environmentally friendly vehicles and attract a new customer segment.
- Partner promotions are highly coveted across all industries, making it an alluring element for customers.
6. Circle K: Inner Circle
Circle K brings an intuitive and modern tier-based loyalty program to the table. The convenience store and fuel station company offers two distinct tiers: the free tier of their program is available to every customer, while the premium tier is only accessible to customers who spend more than $500 on fuel and merchandise.
- Fuel and store-based earning: Loyalty program members (depending on which tier they belong to) can enjoy different savings per gallon and in-store discounts.
- Premium perks: Special, premium-members-only offers and early notice of new products are attractive goals for exclusivity-oriented members.
- Special offers and promotions: Inner Circle has two entry bonus offers, one for fuel and one for in-store purchases.
- Redeeming the points: Loyalty club members can redeem their points to save on fuel and in-store purchases.
Why it works:
- Offering a free tier, with the option to upgrade for premium benefits simply by spending more at the station, makes people want to belong to the more exclusive tier, leading to a more substantial Average Basket Value.
- Premium offers, such as early notice of new products lands to value the the premium tier.
- Buy 5 and get the 6th free puts a modern spin on traditional stamp cards, building on customers’ desire to complete a quest for a free gift.
7. MAPCO: MY Reward$
Fuel station chain MAPCO opted to approach a younger audience, combining traditional, tried-and-true features with out-of-the box ideas and a social media campaign strategy as well. Their ‘Song of the Summer’ fan voting experience on Instagram isn’t a part of their loyalty scheme per se, but it still serves to solidify their customer base, creating a sense of community amongst their followers, just as much as their fuel loyalty program benefits.
- Fuel and store-based earning: Loyalty members are able to collect points both for refueling (5 points/gallon) and making in-store purchases (10 points/dollar spent on merchandise).
- Special offers and promotions: MAPCO offers limited-time promotions as well, keeping the program fresh and exciting.
- Sign-up offer: Members are treated to an instant 20¢-off welcome bonus upon registration.
- Redeeming the points: Points can be redeemed on both fuel and in-store purchases.
Why it works:
- The refer-a-friend feature helps MAPCO stand out from other fuel loyalty programs. It’s a tactic we usually see with jewelry or beauty brands, but it was cleverly implemented here, making the program stand out.
- Combining long-standing offers with limited-time promotions incentivizes members to visit the MAPCO App.
- Strengthening your brand and loyalty program strategy with accompanying social media challenges makes customers feel like they belong to a community.
8. DBS: DBS ESSO Card
As one of Singapore’s most popular credit cards with a fuel savings feature, the DBS ESSO Card automatically enrolls card owners into Esso’s Smiles Driver Rewards program, but with an additional bonus: making them eligible for extra rewards and discounts, curated specifically for DBS Esso cardholders, such as limited-time point multiplying offers.
- Earning by refueling: Members earn 1 Smiles Point/1 liter of Synergy fuel.
- Earning by shopping: People also earn points by making other retail purchases. Every S$10 spent outside of Esso = 1 Smiles Point.
- Limited-time promotions: Cardholders enjoy varying time-limited offers, such as a multiplying offer on Esso Smile Bonus Points.
- Extra members-only offers: Discounted Motor Insurance and Road Tax, faster service time at the Esso stations.
Why it works:
- Besides the Esso Smiles loyalty program features, DBS card owners can enjoy additional exclusive benefits as well.
- Cardholders can earn points, redeemable for fuel through their normal shopping routines.
- Members can easily track their points balance through the DBS PayLah App — both easily accessible and practical.
Shift Into Second Gear and Overtake Your Competitors With a Clever Loyalty Program
Fuel retail is an extremely price-sensitive and competitive field, where the main objectives are incentivizing customer loyalty, building shopping habits, and elevating average purchase frequency. In the industry’s current state, we are seeing many different approaches — in some cases, a modern twist on the stamp-collecting model co-exists with the traditional “the more you spend, the more you earn” philosophy. In other cases, fuel retailers offer partner rewards, enter into coalition programs, or rev up credit card structures.
Antavo believes in creating a fully customized, industry-solutions centered loyalty program, mixing traditional and next-gen features to fuel your customer engagement and elongate CLV. Whether you want to create a brand new fuel retail loyalty program, or simply revamp/replatform an existing one, don’t be shy. Get in touch with us by booking a demo or sending us an RFP.
If you’d like a more in-depth look at the current loyalty program landscape, or get a sneak peek at future trends, don’t miss the latest edition of Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report.
Attila is the CEO and Co-founder of Antavo. He has a solid IT background and has been a tech entrepreneur for over 15 years, and is also an expert in electrical technology. He combines a down-to-earth vision with inspiring enthusiasm, helping steer creativity and innovation at Antavo.