CRT Insight Feature: Fuel Cards and Affinity – a Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Tied-up in an Enigma. Really?

It isn’t working, is it? While parcels and logistics firms grow subcontractor fleets year-on-year; organisations and clubs swell their membership lists, and home shopping hits new highs, fuel card issuers have been slow to recognise these trends and even slower to respond.

 

So why is that? The answers are, sadly, both mundane and none too convincing.

1. Retail and Commercial – that Old, Old Chestnut

Let us tell you a story.

One day, on an island not far off the European mainland, a very large (and very yellow) automobile association – with well over 10 million members – got in touch with a major fuel retailer and card issuer, interested in negotiating a discounted fuel card for those members.

Looks like an exciting opportunity, no?

But hang on a second. It didn’t happen.

The problem was this: there is a (narrow) Retail view that the networks “already have” these customers paying full pump price, for cash. Why on earth, then, convert them into commercial customers with discounts and credit lines?

The good old cannibalism argument, eh? CRT analysis, however, suggests that this argument falls apart for two reasons.

·       Firstly, what share of the association’s fuel business is the network actually commanding, and how much loyalty is developed? Numbers suggest that driving up share of wallet, and at the same time associated non-fuel sales, more than compensates for modest discounting and credit.

·       Secondly, demand for affinity fuel products is increasing as the associations grow. It’s a matter of time before a competing major network aggressively exploits a wide-open segment and goes for it. At that point, you are reacting, following, trying to catch up. Ouch – costly.

Surely, it’s worth getting to the future first?

 

2. “It’s all such a Lot of Hassle”

As you enjoyed the last one so much, let us spin you another yarn.

Once upon a time in a land not too far away, a very large, very German (and very yellow) parcels company wanted to extend its fuel card deal, via its PartnerStore, to its tens of thousands of subcontractors. A reasonable and logical initiative, one might think, and an effective way of extending its subcontractor value proposition. Work with us, benefit from our aggregated fuel purchasing clout. 

Nice. Everyone wins, don’t they?

But hold on. Not so fast. It didn’t happen.

You see, the problem was this: the major issuer didn’t welcome the complexity of having to open, manage and maintain tens of thousands of individual customer accounts. That would have been a back-office nightmare. The overwhelming cost and complexity of managing everything from card order, to card fulfilment, to card and customer management for such a large portfolio of customers would have wiped out any commercial benefit.

Allegedly. CRT’s research into this topic, and our look at how scheme-card-issuing banks manage affinity programmes, persuade us that this position is flawed for, ahem, two reasons:

·       Versatile, agile web interfaces – already operated by leaders in B2C and affinity markets – automate the application, order and fulfilment processes and significantly reduce hassle, complexity and cost.

·       In certain models CRT has explored, specialist intermediaries manage the end-to-end CRM process at considerably lower cost-to-serve than major fuel companies, and – in doing so – bring the business case for B2B2C to life.

It only takes the right tools, the right partners and a bit of creativity doesn’t it?

 

3. Indecent Exposure

Now bear with us. One last rip-roaring tale to keep you entertained and get you thinking.

In times of old (well, probably about a year ago), a somewhat well-known (and not yellow) internet and home shopping company got in touch with another major fuel retailer and card issuer to enquire about the possibility of a launching a discounted fuel card for its “last mile” van delivery drivers. Across Europe. Believe us, that’s a whole lot of vans, a whole lot of drivers and a whole lot of fuel.

The fuel company jumped at the chance, didn’t they? 

Err, nope. It didn’t happen.

There was a problem, we understand. The aggregated volume, had there been high uptake of the proposition (likely), would have resulted in thousands of individual credit lines, and a very high overall credit exposure to the issuer. Not a risk that issuer fancied taking or managing. Robust discussions took place: would the internet shopping firm aggregate and cover the debt? No? Would it then at least underwrite the exposure? No.

Now this stalemate is a hard nut to crack, you might think. Do we agree? Not really. And, as you’ve guessed, that’s for two reasons.

·       Firstly, some of the next-generation models CRT has been examining are multi-party. Financing of risk is – in those very entrepreneurial constructs – taken on by specialist third parties.

·       Secondly, in those same constructs, working capital is turned from a risk into a positive factor, strengthening further the business case and the whole viability of the overall economic model.

 

So what’s the Answer, then….?

 

The B2B2C/Affinity segment remains one of the great undrilled wells of the fuel card marketplace. Growing, and potentially highly profitable, what is needed for success is no more than the construction and implementation of relatively straightforward economic and operating models.

So, if your curiosity is pricked, and you’d like to talk to CRT about our research and analysis in this area; the models which effectively crack the issues detailed above; how to access and grow the B2B2C segment cost-effectively and profitably, and how to participate in multi-party constructs which can eradicate the problems we’ve outlined, then please:

Visit our website at www.crt-europe.com (from where you can also get in touch)
Contact either Nick Pannell on 
npa@crt-europe.com or Michael Stuefer on mst@crt-europe.com

The Time is Now.

 

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