CRT Insight Feature: The Refuelling Revolution: how technology could crown new fuel payments kings in Europe

Investors and research firms in the US are evidently somewhat perplexed: the expectation on both sides of the Atlantic was that the big beasts, Fleetcor and WEX, would storm into Europe and sweep all before them. Recent indications would suggest that if that's going to happen, it's going to happen far more slowly than we all expected. There are even hints that the transition - which was started with WEX Europe Services' takeover of the Esso Card business and Fleecor's platform and SME portfolio deal with Shell - may even be going into reverse.

Why? Lazy oil majors, complacent solutions providers

 

Well, the macro-trend in Europe was started by a change in perspective on behalf of the oil majors. If you have twenty-something thousand sites in Europe, you build out a card programme as a loyalty tool. You establish marketing teams to develop sector-specific variants and sales teams to get it in front of customers. You build a closed-loop processing platform to manage transactions and online technology to reduce fraud. You negotiate massive co-acceptance programmes to compete with dense local networks and to offer pan-European refuelling. Fabulous.

 

Until margins start to narrow. Thousands of sites get sold off or licensed to dealers - and your expensive cards division starts to look like a huge white elephant - out of date, fat, complex and costly. So it's easy - you outsource the whole shebang to an outfit which can do all that difficult stuff for you. Job done.

And it really was that simple five or ten years ago. The issue is, though, that while the structure of the market has changed, innovation has been minimal - and the experience for both fleet customers and dealers/merchants has been - if anything - worse.

 

The hundreds of thousands of small fleet customers which make up the bulk of our market have found themselves paying more for fuel (through margin "float" mechanisms) and more in card, transaction and invoice fees while getting nothing remotely interesting back by way of a more compelling offer (and often reportedly worse customer service). Individual dealers, and dealer networks, have found themselves paying higher and higher merchant service or handling fees while losing direct control of their local accounts to the programme operators.

 

Something has to give...and it will.....

 

There is a yawning competitive gap in Europe's fuel and fleet markets, Majors want rid of the hassle, while the big scheme operators want to drive up margins without offering any incremental value.

 

So are there technologies out there which threaten to turn upside-down the current order of things in Europe? You betcha. It isn't a big stretch of the imagination to see the pioneers of card-less payments technologies linking up end to end transaction processing and dealer reimbursement. It isn't hard to see the neural fraud prevention technology used by retail banks starting to be used in the fuel space. It isn't inconceivable that dealers will be able to take back control of their own local accounts by using bespoke e-payment platforms. It's a certainty that large fleets will use new technologies to define their own selected networks dealer by dealer - and contract payments facilitators to manage the loop. You can take it for granted that the vehicle recognition technology leading the market in Turkey and taking the Gulf by storm will make inroads on both sides of the English channel.

 

Over the coming weeks we'll be looking at these technological developments one-by-one and assessing the impact they will be having on Europe's fuel and fleet markets. Come back here every week to read more. Next week: "To cloud or not to cloud: how SaaS is asking new questions in platform outsourcing "

To find out more about our work supporting companies in Europe's fuel and fleet markets, please visit our website at www.crt.europe.com.

 

To enquire about, or register an interest in our definitive report "Commercial Refuelling in Europe: Insight into Today, Outlook for Tomorrow" please contact us via the website link above or email me on npa@crt-europe.com. Intended to serve as a detailed guide for financial investors, a reliable tool for strategic marketers in the sector itself, and a handbook for new entrants and solutions providers, the report includes:

 

Insight into Today

    Market size and growth, country by country

    Structural segmentation of the market, and size of segments

    Sale channel and channel margin analysis - segment by segment

    In-depth look at today's competitive landscape (refiners, retailers, dealers/franchisees, independents, solutions providers)

    Detailed look at Europe's Top 5 markets

Outlook for Tomorrow

    Key trends driving market evolution

    Internationalization: drivers, impact and implications

    Digitalization: drivers, impact and implications

    Outsourcing: drivers, impact and implications

    Comparative strategic scenarios

    The fuel payments market in 2022

 

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