How GasBuddy Is Building Compelling Brand Experiences On — And Off — The Road

'As other retail sectors are closing up shop, we’re having a completely different conversation here because of the massive and growing convention of grab-and-go commerce,' says GasBuddy's Jordan Grossman.

Amidst reports that the $600 billion convenience store and fuel retailing industry remains one of the few retail sectors to show overall growth, GasBuddy  earlier this year brought on Waze veteran Jordan Grossman as executive vice president to lead the company’s advertising sales efforts — and further its commitment to using location intelligence to connect drivers to their “perfect pit stop.”

Following his first quarter at GasBuddy, we caught up with Grossman to discuss what’s next for “grab-and-go” commerce — and what marketers need to know about engaging customers on the road.

GeoMarketing: Why do you think that convenience store and fuel retailing industry remains one of the few retail sectors to show overall growth? And why should this be encouraging to marketers?

Jordan Grossman: There is a huge consumer shift happening in America: we’re becoming more convenience-driven, captured in the $600 billion fuel and convenience store industry.

As other retail sectors are closing up shop, we’re having a completely different conversation here because of the massive and growing convention of grab-and-go commerce. We can thank millennials for the growth of the industry. They are now more likely to stop and buy items — especially food — at convenience stores than any other age group. And convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80 percent of the fuel purchased in America, have responded and stayed ahead of the curve.

They have increased focus on innovation, improved customer experience, and invested in healthy food options. All of these factors have enabled convenience stores to meet the needs of consumers, and get them into the store from the gas pump.

This shift has increased fuel and convenience store relevance in today’s changing retail landscape, enabling the industry to stand up against e-commerce giants — ahem, Amazon. People are buying gas and visiting c-stores more than ever before, and marketers need to take note.

How do you aim to build compelling experiences for users and brands in your new role at GasBuddy? What do you think will be the greatest challenges — and the biggest opportunities?

GasBuddy is a marketers’ dream. A platform where millions of people turn daily, who are actively shopping, with a strong intent to make a purchase — they desperately need gas, food, a drink, and they’re looking for air for their tires. They look to GasBuddy to help them make purchasing decisions, and this is all happening before they are even on the road, which means we have the consumers’ full attention, the ability to position a brand for consideration before purchase decisions are made, the ability to influence consumer behavior and the ability to track all of this as a digital publisher.

With the wealth of data GasBuddy has collected, ranging from location, footfall, to waypoint, my team and I can build hyper-customized experiences for both the user and brand.

There’s a number of big opportunities for us. I’m particularly excited about leveraging our 1st party GPS data to provide advertisers with accurate and measurable location-based campaigns.

Given the majority of our consumer interaction is before the drive, we’re able to offer advertisers video executions which is very unique when activating drivers.  We have a robust in-house editorial team and massive email distribution which gives us the ability to create custom content and experiential marketing programs for our advertisers. As the industry moves away from audience buys across questionable content, we’re well positioned to offer a very niche and unique audience of drivers and c-store consumers

Lastly, Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs) are at war with C-stores.  As we previously discussed, the convenience industry has changed their business model by expanding menus and food options offering fresh, healthy food selections, and premium coffees.  GasBuddy is uniquely positioned as the battlefield to capture the appetites and ultimately, loyalty, of the grab-and-go consumer. If QSR’s aren’t putting their stake in the ground with a meaningful presence on GasBuddy — creating location awareness and dialoguing with their customers — they might as well have thrown in the towel, a greasy one…

Our greatest challenge will be increasing usage so that GasBuddies are using the app daily, not just when they fill up 1x-2x/week.  We have an extremely talented content team that’s making our platform more sticky and we also offer daily sweepstakes like free gas.  My responsibility is bringing our partners into the mix so GasBuddies have the ability to win a number of relevant products and services.

What  should marketers know about reaching and engaging customers on the road — both from your time at Waze and now at GasBuddy?

Brands have been activating consumers on the go for centuries via traditional out-of-home signage and billboards.  These were the original executions of location/proximity based marketing. At Waze, the team did an amazing job of introducing the line of thinking that mobile is the new OOH and with that we formulated the basis for mobile driver activation strategies. What’s critical is that brands think of this as a strategy, not just one tactic to check a box and say “look, boss, we’re doing that…”

Marketers should view a driver activation strategy as a holistic approach across a multitude of touch points: specifically, before, during and after the drive. Waze is uniquely positioned to provide brands with a mobile access point to drivers during the drive, while GasBuddy is focused on PRE-Drive engagement (planning the drive) and then making the Perfect Pit Stop.

Brands also need to remember that they’re dialoguing with drivers, and the creative should specifically speak to them in that mind set; before, during and after the drive. When you throw in time of day, day of the week, intended destination, traffic patterns and weather, that’s an incredibly powerful opportunity to craft your message accounting for proximity, timeliness and relevance and make it stick.

Brands also need to be cognisant of the fact that there’s a unique trade-off to engaging drivers in that the advertising should be additive, not interruptive to what they’re doing, where they’re going and how they’re getting there. If the product or service being offered doesn’t enhance the drive experience or a future drive experience than I would think twice if this is the right strategy for you. If you can’t place yourself in the driver’s seat and answer the question “why does this matter to me?” then it’s likely not the right place to invest your dollars.

Going off of that, what are your top priorities at GasBuddy this year? And what new technologies — if any — will you be thinking about? 

We’re focused on building the team, establishing a presence in key markets, and educating brands on how GasBuddy can help them win in the fuel and convenience arena. We have a lot of work to do but have come a long way in a short time and there’s tremendous upside.  In the back half of the year we’ll be incorporating our popular Pay with GasBuddy service into our media attribution solution, creating a card-linked offers program and launching a Research/Survey Product.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.