Andy Baird, GM Retail, Z Energy, writes that safety, speed, and convenience are at the forefront for Z Energy.

Responding to Covid continued to be a focus for us this year, but this time around we had been there before and we knew what to do to keep New Zealand fuelled up, safely.

As an essential business we have continued to operate through lockdowns, albeit slightly differently. We are hugely proud of our retailers and their teams who stay open to fuel up our emergency and essential workers, regardless of the Covid Alert Level restrictions. During a highly uncertain time, our teams continue to serve their fellow New Zealanders with courage and compassion.

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Keeping customers fuelled up, safely and swiftly

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Covid has reinforced the importance of helping people move from A to B in a safe and secure way. While safety and security mattered more than ever for New Zealanders, the focus also swung back to speed and convenience.

Like most businesses, we realised the important role innovative technology can play in quickly responding to changing customer demands. Fortunately, this has been an area of focus for us for some time. Harnessing the digital capabilities that we had previously invested in, we created ‘Pay in App’ and ‘Pay by Plate’ at the end of 2020, adding to our ecosystem of ways to pay.

Offering safety and speed, Pay in App meant customers could fill up and go using the Z App at any Z service station, avoiding the queues or any close contact altogether. Pay by Plate, which is available at more than 60 Z sites, made it even easier as the cameras at the service stations will read the pre-registered motorist’s number plate automatically and release the pumps in any lane. Payment is automatically processed in the Z App once the nozzle is replaced – allowing the customer to fill up and go without needing to enter the store or use their phone to process the payment.

Pay in App and Pay by Plate experienced customer sign-up growth of more than 40 per cent in the first two months and have continued to grow – with the active customer base up by more than 80 per cent from this time last year.

The pre-order coffee function of the Z App also proved popular in 2021, with a 25 per cent increase year on year. It was already taking off pre-Covid but has accelerated, in part because it has reduced the amount of time a customer needs to wait inside the service station.

For service stations like ours, the convenience retail side has played just as important of a role in serving our communities this year, with the trends we saw emerge in 2020 remaining much the same in 2021. Z’s grocery and convenience store products provided New Zealanders with the goods they needed during lockdown – milk, bread, toilet paper – in a simple, easy, and safe way, without the hassle of lining up for a supermarket.

Planning for the future

What the last two years have confirmed for us is the direction we want to head – as a leader in the mobility-10 space – selling our customers things they buy and consume within 10 minutes. Our locations in local communities across the country, ease of access with onsite parking, and innovation such as the pre-order coffee and fuel payment app all work to support a highly mobile nation on the go. We believe the trends we have seen emerge through Covid are likely to remain, with safety, speed, and convenience at the forefront for customers, and we believe we are best placed to meet these needs.

What’s next for us to achieve this? We are currently in the process of upgrading our stores. The new and improved stores are focused on a space that gives customers the most in convenience retail – expanding our fresh food range, enhancing the store layout, and creating room for growth as we continue to innovate.

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