Simple, but Revolutionary
By leveraging its position as a crowdsourcing pioneer, GasBuddy transformed itself into a valued resource of industry information extending far beyond fuel prices.
Beyond Fuel Prices
Over the past 17 years, GasBuddy has established itself as the go-to destination for crowdsourced gas pricing updated continuously in real time. Delivered to consumers by way of an intuitive, device-friendly app, GasBuddy uses information based on 140,000 retail fuel locations across the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
SSCS knew about GasBuddy, but only had an inkling of the scope of what they do. Then we ran across this…
…and this, which came out during March Madness and proved to be one of SSCS’s most retweeted links:
GasBuddy has obviously moved beyond providing gas prices. The positive reaction to the above articles whet our appetite for more, so we headed over to GasBuddy’s website and found colorful infographics (some pictured here) that provided insight into different aspects of the market. We also were exposed to a library of blog posts, many of them functioning as feature articles, and many specifically focused on the c-store, like this article to which we posted a link not long ago:
We didn’t realize it at the time, but the author, Frank Beard, was the writer who promoted his healthy lifestyle by subsisting on c-store food for a month and blogging about it in 30 Days of Gas Station Food. Turns out Frank wrote for GasBuddy.
It certainly seemed like all roads led to GasBuddy, at least as far as our research went, so we followed up, proposing an interview with Beard to which GasBuddy graciously agreed. GasBuddy’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Allison Mac, also participated.
We focused on what lay behind GasBuddy’s expanded data collection and why the c-store industry was primed for it.
A Crowdsourcing Pioneer
GasBuddy’s core business of recording and delivering interesting industry data proceeds logically from its beginnings. Its core collection methodology, albeit refined over the years, has remained the same: crowdsourcing information from an online community that was nurtured and developed by GasBuddy.
GasBuddy is a consolidated data pioneer,” says Mac. “Dustin Coupal and Jason Toews, the company founders, understood getting the car owner involved in collecting data was an efficient way to secure accurate, timely fuel prices to share. It was a simple, but revolutionary idea.”
The advent of the Smartphone coupled with the development of GasBuddy’s mobile-friendly site, drove participation numbers exponentially. “Contributors didn’t have to write down gas prices on a pad and run to a PC anymore,” Mac explains. “The convenience of mobile entry combined with immediate access for consumers proved impossible to resist.”
With a reliable network of contributors and the right technology in place (not to mention an already loyal audience), GasBuddy found itself in a position to take advantage of new opportunities presented by retail petroleum’s move from an emphasis on automotive service to one of convenience retailing. They did so by widening the scope of the data they collected.
Broadening our focus made sense given the increased prominence of stores and restaurants next to gas stations from which—in many cases— we were already collecting data,” Mac says. “Crowdsourced review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are very popular among consumers. We had close to 15 million monthly users in place for reviews and ratings of other services provided by gas stations. Why not take advantage of their feedback to build a comprehensive knowledge base?”
The wealth of industry-related data GasBuddy amassed, transformed into actionable business intelligence by staff analysts and developers, proved to be of great value to retail petroleum businesses, as well as consumers. A colorful infographic about the best restroom in each state is fun stuff on the surface, but can have a profound effect on how a brand is perceived.
Understanding this, GasBuddy launched the GasBuddy Business Pages in 2016, delivering data, analytics, and relevant information presented colorfully and with easily grasped graphics. Performance dashboards are available to subscribers, who can also manage reviews and ratings, and access performance comparisons.
For the general public, GasBuddy likewise has grown into a reliable source of industry expertise. GasBuddy publishes industry white papers, blogs, and webinars with the kind of informed perspective that comes with being around the industry for over a decade-and-a-half. They also publish feature articles, which is where Frank Beard comes in.
Frank writes about the c-store industry from an informed perspective that remains fresh because, though he is immersed in it, he is still relatively new to the market. His perspective was partially formed by the way he came to the industry.
“I was working for a company that required I be on the road often and, as a result, I had to eat on-the-go four to five days every week,” he says. “I was pretty health conscious and to prove that eating out didn’t have to be synonymous with weight gain, I designed the ‘30 Days of Gas Station Food’ experiment.”
Over the course of time, Beard visited hundreds and hundreds of c-stores (a total that now stands at over 1,000) and witnessed firsthand the industry-wide effort to make healthful food available. He learned about NACS, the Partnership for a Healthier America, and met people from many of the large convenience store brands that shared their passion about providing healthful food.
I realized it was a movement that I could get behind,” Beard adds. “It was also apparent that the public’s perception of convenience stores was about 5 to 10 years behind the times. It seemed like there was a story to be told, so I used the ’30 Days’ project to build a writing and speaking business both inside and outside the industry.”
Beard has put together enough of a profile to have been invited as a speaker at the NACS show. In addition, he’s made presentations across the country on behalf of companies such as Harbor Wholesale Food and Core-Mark. His efforts attracted GasBuddy’s attention and played a major role in their decision to hire him to promote trends within the convenience store industry.
It really couldn’t have turned out any better,” states Beard. “GasBuddy is seriously pursuing its role as an objective source of reliable industry data and I’m only happy to make a contribution. It’s a fantastic partnership and, given the rapid evolution of the c-store industry, I look forward to the new and interesting directions GasBuddy’s analysis will take.”
Three Dominant C-Store Characteristics
Over the course of Frank Beard’s travels throughout the convenience store industry he’s had the chance to observe the characteristics and the trends rippling through it. Here are some of the most notable:
- Independent stores still thrive. They do so by providing services finely tuned to the local community, whether it’s selling cars, utility poles for hurricanes, or in the case of one SSCS customer, Short Stop, deer corn.
- Healthy options are more widespread than ever, poised to be less of a trend and more of a standard practice. “It’s notable that stores and franchises are doing this not as a reaction, but voluntarily,” Beard says. “It’s an industry-wide thing, with visible organizations like NACS and the Partnership for a Healthy America helping to get the message across.
- The industry collaborates. The convenience store market is highly competitive, but this doesn’t stop owners and managers from sharing ideas with each other, as demonstrated every month in the NACS magazine video series, Ideas 2 Go. “The culture of sharing is one of the most appealing things about the business,” Beard notes. “It makes the entire industry stronger.”