Case Study – Propel Fuels: Understanding Customer Purchasing Behaviour and Loyalty

8/8/2013   By: Lux Insights

Propel Fuels offers high-performance, premium-quality renewable fuels, including biodiesel and Flex Fuel E85 products.

Propel’s goal is to provide customers with easy access to clean fuels, while positively affecting the economy and environment. Propel has 40 stations in California and Washington State, and its head office is based in Redwood City, CA. Learn more about Propel Fuels here: www.propelfuels.com

The Problem
In an industry with limited access to customer transaction data, Propel Fuels had restricted insight into its customers’ purchasing behaviour and brand loyalty.

To help inform brand messaging and station site selection, Propel needed to know more. Essential to this was understanding customer traffic patterns – that is, when customers visit a Propel station, how customers decide to visit one gas station over another, why they might choose Flex Fuel or biodiesel over conventional fuel, and what an acceptable price for Flex Fuel might be.

The Solution
To help answer these questions, Propel Fuels contracted Vancouver-based marketing research firm Lux Insights to lead the study.

“The ability to work with a team like Lux with big agency experience and quality work, but without big agency overhead, was really important for us. This was a highly customized project, and with their flexibility and know-how, they made it happen in a way that could meet our budget and still have a really outstanding outcome,” says Chris LaPlante, Director of Marketing, Propel Fuels.

Developing a comprehensive, cost effective methodology, Lux recommended Propel conduct intercept surveys at nine California Propel stations while customers filled up their vehicles. That way, Propel could talk to customers in the moment and uncover top-of-mind perceptions of the brand at the time of purchase. Lux worked with Propel to train an intercept team and created a strategic, concise survey that addressed each of Propel’s key questions.

Following the intercepts, Lux layered in Prizm segments with respondent addresses. This step was essential to understanding the demographics, socio-economic make-up and lifestyle preferences of customers.

The Outcome
Using the results, Lux was able to pinpoint reasons why consumers might move away from using conventional gas to using Flex Fuel or biodiesel instead.

“Now we have a very good understanding of why customers are choosing to do business with Propel. When you know those motivators, you can incorporate them into your communications, and we’re using those messages now,” says LaPlante.

And, Lux was able to identify precisely where Propel’s customers were coming from geographically. As a result, Lux evaluated customer loyalty to the Propel brand by identifying the number of customers going out of their way to visit a Propel station. Today, Propel is using this data to drive loyalty specific to their target markets.

Applications of the research haven’t stopped there. It’s played a role in Propel’s site selection methodology and is being used to inform Propel’s pricing strategies.

“The research informed the most critical pieces of our business: where we should locate, what we should say, how we are priced. It’s either confirmed that we are doing the right things or helped identify aspects we may want to change,” says LaPlante.

Contact Lux for more information on how you can understand your customers’ behaviour, motivators and barriers to using your product or service.