Sasol the most successful service station brand in SA, says Lightstone Explore

27th November 2017 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

 Sasol the most successful service station brand in SA, says Lightstone Explore

Photo by: Duane Daws

Sasol service stations are attracting the most feet per service station in South Africa, with Shell service stations in second position.

Engen, with its much larger service station footprint, attracts more visitors, in total, than any other brand.

These are some of the results of a joint venture between research house Lightstone Explore and Tracker, in which Lightstone analyses the 2.5-million vehicle trips Tracker customers undertake every day.

“We are talking about roughly 450 000 vehicles and 37-million km a day throughout South Africa,” says Lightstone Explore CEO Trevor Holmes.

Lightstone receives the start and completion points of every trip, as well as the vehicle’s identification number, which discloses the vehicle’s make and model, among other data.

Lightstone uses this information to develop a demographic profile of the vehicle owners. The trip data provided to Lightstone by Tracker also reveals which service stations vehicle owners visit, which service stations they rather drive past, and how long they spend at a service station.

The data is anonymised to protect Tracker customers.

Holmes and his team have used the data to undertake an in-depth behavioural study on South Africa’s service station culture, available to any party interested in gaining insight into what makes a service station successful in South Africa.

“We are, for example, able to determine whether an ATM or a coffee shop or a Woolworths will attract more customers to a service station. We can see which chains are not fully represented in the market and determine which areas are suitable for a new service station,” says Holmes.

Some interesting facts are that Afrikaans-speaking people favour Sasol service stations, while you are most likely to find an Absa ATM at a Sasol service station and a Standard Bank ATM at Engen stations. Shell has the strongest Nedbank and FNB  representation.  

Holmes believes the Tracker data sample is big enough to represent average South African car owner behaviour.

Big Data
Lightstone Explore has built up a database of 3 155 accurately plotted service stations across the country. This number covers most of the urban and major rural service stations.

In the past three months, these service stations have had 9.8-million vehicles fitted with Tracker devices visit their forecourts, which is an average of 3 117 visits per service station.

Sasol has the highest visit ratio of 4 221 visits to each of its 294 service stations over the past three months, reflecting its superior site location, says Holmes.

Shell is second, with 3 505 visits at 528 sites.

Shell also had the most popular service station, with 69 949 visits to the group’s Ultra City sites on the N1 between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Considering the number of customers stopping at service stations, compared with those opting to drive by a service station – called the conversion ratio – it appears Sasol is the most successful in ensuring drivers pull in at their forecourts.

Sasol’s conversion ratio is 6.2%, followed by Shell at 5.8%. BP is at 4.9% and Caltex at 4.3%. 

Engen has the largest service station network in South Africa, at 861 sites, but a conversion rate of 5.3%.
Food Retailers play an important role in the success of service stations, notes Holmes.

BP is aligned with Pick n Pay at 97 out of 433 sites (22%).

These sites have a conversion ratio of 8.1%, versus the overall BP average of 4.9%.

The Engen – Woolworths relationship works mainly in the upmarket areas, which limits the expansion of Woolworths into the Engen group, notes Holmes.

There are 68 Woolworths shops on Engen sites, which is only 8% of the brand’s sites. However, on these sites the conversion rate is 9% compared with the overall Engen rate of 5.3%, indicating the motivation a Woolworths convenience shop offers road users to stop at an Engen facility.
Fast food outlets are another integral part of the convenience offering at service stations, says Holmes.

“Our records show that 280 service stations have a fast food offering, with the predominant brand being Steers at 152 sites and Wimpy at 25 sites.”

The Steers sites’ conversion ratio is 10.4%, while sites with Wimpy restaurants attained 14.9% conversion. However, notes Holmes, this success can also be attributed to most Engen Wimpys being located on freeway sites.

Vida e Caffe and Seattle have tied up with Shell and Caltex respectively, while Mugg and Bean is associated with Total, resulting in a conversion ratio of 8.5%, reflecting a doubling of the Total conversion rate.