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3 Lessons from GasBuddy’s Innovation Forum at Outlook Leadership 2017

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Mobile apps have enhanced our ability to interact with the world around us—even during natural disasters. In the case of fuel shortages during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, motorists relied on GasBuddy to get to safety by finding stations that did have fuel.

That’s what brought me to Outlook Leadership 2017 in Scottsdale, AZ. As a premier conference for decision-makers in the convenience and fuel retailing industry to discuss key issues, it was the perfect setting to share our story.

In GasBuddy’s Innovation Forum, titled Crowdsourced: How Retailers Worked with GasBuddy During Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, I briefly shared the history of the Emergency Tracking Solution. What first began as a simple way to leverage the app’s user base has since morphed into a complementary solution for all GasBuddy Business Pages partners—a tool that allows them to directly share their data to enhance accuracy of ours. During Irma, I traveled to Florida’s Department of Emergency Management with Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s Head Petroleum Analyst, and packaged this data for key officials and agencies at the state and federal level.

Our retail partners, Brandon Lawrence, Senior Fuel Analyst at Murphy USA and Stephanie Paseur, Pricing Coordinator at Motiva Enterprises, joined us in sharing their stories of how they collaborated with GasBuddy to communicate accurate fuel and power information to motorists during the Hurricanes.

Here are three key takeaways from our discussion:

1. Communication with customers has been challenging during past hurricanes

“Being able to communicate with them was probably one of the bigger challenges,” said Brandon Lawrence, describing past situations. “Even when we would get a load into a store, people didn’t necessarily know that the fuel was there.”

2. The data crowdsourced by GasBuddy’s users was helpful for retailers too

“When you guys started asking us to use business pages and the outages tracker,” said Stephanie Paseur, “we did use that information to share with our wholesalers, with our supply and logistics team, to say ‘this is how many stations we believe are out of fuel based upon this crowdsourced information. Do you agree? Do you have different records?’”

“It was really helpful to have that data and to show our wholesalers that we were trying to be as efficient and as fast moving in getting them resupplied as possible.”

“In past hurricanes, we were really scrambling, we didn’t really have the ability to react and do things like we’ve been able to do now with this data.”

3. Brands can differentiate themselves by how they respond during a crisis

“We do strive to be the last to close and the first to open back up,” said Brandon Lawrence, “because when you see a situation like Hurricane Irma, you really see where people are absolutely desperate to get out of the way of the hurricane, and being able to serve them speaks to a lot of our core competencies—specifically community.”

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.