Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. In the UK, new registrations of plug-in cars is soaring – from 3,500 total in 2013 to over 160,000 in 2018 so far, as of July. With momentum for hybrid and electric vehicle take-up building fast, consumers’ expectations for charging facilities being provided at retailers will significantly shift. Convenient, easy to use parking has long been viewed as essential in order to attract customers to large retail stores. Consequently, many big chains are now also looking at how EV charging could contribute to an improved shopping experience.
In 2017, there were over 5,000 charging locations and 9,800 charging devices in the UK. The government has set out its goal to position the UK at the forefront of development of electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, including new powers designed to kickstart the rollout of charging points across the country. These powers are a clear sign that EV charging infrastructure will be essential to the future of transport, and that companies need to start planning for the change in order to accommodate the switch to EVs. The availability of EV charging stations will be fundamental for any retail business looking to attract and retain customers.
As electric vehicles are becoming more appealing to drivers, businesses and retailers need to invest in how they can factor this into retail infrastructures and brand messages. There are many benefits that can be offered to EV drivers which can attract shoppers and retain their loyalty, by showing a clear balance in values and convenience.
Making life easier for customers and creating brand loyalty. Like any other car owners, EV drivers need to be able to park when they travel to shop. Combining parking with charging can introduce a level of convenience that makes a retail site significantly more attractive for customers. They will return not only for the products in-store, but also because of the convenience of combining their shopping trip with ticking another task off their list: charging their vehicle.
Demonstrating clear brand values that customers can buy into. Retailers that invest in charging points for their stores are reaching out to EV drivers and demonstrating a clear commitment to a certain set of values and lifestyle. Many customers want to support brands that understand their choices and will feel more comfortable to hand their cash over to a retailer that has made this kind of public commitment.
Providing alternative charging options close to home. Not every EV driver has access to a fast charger, especially if they don’t have one installed at home. Retailers offering faster charging points are providing consumers with more choice and making it easier to integrate charging into daily life. As a result, time taken out to go shopping is more productive and satisfying.
Giving customers longer to browse and increasing customer spend. The longer customers spend in store, the more likely they are to buy more. If customers bring their EV to the store to charge while they shop, they are much more likely to stay longer and browse while the charge is happening – and could spend more as a result.
In April this year, estate agent Savills revealed that it was working with ten strategic clients to roll out electric vehicle charging points across 29 retail locations in the UK. The idea was to evaluate the feasibility of electric vehicle charging for the estate agent’s retail portfolios. According to Savills’ research, these charging points not only represented a real value add-on for customers, with 11,648 uses across 29 sites, but also benefited retailers too. Sites with charging points saw a 50% increase in dwell time and average spend ranging from £36 up to £80 per visit for longer dwell times. Savills’ study also highlighted opportunities for improving retailers’ sustainability credentials, with 31.2 tonnes less CO2 from visitor travel as a result of charging point installation.
In 2017, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) voted a new law to make the installation of charging stations mandatory in non-residential buildings, with a minimum of 10 parking spaces (offices or shopping centres). This initiative aims to accelerate the energy transition of the transport sector.
Outside of the UK, retailers are also beginning to invest in charging infrastructure to attract, and benefit shoppers. In the US, for example, Walmart is planning to double the number of EV chargers at its locations. Target, another huge retailer, is to be part of a 100 location roll out of electric car charger points across the country. In Europe, IKEA also began incorporating electric charging points into its store experience with a plan to grow the number of charging points available.
EV charging is becoming an increasingly important facility for retailers to be able to offer to customers, especially in light of growing numbers of EV drivers. From providing more time to shop, to the convenience of combining “filling up the car” with shopping at the same time, there are many ways in which EV chargers can enhance the shopping experience for customers using large retail stores.