Online Ordering For Propane Dealers: Why To Sell Online

March 15, 2019 | By: Energy Engine
Categories: Blog Posts

Selling Propane Online in a New Landscape

Times have changed…

Think back to 10 years ago.

2009 was a different world.

Millennials were just 10 years old, MySpace was still being used, and the iPhone was just coming out. It seems as though the world was in an entirely different century just 10 years ago.

Fast forward 10 years to 2019. Millennials dominate the business world’s imagination, MySpace has been replaced by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social networks, and the iPhone and smartphones are more intertwined into our daily lives than ever anticipated.  

10 years ago, online sales were just starting to become as mainstream as traditional, in-person sales. Today, buying online has effectively usurped brick-and-mortar sales for a wide variety of industries, as the marketplace has transitioned from main street to our very own pockets.

10 years ago, online sales were a concept the propane industry barely embraced. Today, we’re seeing some businesses use it to incredible levels of success. 

And if you aren’t utilizing online sales and e-commerce in your fuel sales, you will be falling behind the competition sooner rather than later.

So, why should traditional fuel and propane providers sell online? And how can you successfully sell propane online?

It comes down to understanding and implementing a few simple concepts that have been developed in recent years across industries.

Let’s take a look at each aspect of online sales that propane sellers can utilize in their overall strategies.

Why Fuel Dealers Should Sell Online

Time has changed the fuel customer base. 10 years ago, “online buyers” were uniformly considered “junk business.” Will Call and COD customers were widely thought of as unreliable, inconsistent, and low value. 

In 2019, those sentiments are largely the same in our industry. The problem is the actual customer is not.

With the ability to purchase now at people’s’ fingertips (literally), today’s businesses have a new responsibility of catering to increased demands from modern customers. You yourself have probably bought something online in recent memory. And now that the mode of buying has shifted across the economy, shoppers are expecting a different kind of experience. People expect to be engaged with online, and this has created a new level of customer engagement.

While this puts extra stress on businesses, it actually creates a new opportunity as well. The opportunity lies in what is known as “Micro Moments” — and fuel dealers can take advantage of this new phenomena to boost sales just like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart currently do.

Customer Experience Above All

Online buying has dramatically shifted the expectations of every customer on the planet. Whether they buy their fuel online or they are a full service customer, the simple existence of online shopping in other areas of their lives has helped facilitate the rise of “customer experience.”

Customer experience is uniquely different from customer service, and when it comes to the modern customer, they want a comprehensive, catered experience. That means that from the first moment they come into contact with your brand to the moment their check clears, they want to feel uniquely engaged with, uniquely valued, and thoroughly satisfied.

On top of that, they want it done quickly, simply, and online. Studies have shown that by the time a customer calls a store to inquire about a purchase, they have already decided upon 70% of the buying process before they make the call. While it sounds nice, it can actually be a challenge for fuel businesses who do not have a strong online presence. How confident are you in that first 70% if all they have to go off of is your website?

It may seem daunting, but the answer to the problem is simple: embrace the market, and embolden your online presence. It will lead to better customer growth and better business in the long run. The trick is, you have to do it the right way.

How Fuel Dealers Can Sell Online Effectively

Let’s face it: change is difficult, frustrating, and challenging. Without careful and clear guidance, fuel businesses (just like any other business) can misuse the tools at their exposal and create a huge waste of resources.

The good news is we know what works and what doesn’t for fuel dealers. Let’s take a look at some of the standard marketing methods by which a fuel dealer can capitalize on the Will Call and COD market:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

One of the most important aspects of this online landscape is Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”.

At a very basic level, SEO revolves around focusing on “keywords” to rank on search engines such as Google and Bing, and it can be a huge part of a fuel dealers sales if done correctly.

When the right strategy is used and your website begins to rank higher on search engines, then traffic to your branded site increases, the customer is able to be engaged, and sales have a greater chance of increasing.

However, too many businesses mistake “good keywords” as the sole solution to better search engine rankings. The art of SEO is deep and multi-faceted. To truly take advantage of search engines in a way that will have long-lasting value, it’s important to consult with professional SEO marketers who can better inform you what kind of SEO strategy will work best for your business.

Pay-Per-Click Marketing (PPC)

Another huge aspect of the online landscape is pay-per-click, or “PPC”. With PPC marketing, fuel dealers can get links to their website to appear at the top of search results page on Google. 

PPC compliments SEO well because it offers propane dealers a chance to rank even higher on search engines by paying for spots atop relevant search results, especially when competitors are willing to pay a higher price to achieve top of page rankings. 

PPC is definitely valuable for localized fuel dealers, but it is important to remember that not every means of marketing will fit your business perfectly. There are plenty of instances of PPC campaigns driving lots of clicks to a fuel dealers’ website, but once those users arrive on the website, they simply don’t convert.

Paid advertising is a valuable means of marketing if you are prepared to invest in the resources needed to actually drive true conversions. Namely, these would be a well-designed website and a competent PPC manager to launch, monitor, and adjust ad campaigns as time goes on.

Geo-Targeting and Re-Targeting

The concept of targeting isn’t all that new.

However, the means to do so, and the capabilities are much greater now with online selling.

Whereas businesses were limited to targeting based on location, the capabilities that the internet offers online sellers a chance to target people of different locations (geotargeting).

Moreover, online sellers can also “retarget” their customers and prospects based off of their previous actions online. This can result in more leads, more qualified leads, and the testing of different markets.

Email Marketing

Last but not least is email marketing. Most people are familiar with email marketing, though many are either neglecting it using it inefficiently. 

When done properly, online sellers can segment their customers into “Marketing Segments”, guide prospects effectively, and drive sales.

For more on email marketing, check out our Definitive Guide To Email Marketing for Heating Oil and Propane Dealers.

Friendly Reminders for Online Dealers

Online dealers should also remember to include “manners marketing” with their prospects and customers.

This is common sense for most of us but is worth repeating since it can be forgotten when so many technical strategies are being used.

It’s easy when you’re looking at your customers in person, but less so when there is no face-to-face interaction.

But it’s simple: remember to say thank you! Be personable, courteous, and respectful in the content you send to potential customers. Your customers are on the other side of the screen, and the screen does not take away from their need for respect. 

Another tip: remember that people have “Bulls*** Radars” (another term coined by Google). Highlight your products and services, but don’t fake your customers out. Be just as honest, straightforward, and professional in your online marketing as you are in your in-person customer service and your online sales will naturally be more easily earned. 

Bringing It All Together

In spite of all the difficulty we have mentioned above, the simple truth is that the new market is one of the biggest opportunities the propane industry has had in decades. 

Instead of relying on business acquisitions and trading customers with competitors, fuel businesses can access a largely untapped userbase in our industry. Used properly, the tools we’ve outlined above can create unforseen customer growth and business development opportunities for propane dealers in every market.

However, it’s important that these tools are used in the right way for the propane industry. Our industry is significantly different from many which have fully embraced selling their products online. For the best results possible, propane dealers should sell online using tools specifically designed for the propane industry. Anything less will only bring fewer results.

If you’re a propane provider or fuel dealer, a great way to ensure optimal success with your efforts is offering your customers access to a portal with e-commerce capabilities.

A portal offers 24/7 access to your products. It’s where SEO and PPC can lead your users towards, and how you can easily manage your targeting and email marketing strategies.

Portals that include e-commerce allows for more convenient purchases, they can lower fulfillment costs by about $.12/gallon, and they can add to the customer experience that is required by today’s customers.

Unlike aggregation sites that can kill your margins, portals allow you to keep control of your business through brand management capabilities, automated marketing, and behavioral targeting. 

The right portal can give the customer the user experience they expect while granting the business owner all the means they need to curate, control, and adapt their online presence as they see fit. Selling propane online made easy, for consumer and business owner.

Schedule A Demo of the Energy Engine Today

The Energy Engine isn’t just an e-commerce portal — it’s an industry-specific solution. With the Energy Engine, propane businesses get access to the kind of portal their business deserves and their customers expect.

Click here to schedule your demo of the Energy Engine today.