In this Oct. 5, 2012, photo, Luis Cuevas changes the gas prices at the Shell… (Gary Kazanjian / Associated…)
Consumers bludgeoned by record high average gasoline prices in each of the past two years are demanding deals, discounts and loyalty program perks when they buy gasoline.
That's according to a new study by the NPD Group, which says that gasoline retailers need to respond if they want to keep their business.
“Clearly fuel discounts are a game-changer in today’s market,” says David Portalatin, NPD motor fuels industry analyst.
Portalatin added, “Whether or not fuel marketers implement a discount program, it is imperative that they create value for the consumer in some aspect of the purchase occasion — whether price, quality, rewards, or some other attribute of the purchase experience.”
This represents a significant change in consumer thinking about gasoline prices, according to experts.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said that gasoline brand loyalty had largely become a thing of the past.
Matt Lewis, Ohio State University economist and professor, said that Americans traditionally stopped shopping for the best gasoline prices as soon as they noticed that a spike had ended and that prices were headed down.
What's changed? U.S. drivers paid an average of $3.521 for a gallon of regular gasoline in 2011, according to the Energy Department.
That was a record and a whopping 73.9 cents a gallon more than they paid in 2010.
In 2012, Americans paid even more for a gallon of regular gasoline, hitting an average of $3.618.
The NPD surveyed 3,740 consumers and found that 38% of fuel buyers said they were more likely than in the past to to use gas brand loyalty programs that offered cash discounts.
The report added, "even among non-users of gasoline brand loyalty programs, there is interest in participating, however they want a little more incentive to join. Notably, these potential customers want even greater discounts."
But brand still matters. More than one in three of those surveyed said that the savings had to be more than 11 cents per gallon before they would switch brands.
In California, Prius is king
Southern California gas prices soar 23 cents in a week
Gasoline's drag on household income hit a 30-year high in 2012