Neste Easy Deli: How adding a new touchpoint in brand communications disrupts the customer journey in unmanned filling stations
Reading time: 6 minutes
Finland is the land of technological, design, and engineering expertise. Finns tend to find the smartest way of doing something, then make sure that thing is done with great efficiency. This, however, can cause problems. Rapid success can lead to sprawling companies (think Nokia) where agile change to difficult market conditions can be extremely difficult.
Even Neste, a heritage Finnish brand and market-leading petrochemical corporation, sees disruption on the horizon. The countryside of Finland is peppered with unmanned filling stations providing the bare minimum of convenience for consumers. A pin-pad, a couple of pumps, and a canopy overhead are the most you can expect. As physical touch points go on the customer journey, these need to be improved to cater to the needs of drivers – today and tomorrow.
So, how does a well-established brand like Neste re-engineer a commuter’s customer journey, ensuring both the physical – and the digital – touchpoints continue to deliver value while reacting and adapting to a changing world? The idea of Easy Deli is born.
Easy Deli Facts
Client: Neste Markkinointi Oy
San Francisco Design Team: Oona Colliander, Jutta Menestrina (freelancer), Sisse Collander (freelancer), Camilo Hidalgo (freelancer)
Construction and materials: Markku Heinonen (Tammiston Puu)
Planning permissions: Timo Vienamo (MK2)
Location: Kirkkotie 2, Vantaa
Building year: 2018
Scalable service – individual connection
The brief received from Neste operated on multiple levels. The guiding concept for this project was to find out if it was possible to create a space that feels welcoming for customers – even in the absence of friendly personnel. The key Neste brand values of safety and sustainability were chosen as guiding principles for all design work.
In practical terms, this self-contained space had to house five produce vending machines from Rivender, a Paulig Dias automatic coffee machine, and supporting equipment such as compressors, servers, refrigeration, water supply, maintenance access, and security infrastructure.
The initial location for the space was to be on Kirkkotie in Siltamäki, Helsinki. However, the aim was to deploy the space in multiple locations in the future, meaning all of the above had to be housed within a footprint that easily fitted onto the back of a flatbed truck and met road transportation regulations. Finally, the space had to meet all safety, accessibility and hygiene requirements pertinent to customer service environments.
Reflecting Neste brand values
With this brief, we quickly came to realize a space designed to fit into the local environment – that had to also work in multiple locations – had to draw from natural thematic elements that can be found wherever unmanned filling stations are located. In an ideal world, blue skies and lush vegetation would make Neste’s primary color palette of vivid greens and blues an obvious choice for branding and design. Weather, however, is rarely that reliable!
We instead focused on two key environmental elements: the wind, and the cars that pass by. The wind is constant, it exists everywhere. Unmanned filling stations are also invariably located near main thoroughfares, so a stream of red and white lights is always close at hand. From these two elements, the idea of a kinetic installation was born – something unique and surprising that connected the car lights and the wind.
We decided to pay homage to one of the great Finnish contributions to automotive safety – the safety reflector. In the end, we created an installation on the external walls of the newly-named Easy Deli that housed 17 thousand aluminum discs the exact dimensions of safety reflectors. These discs flutter in the breeze, evoking road safety reflectors but gently reflecting ambient light. The end result was an iconic installation that acted as a local landmark, visible and recognizable from a 360-degree field of view, but also one that limited visual distractions from reflected light and kept drivers safe.
Bringing the outdoors inside
In terms of safety, comfort, and warmth, traditional petrol station interiors tend to fail. Early on in the design process good customer experience was prioritized, the importance of a space that didn’t feel industrial, cold, and claustrophobic was underlined. Easy Deli had to feel safe to enter, particularly when unmanned, so customers will feel welcome and at ease.
The full-length window that spans the length of Easy Deli gives customers a panoramic view of the outer courtyard and the inner door at the same time, negating feelings of unease and isolation that come from limited lines of sight. In addition, the vending machines inside Easy Deli are staggered, ensuring customers have a view of the main window and outside courtyard at all times.
In terms of materials, the entire Easy Deli structure is fabricated from cross-laminated, 100% ecologically-sustainable Finnish pine and conifer panels produced by Tammiston Puu in Hinnerjoki. The structural integrity of this material means that aside from the windows, the entire 50m2 Easy Deli structure was built from a total of 30 cubic meters of sustainable wood sources.
Wood is also a warm material. Its smell, its tactile and acoustic properties evoke a calm, organic space, bringing elements of nature inside and creating a welcoming atmosphere – even when operating industrial vending machines. Finally, we chose soft, natural lighting to bring further warmth to the space, keeping clear of the harsh artificial lighting common to petrol station interiors across the world.
The journey so far…
This first Easy Deli prototype is designed to disrupt the traditional behavior of motorists using unmanned filling stations. A blend of service design, lean methodology, and agile development was used throughout the project’s development, and the true test will start when Neste listens to the customers, gathers feedback, and further develops this concept.
Despite the explosion in digital services, physical customer touchpoints remain an integral part of any customer journey and brand communication. It is of note that Neste wants to develop their own services and business models with these design methods in mind. Many pairs of hands helped build a tactile space that will pass under the hands of many Neste customers. The smiles of the designers and builders have imprinted the space with its warmth, its humanity, and its welcoming feel.
Key PR figures on the pilot station of Siltamäki
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