There has not been an industry or business unperturbed by the challenges of the past year, and there has been no set way of determining the impact these challenges have had or might have on a company or industry of any size. Although very few of us were able to attend a live music or sporting event last year, we could explore our local neighbourhoods. And for many of us, that meant ‘discovering’ and supporting independent local businesses, like bakeries and coffee shops, which saw a 28.6% growth, compared to 2019.
However, the experience of the food and beverage industry offers only one perspective of an entire landscape. With small businesses making up 99% of the entire UK business population, and over half of annual turnover, both larger and smaller companies alike have had to navigate the transition to an online business model and remote ways of working.
Operational efficiencies are front of mind for any business owner, so the need for effective, scaleable solutions to support operations, is essential. Providing end-to-end solutions that support the size and requirements of our customers’ businesses is central to our activity at Shell Fleet Solutions UK.
Although our fuel card customers vary from hundred-strong commercial fleets to sole-traders with a single-vehicle, generating cost savings and reducing administration time is a key priority for many of them. This is where Shell Fleet App, our new fuel card management app for UK business owners with up to ten vehicles*, can help. We created the app with convenience in mind, as according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses, small business owners spend nearly a quarter of working hours dealing with internal administration, and 67% feel they are unable to focus on their primary business purpose because of this.
Shell Fleet App helps users to streamline administration by consolidating transactions, for up to ten vehicles* into a single, monthly payment, with downloadable VAT compliant invoices, allowing small business owners to easily keep track of their fuel spending and helping simplify tax reporting and recovery. In the current climate, cost-savings and cash-flow play an essential role in improving operational efficiency. Shell Fleet App’s ‘drive-now-pay-later’ feature offers our customers fuel credit at over 3,800 service stations across the UK and allows them to allocate spend limits and keep track of driver spending, which could help users to save up to £70 per month on their fuel spend. Many of our small business customers undertake a number of different positions across their business, so it was essential that we developed a tool that could help to reduce administrative pressure, so that customers could focus on their core business operations.
Although we still face a period of uncertainty, the fact that two-thirds of small business owners feel confident about the year ahead, certainly makes me feel positive about recovery.
For many of our customers, an operational shift has also allowed them to reflect on longer term business objectives such as sustainability goals. In 2020, the UK saw more electric vehicle sales than ever before, with battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles experiencing a 10.7% growth in market share. To me, this highlights two important trends:
- Businesses and consumers have used this period to accelerate long-term plans for lower-carbon operations
- A growing consumer understanding of the feasibility of EVs, and the availability of charging infrastructure from both drivers and businesses alike.
For many small business owners, home is the central hub of their operations. This means more flexible and scaleable EV-charging solutions are required, to suit the needs of smaller businesses. With this in mind, working with NewMotion, a member of the Shell group, we provide 22KW home and office EV charge points, which are compatible with most electric car types. And, to ensure that our customers and their drivers feel confident that they can charge their vehicles wherever they are, they now have access to over 3,000 charge points across our Shell and NewMotion public charging network while on-the-go.
For many businesses, EV adoption is a longer-term goal, and we want to provide our customers with immediate solutions that allow them to start their journey to a lower carbon future, today. Our telematics offering, for example, helps customers reduce vehicle carbon emissions with data-led operational insights such as vehicle idle time, fuel economy, and route-optimisation, helping to drive more efficient operations. And, to help businesses to balance their harder-to-avoid emissions, our carbon offsetting programme allows customers to offset the emissions from their fuel purchases with carbon credits from nature-based projects, which help to protect and restore CO2 absorbing natural ecosystems.
As we move forward, I hope we start to see business owners relish adaptability as a core value for businesses of all sizes. And across all industries we recognise that businesses are experiencing similar challenges, but on different scales, so it’s essential that solutions are built to adjust accordingly.
This article comes courtesy of Sarah Llewelyn, head of Shell Fleet Solutions UK . As an end-to-end solutions provider, Shell Fleet Solutions helps businesses to maximise efficiency, productivity and security, while driving sustainability forward, and works with customers to meet their goals and keep pace in an ever-evolving industry.
* The Shell Fleet App is currently in use for businesses with up to ten vehicles. Businesses and fleets with more than ten vehicles should visit the Shell website to speak to an expert about services available to them.
4 *Standard diesel only. Applicable to limited company (for >1 year) account holders only. Based on 3 ppl discount on each litre purchased at Shell at 2020 average Shell pump price (£1.2198ppl) and use of maximum credit limit of £3000/month. Comparison with same purchases at same locations without the discount. Excludes card fees..