Germany’s Oil Majors Adopt New Approaches to Target Core Consumers

By Christian Warning   read

The rise of modern customer segments presents new opportunities for c-store retailers.

May 27, 2020

The main consumer target segment of the oil majors in Germany is the so-called “Performer” or “High Achiever” Sinus-Milieus®. (The German market and social research institute “The Sinus Institute” developed the model of the Sinus-Milieus in the 1980s. The milieus themselves are a division of society, and depending on social status and way of life, people are assigned to a certain Sinus-Milieu.) The model offers a true-to-life image of the sociocultural diversity of the modern world, providing accurate descriptions of people’s attitudes and orientations, values, lifestyles and life goals, and social backgrounds and positions.

The High Achiever milieu represents 8% (5.6 million) of the German-speaking resident population age 14 and older. Analysis of the Sinus-Milieus® for German market leader, Aral (the BP brand in Germany), as well as longtime runner-up Shell and Esso, Jet (the P66 brand in Germany), and Eni reveals that their customer bases all index highest for the High Achiever segment. This segment is described as multi-optional and efficiency-oriented with a global economic mindset. With their competitive attitude and technical and IT affinity, these High Achievers will continue to work from home as they have become accustomed to doing so over the past 10 weeks.

This shift presents numerous opportunities. Convenience retailers now have the chance to serve these consumers in the suburbs more often than before with food-to-go solutions for the lunch daypart. Expect this segment to visit more destinations in tourist regions as they look for getaways from home. Convenience retailers should use this momentum to implement “order and pay” technology because this target group is used to frictionless food-to-go experiences at the casual food brands they frequented as part of their pre-COVID daily routines.

In executing their global convenience partner strategy, BP/Aral is converting its REWE To Go network to the agency system—as Shell once did 20 years ago. With 1,000 Rewe-branded locations and full control of the marketing mix, Aral's competitive pressure will become even stronger. It seems they are well prepared for welcoming their core customers at new locations nationwide. EG group, which bought the Esso network, could be one of the winners, as well, by applying their food-to-go brand dedicated strategy. Shell owns a high proportion of the High Achiever segment at their forecourt initiatives, such as SmartPay with PayPal and their Clubsmart loyalty program. Shell will likely explore a “foodvenience” offer to make sure this customer segment uses Shell as their “go-to” destination for non-fuel occasions, as well.

The Sinus-Milieus® model is continuously adapted to socio-cultural changes. While the proportion of the traditional milieus has been declining for years, we are seeing continuous growth in the modern segment. The quickest to grow are the two future milieus “Cosmopolitan Avantgarde” and “Adaptive Navigators,” with an approach to current day challenges that are indicative of future trends.

The Adaptive Navigators represent the highest index within the Total brand. Total has just implemented a new shop format in Berlin that reflects the persona of this segment—modern, young, center of society with a markedly pragmatic outlook on life. Total is also leading the pack regarding digitization of their German network by using their Wi-Fi infrastructure to create an improved digital customer experience. The brand is positioning itself to run a digital platform and potentially introduce an alternative digital revenue channel through data collection at the point-of-sale (POS).

Christian Warning is founder and managing director of The Retail Marketeers, a Hamburg, Germany-based sales and marketing retail think tank. Christian worked with Royal Dutch/Shell for 13 years in different retail management functions and spearheaded Shell’s billion-dollar non-fuels retail business in Germany. He also developed Germany’s largest c-store franchise chain outside petrol filling stations as a senior manager of Deutsche Bahn/German rail. Christian is the NACS Regional Representative in the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region. 

Questions or comments? Contact Christian at or #NACSGlobal.