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EV charging stations & digital signage: A guide to EV place-based advertising

Electric charging stations are becoming big business, and while there is ample opportunity available today, a steep increase in competition and a need to differentiate from other players in the space are key challenges for new and established networks alike. To succeed, charging networks must find ways to draw in new customers and gain their loyalty, and one of the best ways to do so is to layer additional functionality on top of the chargers themselves.

Increasingly, the route taken by forward-looking EV charging businesses is to pair their charging stations equipped with digital displays that can display ads and other visual content. These displays offer the perfect place to advertise to climate-conscious consumers, and digital out-of-home (DOOH) media is proving to be an increasingly effective form of advertising in the face of diminishing online display ad returns. Buyer demand for DOOH is only going up.

Whether the advertisement is for a partner brand, retail stores in the surrounding area, or the company that owns the charging station, digital signage on EV charging stations creates the potential for increased revenue and can be used to offer audiences a personalized guest service experience from the moment they step out of their car. Consumers today expect to be served a constant stream of fresh, contextually-relevant content on-demand—and outdoor signage on EV charging stations provide the perfect opportunity to accomplish this.  

In this article, we’ll explain why EV charging stations are desirable locations for outdoor ad placement and how digital displays can be used to further monetize your network of chargers. That way, you can get up to speed on this exciting opportunity and start leveraging everything this powerful pairing has to offer.

Are EV charging stations profitable? The challenges of monetizing electric charging stations

With electric vehicles taking over the world of mobility, the race is on to build a network of conveniently-located charging stations to keep those cars running. But while the environmental benefits of “going electric ” are clear, the economic benefits related to installing (and maintaining) charging stations are less obvious. 

For starters, there’s often not a whole lot of money to be made purely from selling electricity to drivers. Most EV owners tend to charge their vehicles at home, where overnight electricity costs can dip as low as 2 to 4 cents per mile of driving, or at their place of work. In other words, they tend to choose charging locations based on convenience. Because of this, EV charging companies vying for these drivers’ business need to offer convenient charging locations and relatively low prices in order to stay competitive. Similar to gas stations, which actually make most of their profits in their on-site convenience stores, EV charging stations must contend with low profit margins on the sale of their (supposedly) primary product.

Another reason monetization of EV charging stations has historically been challenging: many of the policies designed to drive EV adoption to date have relied on significant fiscal incentives to sell customers on the concept and convince them to take the plunge. In addition to instituting purchase subsidies and tax rebates for EV owners, many governments are subsidizing the creation of EV infrastructure to ensure the availability of convenient and affordable publicly accessible chargers. 

While this type of government intervention can help offset one-time equipment and installation costs, it doesn’t cover maintenance and other incidental costs of ownership. Commercial chargers are typically self-service devices, meaning they require services—network connection, payment processing—that come with additional costs. In short, owners of commercial EV chargers must eventually find a self-sustaining way to generate a profit.

That being said, with more and more electric vehicles on the road, there’s now so much demand for the service that opening a new EV charging station is easier than ever. But in the midst of many unresolved regulatory and public policy issues, savvy business owners are realizing that the true money-making potential of EV charging stations lies not in the transactional delivery of electricity, but in their ability to reach a wide audience and engage meaningfully with consumers as they go about their daily lives.

The promise of advertising on EV charging stations

At the same time that EV adoption rates are thriving and the number of EV charging stations is rising, marketers are looking for new ways to engage consumers with contextually relevant ad content. 

Cutting through the clutter of highly trafficked digital channels is more challenging than ever, and the demise of third-party cookies will soon put an end to the highly personalized digital ads many marketers have come to rely on. In response, brands are turning to alternative channels like DOOH placements to reach their target audience. One such out-of-home placement that’s proving to be exceptionally promising is electric vehicle charging stations.

EV charging stations equipped with full screen digital displays offer new opportunities for reaching consumers where they shop, dine, and go to be entertained. Not only are EV owners a highly desirable demographic in terms of disposable income—according to a 2021 survey, most EV owners have an average household annual income of $125,000 to $150,000—but consumers at large have become ‘greener’ in their purchasing in recent years, with more than 50% of the general population saying they’d be more interested in doing business with a company that commits to sustainability efforts. 

Brands see advertising on EV charging stations as an opportunity to engage with a large audience of potential customers as they go about their day-to-day; moreover, the placements can lead to a positive association by any climate-conscious consumers who are exposed to the ads, whether they’re EV owners or simply mall patrons walking past one of the chargers in the parking lot. 

Benefits of using EV charging stations for out-of-home advertising

At the same time as brands are seeking out new methods for engaging with a progressively climate-conscious consumer audience, the increasing popularity of electric vehicles has created a unique opportunity for companies to innovate around the infrastructure that will power them. 

By leveraging EV charging stations’ convenient locations, place-based digital media can benefit brands and local businesses alike by:

  • Reaching consumers in their communities as they go about their day-to-day
  • Encouraging EV owners to spend time inside businesses in the surrounding area
  • Positively impacting climate-conscious consumers’ perception of advertisers and (brand perception)
  • Generating data-backed insights for partner brands 

1: Influence customers close to the point-of-purchase

One of the biggest challenges faced by marketers today is finding a way to reach their potential customers closer and closer to the point of purchase. Electric vehicle charging stations with digital displays can be used to engage with shoppers at retail and essential business locations shortly before they make a purchase decision. Because of this, ad placements on EV chargers are very valuable to CPG marketers and advertisers looking for new and innovative ways to connect with consumers in a buying mindset.

Advertising on EV charging stations also benefits retailers and other businesses in the surrounding area. In a recent survey, climate-conscious consumers were asked what they would spend more time doing if they knew they were charging their vehicle conveniently: 64% of people said they would spend more time shopping at retail stores and 56% said they would spend more time grocery shopping. 

Conveniently-placed EV charging stations can help attract a new, ‘greener’ client base; connecting a digital display to a charging station builds on this benefit, helping drive traffic to nearby businesses by suggesting somewhere to eat or showing an ad for a cold drink on a hot sunny day. Depending on the software setup, you could even surface relevant content based on the amount of charge time required for a specific vehicle—so if a driver connects an EV with an estimated thirty minutes of charge time, they might see a message proposing they spend that time in a nearby café.

2: Leave a lasting, and positive, impression

Studies have shown there are millions of consumers who would be more likely to engage with a brand that puts sustainability front and center. At the same time, it’s become more difficult to get customers’ attention, with the already oversaturated online space seeing a decrease in the effectiveness of display ads due to “banner blindness” and digital device burnout. Advertising on EV charging stations can be used to address both of these realities: first, by enabling attention-grabbing digital content formats; and second, by creating a positive perception of the brand amongst climate-conscious consumers. 

While it’s become easier for consumers to ignore the constant stream of online ads they’re exposed to each day, out-of-home advertising is actually becoming more effective. People are spending more time commuting—with more workers now doing so via electric vehicles—and are continuing to seek outdoor dining and activities. In a world already cluttered with advertisements, digital outdoor ads provide an opportunity to meaningfully connect with consumers and leave a lasting impression. And with Deloitte predicting that 32% of global new car sales will be electric by 2030, brands that reach consumers on EV charging stations are setting the stage for long term engagement.

In addition to establishing a connection, climate-conscious consumers will have a positive perception of brands that choose to advertise on EV charging stations. Unlike so many other things that can influence ad performance today, such as the weather, the news, and trending social media hashtags, climate change is not a temporary concern; this means that consumers are looking for brands that demonstrate a consistent commitment to long-term positive climate action. Advertising on electric vehicle charging stations creates a unique opportunity for brands to connect with climate-conscious consumers while contributing to an electric future—thus becoming an active part of the climate solution.

3: Maximize profits and defray operational costs 

Remember when we said there’s not a ton of money to be made from the sale of electricity alone? Well, with the rise of digital out-of-home and place-based advertising—and as more CPG and other marketers realize the benefits of advertising on EV charging stations—network owners are now in a unique position to capitalize on this demand. Charging stations with digital displays can bring in additional revenue by serving as a vehicle for advertising; this opens up new opportunities for profitability beyond the sale of electricity, turning EV charging station networks into a real business as opposed to a public utility trying to offset operational and maintenance costs.

The digital displays on the market today are a far cry from the static billboards first seen along interstate highways. In-screen sensors capable of recognizing gesture, environmental changes, and WiFi-enabled mobile devices act as data sources, making it possible to measure the effectiveness of digital out-of-home ads with more accuracy than was previously possible. Anonymized audience data can also be used to deliver messaging that’s tailored to the demographics of the environment in which the charger sits; these types of campaigns offer more granular audience-targeting capabilities, something many advertisers are willing to pay more for because it usually results in better ROI. 

In short, today’s digital displays enable engaging consumer interactions with dynamic content and are crucial for enabling programmatic transactions—all factors that help make advertising on EV charging stations more appealing to CPG marketers and other brands. 

And if you power your displays with a cloud-based software solution specifically designed for digital outdoor advertising, you can use automation to simplify scheduling, enable programmatic selling, and rebalance inventory to accommodate more campaigns—helping you maximize ad profits and optimize messaging delivery across your entire EV charging station network.

Interested in place-based advertising for your EV charging network?

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