‘We have thousands of digital screens around the US’
By Rajiv Raghunath - November 06, 2023
US-based Volta Charging operates 3,000+ EV chargers in 32 states and territories with over 5,800 DOOH screens that deliver more than 1 billion impressions every month. Brandt Hastings, President & CEO, Volta Charging talks about the company’s business journey in an interview with Rajiv Raghunath.
Volta Charging had introduced EV charging stations several years before the world started to root for e-mobility. Would you reckon the headstart in this business has worked well for Volta?
Electric vehicles were a futuristic concept when Volta started more than a decade ago. Even just five years ago, a Tesla would drive down the street and all the heads would turn. As a public EV charging network, this meant that Volta’s growth could not be dependent on charging alone — there simply weren’t enough EVs on the road ten years ago to pay for this infrastructure.
The need to build chargers ahead of mass EV adoption is why Volta developed our unique model that combines public EV charging with an impactful digital media network. By not having to wait on EV adoption, over the last ten years, Volta has been able to install more than 3,000 chargers in 32 states and territories with over 5,800 DOOH screens that deliver more than 1 billion impressions every month.
At the very outset, the Volta business model was based on monetisation of the assets through DOOH advertising revenues. Were there any initial challenges in attracting advertisers to this format?
From day one, Volta has been focused on building high-quality media placements for advertisers — they just happen to be on EV chargers! Early on, we asked ourselves, “Where are the best places to install our dual EV chargers and media screens in order to reach and influence shoppers and also offer drivers a convenient charging experience?” The answer is in the front of parking lots and in busy downtown districts, near the entrances of grocery stores, shopping centres, pharmacies, and entertainment venues. Over the past decade, we’ve been very intentional about securing these prime locations — they are the best for advertisers, drivers, and the site hosts.
When I visit local grocery stores in my EV, I get a front-row parking spot and Volta’s digital screens are the last thing every shopper sees before walking through the entrance, grabbing a cart, and checking off their list. The location of Volta’s media network, steps away from the front doors of popular destinations, allows advertisers to reach these shoppers in that final phase of their purchase journey — a critical moment for influencing a consumer.
Today, we have thousands of digital screens around the United States, but we’ve never lost that focus on the quality of Volta’s media inventory because we know how important it is for advertisers. Vistar, a programmatic marketplace for digital out-of-home media, included Volta in its recently-released Vistar Verify program, which is like the Good Housekeeping Seal for the industry.
Are your EV charging assets all located near retail outlets?
Volta’s EV chargers, which are equipped with 55-inch digital media screens, are located near the front entrances of popular destinations and in commercial city centres. Think about the places we all frequent — grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, restaurants, sporting arenas. These are all places where you can find Volta chargers and media screens.
These prime locations make it incredibly easy for EV drivers to locate chargers and recharge as they go about their weekly routines and out for meals or to entertainment venues.
Today, as we look at the forecasts for EV sales growth, do you see a commensurate opportunity for expanding the Volta Charging DOOH networks? And would you be looking at markets outside of the US?
Public EV chargers are critical infrastructure for drivers, so as more EVs are on the road, more chargers are needed. This is especially true as we look at people who live in cities or in multi-family buildings — they often don’t have the ability to charge at home and will rely entirely on public chargers. To help meet these demands for additional charges, Volta intends to continue to ramp up installations.
As Volta’s charging network expands, so too will our media network. As our media network grows, we will keep focusing on high-quality media placements — we want to continue driving measurable impact for advertisers by reaching shoppers when it matters most.
Are there any audience metrics to highlight the attractiveness of your DOOH networks for brand advertising?
Our network of over 5,800 digital screens delivers over 1 billion impressions monthly, as measured by Geopath. This volume of impressions makes Volta’s digital out-of-home screens attractive to advertisers looking to grow awareness or consideration for their brands. But the unique locations of our screens — steps away from the front entrances of stores and in front of popular entertainment venues — also makes Volta valuable to brands looking to drive sales at those locations.
Volta has invested significantly in onboarding a suite of third-party data and attribution providers who can measure the full-funnel impact of a Volta campaign from brand awareness and website traffic to in-store sales and incremental return-on-ad-spend. Volta’s ability to meaningfully drive bottom-of-the-funnel results was best demonstrated through a recent campaign for Dole. Working with a shopper intelligence platform, Catalina, Volta revealed our ability to deliver an 8% sales lift for Dole’s products and increase category share for the brand by 8.5%.
Is there any visible change in your business approach since the takeover by Shell?
Volta became a member of the Shell Group in March 2023. Volta’s leading role in destination charging complements Shell’s broader charging strategy, which is designed to offer customers accessible and convenient charging at a variety of businesses, including Shell-branded retail sites, consumer destinations, and EV charging hubs across North America.
As it relates to Volta’s media network, Shell sees enormous potential to both expand our advertising model into new markets and to incorporate it into their existing offerings to Shell Recharge customers.