Technology’s triple threat; we have an exciting future

Very few business owners have the time to keep up with the technology tools coming on the market, both industry specific tools such as DEX-based products or more generic things like smart phones and tablets.

In vending and refreshment services, only a fraction of companies are large enough to hire someone with information technology expertise. So in October of 2011, we suggested organizing technology projects within the scope of a customer relations plan. The idea being that every role and tool employed in our industry impacts customer relations in some manner.

In designing a successful customer relations plan, operators need to recognize all the ways technology is changing their market.

Operators have historically focused on the operational benefits that technology offers. These are the most obvious benefits, and the tools continue to evolve.

Bigger changes coming

But beyond operations, big changes are coming on the marketing front with tools such as mobile payment, social media, video touchscreens and more. All types of retailers are using such tools to take e-commerce to a new level.

On page 12, we examine what steps are being taken to allow the vending industry to be part of this revolution.

But there is still a third area by which technology is changing the world as we have known it, and it will impact vending as much as anything else: customer engagement.

Social media, in concert with video touchscreens and smart phones, creates a new and engaging point of contact experience for consumers.

Engage the consumer

Last month, VendingMarketWatch carried a series of podcast interviews with consultant Paul Schlossberg, who described some revolutionary developments at the Consumer Engagement Technology World Expo in New York City. Coca-Cola Co. and Aramark were among the presenters. The key takeaway was that technology that allows consumers to engage with electronic content creates a new consumer experience.

Within any selling venue, be it vending, brick and mortar retail or over the Internet, a marketer can engage the customer in a more intimate way than before. Hence, technology advances retailing in three distinct areas: 1) operations, 2) marketing/merchandising, and 3) consumer engagement.

If we stop and consider the most technologically advanced vending machines introduced in the past two years, we see they deliver in all three of these areas. I’m talking about the Kraft diji touch machine, the Coke Interactive Vendor and The Pepsi Social Vending Machine. All deliver operationally, marketing wise and consumer engagement wise.

As operators review their business plans for the coming year, they need to consider how the market is changing and how their businesses must change to meet new market realities. By having a plan that outlines the company’s goals and how it will meet them, an operator will better identify the skill sets needed.

For those of us who choose to participate, we’re living in very exciting times.