'V-Engineering' Part 3: How technology will impact and alter consumer purchasing in the future

Marketing has evolved. Already we’ve seen the promotions from newspapers and magazines evolve for television, and then change further for use with search engines and social media sites. Now marketing messages to the consumer have transitioned into mobile devices. Smart-devices, like the iPhone, Android phone and Blackberry, have access to application software (apps) capable of immediately impacting and altering consumer purchase behavior, especially at various point-of-sale locations, like vending machines and markets.

Location-based services

Among the most popular mobile device app downloads are location-based services (LBS); software capable of creating commercial touchpoints that otherwise would not exist. Simply stated, a LBS app enables a user to search and locate registered sites, as well as receive promotional sales incentives from those sites, based on proximity, product offerings or past product purchases. In the case of vending, for example, a location-based service is under developmental consideration that will enable a consumer to find the nearest vending machine offering a category of products desired (e.g. snack foods, cold beverages, hot beverages, frozen treats, etc.).

Increase reach with geo-fencing

Geo-fencing is defined as a push technology that enables an entity (e.g. vending machine) to broadcast digital messages when a mobile device has been carried into an active signal area or a time-sensitive sales campaign has been invoked. Simply stated, geo-fencing creates a virtual area around a particular location or object. When a consumer’s recognized mobile device enters this area, a pre-determined, proximity-based message can be “pushed” to the device. It is important to note that the consumer’s device needs to be registered to serve as a push target.

A push service can be activated by an event (e.g. consumer arrives in a targeted area) or be a dynamic, time-dependent promotion (e.g. for the next 30 minutes a second purchase at any vending machine will be 15 cents off). Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, is credited with being among the first business to use push-based promotions to notify consumers when they are in close proximity to a store. The notice might contain a mobile discount, reward points bonus or other promotional gains.

QR codes engage consumers

Quick response (QR) codes can be useful for engaging a consumer as well as product information. QR codes can also offer machine monitoring. (See sidebar.)

QR codes can be placed on each product, or displayed on a video screen, for product merchandising and promotion as well as product nutrient and ingredient disclosure. Impending government regulations related to calorie disclosure may be satisfied through QR linkage to a mobile Webpage.

As more sophisticated applications are developed, vending equipment will likely display a concierge type list of products not available from the actual machine, but through online sales. The consumer could place a remote purchase through the use of a QR code at the vending machine, pay and expect delivery to a specified address sometime later.

Measuring digital marketing

When trying to sell to the consumer, the most valuable content is analytics. Dynamic digital messaging requires content that is current, relevant and most importantly, engaging. Particular attention must be given to its message (i.e. content, style and special effects). The impact can be measured through a correlation between a playlist audit (content menu) and sales data (purchase transactions). A positive correlation indicates an effective impact profile; while a negative correlation means the content likely did not influence consumer purchase behavior.

Targeted promotions

Intelligent marketing refers to the ability to provide relevant messaging to a consumer based on analytical profiling. Sophisticated vending applications include a machine mounted camera capable of ‘anonymous analytics,’ meaning that the gender, age, time of day and product selection behavior of a consumer can be captured at the point of purchase. Some applications also claim to be capable of deciphering the consumer’s mood at the time of purchase. These consumer analytics can be included in a search engine capability that will filter offerings or reduce the product choices available, based on what is deemed most appropriate for a specific class of consumer at a particular time of day (e.g. woman in her late 40s at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon at the vending machine).

Mobile devices have changed the way retailers go to market, and vending is no exception. With upcoming applications that allow consumers and the vending machine to engage each other with targeted promotions, the vending industry will have a new and exciting future.