It’s the start of a new decade, and operators in the convenience services industry have more tools than ever to efficiently run their businesses. With increasing competition from convenience stores, automated grocery stores and delivery services, successful operators have to do more than simply meet their clients’ needs — they must exceed them.
365 Retail Markets develops innovative technology and tailored solutions to help operators achieve this goal. Ed Chapel, Chief Revenue Officer of 365 Retail Markets, gives Automatic Merchandiser/VendingMarketWatch.com readers a sneak peek into what to expect from the company for 2020. (Hint: It’s a busy year for 365!)
What new products or technology does 365 plan to introduce in 2020?
We have a new brand of products coming out called PicoMarket, which is a family of products. The first product within the PicoMarket line that we will release is PicoCooler, which affixes to a Minus Forty cooler and allows controlled access to that cooler. It's a payment and loyalty device; all payments can be accepted — NFC, Apple Pay, Google Pay. It also has a screen for digital advertising content, operator feedback and menu items, and it has a scanner and a camera. It's like a very small MicroMarket — that's why we call it PicoMarket. It’s just attached to a cooler for controlled access.
We've had ongoing beta customers going through testing for three to four months, and general availability is planned for March. [The PicoMarket] was initially introduced at NAMA last year as "coming soon”. We have many orders lined up for operators. We’re just thorough in field testing to release it properly for our operators and their clients.
The follow up product is PicoVend, with a targeted release later in the year, timeframe TBD. It's essentially the same intuitive awesome product for a vending machine.
How do these products help operators in convenience services meet the needs of their clients?
What the Pico does — the PicoCooler specifically — is that it allows operators to be creative and customize their approach with their clients. There are so many use cases for the PicoCooler as we've socialized it with operators; everybody comes back with another answer of how else it can be used. You can have drinks, sandwiches, salads, candy bars — you can have multiple items within the same cooler, so it allows you to get more creative in your product mix. It also gives an opportunity for OCS routes to add food, in a cooler and/or a rack next to it, to their coffee and water services. So many opportunities!
What industry trends do you expect to be impactful for MicroMarkets in 2020? How can operators prepare for these trends?
As the industry gets better at MicroMarkets, smaller markets become more attractive because there are just so many more of them. It’s not that we’re saturated with larger markets, but our technology and price points help operators execute now on many levels, so there's that many more smaller markets available. We continue to see the trend of smaller markets — hence the nanomarket™ a few years ago — and now the PicoMarket.
What we're also seeing, in a larger company or a headquarters for a company, is that they’ll have a nice big break room and then multiple floors with some vending near the elevator entrances and in other corners of the building. What we have found is now some operators are transitioning to using a cooler or a rack with a nanomarket, soon a PicoCooler.
You don't have to have a kiosk; you can have what we call a Beacon-only market. The Beacon is small device that plugs into a wall in a 110 outlet, and it emits a Bluetooth [wave] about a 180-degree spread along the wall and a 20-foot beam. So, you can walk into that Bluetooth area and it will automatically recognize you with your 365Pay app. You just pick up the items from the rack or from the cooler and scan it with your phone. For a minimal amount of money, you can have a mini MicroMarket for mobile app users.
In 2019, 365 acquired Company Kitchen, expanding the dining technologies offered. How will this play out in 2020?
It’s going to be a major factor in 2020 and beyond for 365. We will incorporate the dining technologies and features of Company Kitchen into our current dining platform and we'll build out our 365Dining platform to offer additional cashier-less functionality, which is what Company Kitchen technology is known for. They do self-service dining better than anybody, and with a superior user experience — their UI is very strong and very content-rich – with a robust Kitchen Management System (KMS). They have both mobile and web order-ahead capabilities as well.
On the back-office side, they have a very deep nutritional analysis system that's important for the industry that's integrated into major food providers via an EDI interface. It also has deep reporting and analytics specific to foodservice management requirements.
The industry is also moving into these larger areas with a hybrid café and market approach — larger markets and cafes that are blended. I might have a self-checkout dining kiosk for dining, and then I might have a MicroMarket near or inside of it so I can get my convenience items. So, we're seeing a lot more hybrid type operations.
Last year, 365 expanded into three new countries - Germany, France and Spain. Do you have any further plans for international expansion in 2020?
Prior to 2019, we were already in Canada, UK, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland. In 2019, we added Germany, France, Spain and Netherlands. So far in 2020, we plan on adding Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Mexico. We'll add countries based on customer demand. Once you go global, you can't go back!
Is there anything else you'd like to share about the year ahead?
Yes, with 365Dining and the hybrid market approach, let’s say a company has vending, dining and MicroMarkets, we can help streamline their business with one backend system, one loyalty platform and one overall payment partner. This opens so many possibilities to more effectively and efficiently engage directly with your consumers to cross sell, increase repeat visits and revenue by offering promotions, loyalty or healthy rewards, bundling, coupons, gift passes, extensive digital advertising capabilities and everything else that goes along with that. So, one platform with one user experience through one market account, one loyalty system, one backend system and one set of interfaces that creates extensive consumer engagement capabilities. This is a trend we're seeing and 365 is the solution.