2021 Outlook: 365 Retail Market’s Pico Platform Offers Convenience Services Technology for the Future

Nov. 4, 2020

The year 2020 has been a challenging one for operators in convenience services. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the entire industry, causing lockdowns and safer-at-home measures across the country, resulting in reduced revenues for many operators — and their clients — amid a struggling economy.

Despite the many negative effects of COVID-19, the rising consumer demand for unattended retail, contactless payments, and access to high-quality, affordable and convenient food and beverage options has accelerated the adoption of innovative technologies in this industry. 365 Retail Markets has been a leader among technology suppliers in this space, bolstering current offerings and launching new products to meet the ever changing needs of consumers.  

“We were very fortunate to have begun some of these projects in 2019, not knowing how timely and impactful they would become once released this year,” explained Ryan McWhirter, 365’s vice president of product management. “The 365Pay app, which I call the ‘Swiss Army Knife of the convenience services industry,’ has always had industry leading scan-and-pay functionality for micro markets, where the consumer can simply use their smartphone camera to scan barcodes — or press buttons on screen — and pay with their Global Market Account.”

McWhirter said that 365 has expanded capabilities beyond the micro market for the 365Pay app, including enabling the app to allow users to order ahead from a cafeteria and for touchless coffee service. The company plans to release a touchless vending capability later this month.

365 Retail Markets also launched its 365Pico Platform earlier this year. As the company’s smallest, most versatile technology, the Pico Platform can be used in multiple locations, providing point-of-sale solutions for operators offering vending, micro markets and office coffee service (OCS).

“We began the journey to build Pico 18 months before the pandemic,” McWhirter said. “Pico was intended to be a successor to our popular AirVend line of cashless vending devices and bring our offering up to 4G (and it is as PicoVend). That said, when we got Pico into the lab, we didn’t just see a cashless bezel, we saw the potential to create a brand new type of product the industry had been asking for, what we call PicoCooler.”

PicoCooler, a high-tech, secure cooler with a quick and easy self-checkout system, enables operators to offer a controlled access solution that can merchandise products with a higher price point, such as fresh food like sushi.

“Products like these do not fit in a traditional vending spiral, nor would most consumers tell you they enjoy fresh food out of a vending machine even if they did,” McWhirter noted. “That’s where PicoCooler changes the game for our industry. In the same footprint as a traditional vending machine, with nothing but a power outlet needed form the client, operators can merchandise fresh food and beverages together for less than the cost of most vending machines today.”

McWhirter said that since PicoCooler is part of the 365 Connected Campus(SM), operators can easily manage promotions, loss prevention, reporting and more alongside their current micro market accounts. He’s seen several operators use the PicoCooler to complement a larger micro market or to serve other areas of a workplace outside of the break room, bringing food and beverage options closer to the people who want to buy them.

Other products offered within the Pico Platform include the PicoMarket, a compact checkout solution that brings convenience to smaller locations that can also streamline checkout in larger micro markets; PicoVending, which attaches directly to a vending machine and accepts a variety of payment options and can be used to display product and nutritional information for customers to review prior to purchase; and PicoCoffee, which fits on brewing machines to enable cashless payments for OCS.

In March, 365 built a partnership with coffee equipment manufacturer BUNN to ensure the company could support touchless payment solutions on brewing machines.

“We knew that even in free vend mode, operators did not want to have to message different ways to vend coffee versus buying other products in the 365Pay app,” McWhirter said. “BUNN was among the first to release their VirtualTouch API, a feature they employ to let a consumer make a touchless selection on a mobile website they host. 365 was able to embed that same VirtualTouch experience into the 365Pay app and add the ability for consumers to pay using their Global Market Account all in one seamless and touchless interaction.”

The VirtualTouch works with the 365Beacon, which transmits to the 365Pay app that a BUNN machine is in range, revealing the coffee machine path in the app to create a tailored, effortless experience for consumers.

McWhirter noted that 365 is just getting started with Pico and that the company foresees more innovative applications that will continue to take the convenience services industry in exciting directions for years to come. He also sees a silver lining of the pandemic that could benefit operators for years to come.

“I think everyone has learned to be more adaptable than ever, and to be adaptable you need to have a versatile set of tools at your disposal to pivot in any direction,” he remarked. “I also think we have learned, as an industry, that not all clients are the same in the way they respond and adapt themselves. In a strange way, I think COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for operators to reengage with their clients and demonstrate their commitment to excellence like never before.”

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s up to each operator to take what they’ve learned and utilize the tools at their disposal to prepare for a year of recovery — and, ideally, growth — in 2021.


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Product Guide

365 Retail Markets

July 16, 2012
365 Retail Markets is the global leader of self-service convenience technologies and strategic partnerships with foodservice operators worldwide. 365's combination of micro market...