Editor’s Note: The following report was provided by Paul Schlossberg, president of D/FW Consulting in Goshen, N.Y.
Jeff Busch, director of foodservice and on-premise equipment commercialization– Coca-Cola North America, presented a session at the Consumer Engagement Technology World session at the Javits Convention Center in New York City recently. Titled “Upgrading Your Customer Experience Through Self-Service Equipment,” Busch noted Coca-Cola has over 1,000,000 vending machines globally delivering 24/7 customer experiences in many locations.
Today, it’s as simple as, “Insert money; Hit button; Get a drink.” The Coca-Cola Interactive Vendor is the newest part of the Coca-Cola vending machine line-up by adding a more engaging level of consumer interaction to the vending experience. This exciting machine has been on display at the NAMA OneShow. Busch described it as “…a unique and reliable experience to (continue to) establish Coca-Cola vending machines as consumer destinations.”
Think about that, a vending machine as a destination shopping point. That is something special.
The Coca-Cola Interactive Vendor has four separate sections on the 46-inch interactive Samsung screen. First is a dynamic media section – designed to be a media asset for brand and location-related communications. Second is the vending section – where consumers can access product information and ultimately make a purchase. Third is the APP section – with portals to find information or link to more details about promotional deals and special offers. Fourth and finally is the static section where there is a fixed message about the brand(s) and/or the location.
Coca-Cola has been deploying the interactive vending machines across the country. They have learned important lessons from this test period. Specifically:
1) Consumers are smart. There were too many “how-to” instructions in the initial interface. People learned, quickly and intuitively, how to use the machine interface.
2) Customization is the key. Allowing a foundation for customer locations to provide custom content specifically for consumers is preferred.
3) Simple. Simple. Simple. All communication is wireless using a PC and aircard. Consumer communications can be updated almost immediately. This allows for fast set-up. Initially the route teams were being asked to do too many data-driven steps at the machine. That has been fixed by allowing a much more flexible internal platform so that the process can be adapted as the staff learns the machines.
4) Smartphones rule. That is how people, especially teens, would like to deal with the machines.
5) Minimize the clutter. Keep the interface clean, clear, direct and, of course, simple.
6) Everything is focused on one thing – “Refreshing the consumer in an engaging way.”
7) Vending can become a destination. This leads to the next step – expanding functionality to provide additional consumer touch points such as social media connections and on-going loyalty programs.
8) The primary opportunities for deployment will be highly public sites with consistent high traffic – especially young people. The initial test was at shopping malls. In the future will be colleges and other venues which maximize exposure to the prime target groups.
These developments “needed to happen in vending,” according to Busch. There are still challenges to address for the future. One issue is how to deal with queuing at the machines if it creates a (long) line and delays shoppers waiting to get a cold drink. Busch was asked about the new fountain unit, the Coca-Cola Freestyle, and whether it would be offered as a vending machine. He said that Coca-Cola “continues to explore opportunities to refresh the consumer at vending and maximize the consumer experience”.