A Look Ahead

Dec. 13, 2019

At this time last year, former Automatic Merchandiser editor Emily Refermat called 2018 “the year of acquisitions, mergers and consolidation” among operators and suppliers, citing several notable moves across the industry. However, 2019 may be more difficult to define.

For our annual forecast on the future of convenience services, we asked industry experts, including our editorial advisory board, how operators can best prepare for success in 2020. Unsurprisingly, technology will continue to play a large role. Last year’s conversation involved implementing technology to increase connectivity, effectively laying the groundwork for this year’s hot topic: consumer data. Now that many operators have technology in place to collect consumer data, they can use information gleaned from customers’ buying habits to engage with end users and offer customized shopping experiences. This helps foster loyalty with consumers and increase sales, making a big impact on your bottom line.

Like last year, our sources advised operators to consider alternative revenue streams beyond food and beverage items to compete with outsiders — convenience stores, delivery services, specialty grocers — who are encroaching into convenience services’ space. Competition may be high, but as an operator, you have an advantage by already having a footprint in locations where you can easily reach your consumers. What else can you do with that space, and where can you expand?

The better-for-you movement shows no signs of slowing down. NAMA recently announced its public health initiative to increase the availability of products sold in vending machines that meet nationally recognized public health standards, and operators continue to offer more better-for-you items in micro markets and vending. But, as discussed in our micro market trends feature in the October/November issue, operators still need to carry the traditional snacks, foods and beverages customers know and love, which means managing a larger, more diverse inventory of products to meet consumer demands.

Office coffee service (OCS) — and the rapidly growing pantry service — continues to thrive with a large number of employers offering premium beverages and services to their employees. At NAMA’s Coffee Tea & Water Show (CTW), we learned about some of the hottest products hitting the OCS channel. See page 10 for more. And of course, the last issue of the year features our annual Pros To Know Awards, where we recognize industry professionals who continue to raise the bar. Curious to see who made the list? Flip to page 12.