The following content originally appeared in issue 60 of Cooler Plus, which you can subscribe to here.
With the majority of consumers using smart phones and social media, it is easier than ever before to measure customer satisfaction. You certainly know very quickly if customers are not happy with the level of service they are receiving, as they’ll share the fact immediately with their friends!
Cooler Plus talked to Vendman managing director Rob Little and asked about how smart phone apps, cashless payments and software is driving the future of vending to ensure great customer service.
What are the key ways in which the use of the correct software by a vending operator can enhance the end-user experience?
There’s an old saying that ‘knowledge is power’. Vending software is designed to give operators ‘chapter and verse’ on every aspect of their operations in real-time: stock control and pricing information, data management; account analysis and route planning. With intelligent and progressive vending control systems in place, operators have the knowledge – the facts – they need, to understand individual customer’s unique requirements thoroughly. It’s by acting upon that information that the end-user experience is enhanced.
Software can flag problems, such as items being out of stock, or machine faults, before the client is aware of them. It puts the operator in control as never before, enabling them to run their businesses more effectively.
What have been the biggest recent breakthroughs in software for vending?
Without question it’s the ability to bring live data to the operator’s dashboard, wherever he or she may be in the world.
Route optimisation software allows managers to allocate resources more effectively than ever. For instance, if a machine is adequately stocked, the field operator need not visit it. By eliminating unnecessary visits to machines, operators cut costs at the same time as minimising disruption on site. There’s now machine-to-machine communication and as ‘The Internet Of Things’ gathers pace, so the flow of information increases.
Everyone has smart phones these days and that has opened up whole new opportunities for interaction. What are the main benefits for end-users?
The emergence of smart phones has revolutionised the way we live, per-se, so you can take it as read that it’s also revolutionised the role of the vending operator. It’s just a few years since operators had to be equipped with hand-held PDAs to interrogate vending machines. They were expensive to acquire and were ‘one trick ponies’. When we ‘cracked’ the use of smart phones, we told our customers that they could now ‘choose their weapons’. Android, IOS or Windows – it doesn’t matter. The main benefit is, once again, cost cutting. It means there’s just one device required where, previously, there were at least two…
How much can software help an operator learn consumers’ behaviour?
Vending has traditionally depended upon impulse purchases. People make spur of the moment decisions to buy, or not to buy. Software lifts the veil on impulse purchasing. It tells you what customers are buying and when they’re buying it. This information can be used to adjust planograms.
Vending software clearly demonstrates the purchasing habits of different demographics. The products for sale in a vending machine in a call centre, where for instance the majority of vending customers are women, will differ considerably from the products sold in a similar vending machine in a warehouse where the majority of vending customers are men, many of whom, in this day and age, may be from Poland or the Baltic states. The software shows what’s selling and what’s not and it allows operators to tweak planograms to match specific requirements.
Software development has accelerated dramatically in the past couple of years. . . what should we expect to see next?
Two things, I think, will be apparent. First, expect to see a huge increase in the adoption of smart phone ‘apps’. Apps make it easy, for instance, to customise a drink to the tastes of an individual. Apps can even encourage purchases from vending machines by proactively informing their users that, for instance, there’s a nearby vending machine that has ‘your favourite snack or drink’ available… Increased interaction, leading to increased individuality – ‘have it your way’- is the way ahead.
The second development you can expect to see is, of course, the ability to pay in a variety of ways, including cashless. These innovations make using a vending machine a far more contemporary experience; more akin to using a tablet computer than an impassive metal box.
The days of searching through your pockets or your purse for the right coins are as good as over and an important impediment to sales has, therefore, been removed.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2022
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