When delivered as an end-to-end managed service, an integrated approach can open up new revenue and insight opportunities for consumer goods firms.
Branded fridges, freezers and vending machines form a valuable part of the retail supply chain. Yet, the very fact that these assets are geographically dispersed makes it challenging to monitor stock levels around the clock. It’s also hard to ensure that they always deliver the best customer experience and provide the best opportunities to generate sales.
Now, advances in machine-to-machine (M2M) technology have made it possible to connect almost anything, enabling the assets themselves to communicate critical information. This capability is starting to transform not only the way that these assets are managed, but it’s also improving their performance.
The cutting-edge technology can feed back valuable customer insight in real time, opening the door to immense possibilities for the consumer goods industry.
Each year, food and beverage manufacturers spend millions on vendor-supplied refrigeration equipment. Now, major brands trialling end-to-end remote asset management solutions are discovering that making these assets part of an intelligent system can significantly improve the efficiency with which a fridge or vending machine is managed.
There are numerous advantages for the equipment owner. A connected cabinet service enables assets to be monitored and their location tracked remotely, as well as providing diagnostic information that can be used to monitor and optimise maintenance and performance.
By integrating this data with smart controls, it’s even possible to fine-tune the operational cycles of equipment to save energy, minimising the need for human intervention. For owners and operators of vending machines, giving ‘voice’ to assets will dramatically reduce downtime when they cannot generate revenue.
A fridge or vending machine able to communicate with consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and their supply chain partners can help manage stock levels, helping to avoid stock outages and optimising the frequency with which the machine is refilled or cash is removed.
Information is power in today’s fiercely competitive industry, and for retailers and CPGs, the ability to leverage accurate, real-time data generated on the shop floor or at the point of sale is an extremely sought-after capability.
Unlike its ordinary counterparts, a connected fridge or freezer cabinet can say if it’s too hot, too cold or situated in the wrong place. It also provides a regular stream of up-to-the-minute information on customer behaviour, keeping track of how often cabinets are opened, for instance, as well as enabling the equipment owner to also see how long they are opened for.
This real-time insight can help organisations to make better business decisions and can be used, for instance, to maintain the optimum temperature of chilled or frozen goods. The accurate data generated can also be leveraged by the operator to improve the design of new machines according to the needs of different retail environments.
For many people, a mobile phone is a highly valued asset and one that they feel ‘lost’ without. Increasingly, these devices are being used to transfer money or pay for goods and services. Gartner expects that the number of mobile payment users worldwide will rise from to 349.4 million by 2015, up 208.3 million from the 141.1million users recorded in 2011.
Using a secure mobile connection as the conduit, it’s now possible, for instance, to allow a potential buyer without any change in their pocket to pay for a drink or snack from a vending machine via mobile payment or premium text.
The specific information that this transaction generates not only enables the buyer to make a cash-free purchase, but can also be used to carry out targeted, highly effective location-based marketing, promoting new products or encouraging repeat sales by automatically generating a text that entitles the buyer to a free drink.
Overall, this shift from passive to active machines forms a clear roadmap for the future of connected cabinet technology. In the case of vending machines, for example, FMCGs will soon be able to dynamically stream advertising, up-to-the-minute price alterations and promotions to the machine. This will create a more informed dialogue between the brand and consumer and consequently has real potential to grow sales, increase loyalty and improve competitive edge.