The Story Behind Our Unique Solution
In late 2017, a vending operator customer in Southern California shared with us a problem they were having. Many of their clients were asking them to remove the installed vending machines and instead, set up micro-markets with fresh and healthy food and drink options. But the available micro-market systems were not meeting our customer’s business needs.
The Benefits and Challenges of Micro-Markets
Micro-markets have become popular in offices in recent years, because employers initially wanted to provide their employees with more, as well as healthier, food and drink options. But in the process, they realized that a break room with a micro-market also significantly improved employee productivity and morale. The cat was out of the bag! Vending machines started disappearing, and micro markets started taking their place.
Since these micro-markets are within a closed office, they operate on an honor system, where employees pick up the products and pay for them at a self-serve kiosk. At peak times, a kiosk can become a bottleneck for shoppers who are in a hurry, thus resulting in lost sales or shrinkage for the operator. Other issues that vending operators face are the high cost of a kiosk (several thousands of dollars), the large lead time to order, receive and install each kiosk, and the often painful process of obtaining Internet access for the kiosk at the office location. These issues prevent operators from addressing their clients’ needs quickly, while also keeping their financial burden low.
Our Unique Solution
We investigated several options to help our vending operator customer – cheaper tablet-based kiosks, cellular Internet access, etc. But we settled on a simple but powerful one – TURN EVERY SHOPPER’S SMARTPHONE INTO A “PERSONAL KIOSK”.
So how did we accomplish that? We plugged in a Bluetooth beacon at the micro-market, which continuously broadcasted an ID that was unique to that market. Our smartphone app then received that unique ID and used it to fetch and display the products and prices of that particular market. This turned every shopper’s smartphone into a “personal kiosk”. Shoppers added their payment card and paid for all purchases directly on the app. VOILA…NO PHYSICAL KIOSK REQUIRED!
We developed this micro-market system over the next few months, and deployed it at several office locations in Southern California in early 2018. It worked beautifully! Employees loved it, the employers loved it, and the vending operator loved it! Because there is no expensive kiosk to purchase and maintain, operators can install micro-markets in much smaller locations than ever thought possible. And at a much faster pace.