The Smart Machine – A Win-Win Proposition
Gone are the days when payments were made by card. Now, it is that time when a consumer at a ball game waves her hand in front of a vending machine, and it dispenses her favorite drink along with a mobile coupon to share with friends because her team is ahead in the game.
The possibilities are endless, and are becoming a reality around us. This unique innovation not only improves consumer engagement and potentially sales, but also helps companies save costs and improve their supply chain. A double bonus!
Let’s first look at a few cost and revenue levers, and then examine the underlying capabilities that must be developed for this to bear real results.
An innovation supporting both marketing and operations is a boon. Smart equipment networks were first experimented with consumers in Japan in the form of intelligent vending machines, and later introduced in the US by companies such as Coca-Cola freestyle. Telecom providers such as Verizon are integrating these devices, and several solution providers have begun to increasingly build customized device management and data routing capabilities. This completes the ecosystem required for effective commercialization.
The marketing perspectives span an entire gamut of features. Some typical categories of use cases are:
- Supporting product research and launch
Coke Freestyle released new trial recipes in select markets, gathered consumer feedback and then began full scale production.
- Retailer sales
A better customer experience improves attendance and purchase volumes.
- Promotions management
Targeted and localized promotions are now easy. Centrally controlled devices can be sent as promotions, based on local events. Feedback from these promotions can be captured in real time and incorporated in the next campaign.
- Marketing data capture
Consumer interaction will supplement the broad based demographic information already available. In addition, direct consumer interaction opens up new ways to access the consumers’ network and spending patterns in new ways. The limits will only be set by what you can address.
- Customer engagement
Smart machines also provide methods for better customer engagement as customized interactive content can be sent to the machines. Examples: Interactive menus, games, brief surveys, etc.
Operational perspectives too present new opportunities:
- Infrastructure support
An intelligent machine sends alerts when it encounters a problem and also allows remote diagnostics and repair capabilities. GPS enabled machines will also support location management and movement of machines. Verizon’s smart home campaign is based on the ability to communicate with devices on operational aspects.
- Fulfillment support
Planning of routes with up-to-date information from the machines enables distribution planning at a more granular level dramatically reducing costs (inventory carrying and distribution) and time to replenishment. At a micro level, combining service data with route plans further boosts this benefit.
- Reconciliation and cash management
Information available from the machine at a transactional level will help reduce trade loss potential and variances between reconciliation periods.
To assess the capabilities that are critical to success, we will categorize them as below:
- Process and Technology Integration
The model that has been in force for several decades will undergo a dramatic change from an information latency, automation and action orientation perspective. The entire landscape can now be considered as a network with nodes representing devices with varying capabilities and the various functional capabilities such as support, fulfillment, promotions, onboarding and reconciliation. In addition, the dimensions of geography, product lines and customer segmentation will have to be revisited. Consumer experience plays a vital role in the design of the overall interaction design as outlined in this blog post.
- Analytics and Data Integration
This area holds an important key to the success of the smart initiative, while also presenting the biggest challenge. Not only will new data categories (e.g. consumer interaction) be introduced, but also the analytical capabilities will have to be enhanced and be made more dynamic to yield the agility required.
- Change Management
Even as new processes are being deployed, there will always be older ones to manage in parallel. A robust 360 degree view of the operational landscape will be crucial to ensure that deployments are smoothly performed in areas with the biggest impact.
- Partnerships and Multi-channel Integration
The smart network now necessitates an integration of customer touch points. The smart device will be complemented by mobile integration at the very least, not to mention online retailer and event integrations. No industry is isolated today and the smart network provides the potential to integrate these in new ways.
Deploying a successful smart equipment network and maximizing its ROI lies in a well-orchestrated program executed with stakeholder support from all key areas, being driven directly from the CEOs leadership team agenda. Anything less, and there will be tremendous value left on the table, not to mention a broken consumer and customer experience in both marketing and operational areas.