Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Future of Vending Machines

There is a digital revolution coming to the world of vending machines, with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and customer engagement at the forefront.

The first vending machines were rolled out in London back in 1883, where customers could slot in their coins to receive a postcard. In the many, many years that followed not much has changed…until now.

Today’s world has customers connected like never before, with powerful processors in their mobile phones, their tablet computers and even their wrist watches.

Cash is no longer king—technology is everything. So how are vending machines moving with the times to not only remain viable, but create a better way to connect and engage companies with potential clients in the future?

Vending machine apps powered by artificial intelligence

The latest Coca-Cola Amatil vending machines to be rolled out in Australia, New Zealand and the United States want to get to know their customers.

And through innovative, artificial intelligence-driven programs, these machines will break new ground by establishing a link with the average consumer’s smartphone, and getting to know their spending habits.

Through an innovative new app, users will now be able to order up to two drinks (one for them, one for their mate) remotely and then collect them from the vending machine at a later time.

This paves the way for two-way communication, with the machines able to collect information about behaviours and personalities—and use that to deliver marketing promotions at a later date.

It will also provide unique experiences depending on where the machine is located. Machines on university grounds may employ colourful, attractive music and video displays, for example, where machines on hospital grounds are likely to be kept more sedate.

It is AI in an embryonic format, but one Coca-Cola hopes to expand on to “create intelligence experiences”, global director of digital innovation Greg Chambers said.

“My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward,” he said. “AI is the foundation for everything we do.”

Personalised in-store advertising

The rise of technology means vending machines now include touch screens, which can display promotions, videos, games and TV commercials. This allows for greater connectivity and engagement with the consumer.

Now, Coca-Cola Amatil is aiming for the next evolution of advertising on the retail floor, through a partnership with Google that will deliver content that is custom made for each consumer.

Trials have already begun in an American shopping centre where in-store advertising screens connect to the smartphone of people walking by, and then screens targeted ads based on spending habits and preferences.

The system works as a fusion of DoubleClick’s preference and tracking data combined with Google’s Beacon Platform, and the early trials have been encouraging.

Should these trials continue to track along positively, it is expected they could be rolled out in other outlets like movie theatres and various retail venues.

Self-filling vending machines

Soft drink companies possess some of the largest truck fleets in the world to maintain stock levels, but still, vending machines can run out of product when consumers want them most.

This is not an issue in the modern world.

The new wave of vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing owners to communicate directly with Coca-Cola Amatil. Sales are automatically recorded as a product’s count gets low, with all data streamed dynamically.

This technology is not limited to just filling the fridge, either. Service issues can be automatically reported and technicians ordered, saving time and money.

Combating the death of cash

The decline of physical cash is no longer theoretical. Citibank has recently ceased cash-handling services at six branches in Australia. ANZ has opened a cashless sales-only branch in Bondi, and even their own CEO Fred Ohlsson has admitted to going cashless. Bad news for buskers and vending machines, right? Wrong.

The decline of cash has come largely due to the rise of ‘tap-and-go’ technology installed in bank cards, allowing consumers to tap for even the smallest of purchases.

And vending machines, using technology like Coca-Cola Swipe—which allows for cashless transactions—are able to distribute products quickly and safely without the need for loose change.

Globally, vending machines are taking this a step further by accommodating mobile wallet technologies. For example, Apple Pay for iPhone and Google Wallet for Android are becoming more and more mainstream, with already more than 100,000 vending machines in the US accepting iPhone-driven payments.

“Younger generations don’t carry cash, so we’re employing ways to meet their needs,” said Derek Myers, Coca-Cola Refreshments director of vending strategy. “By 2020, mobile is going to be a mainstream way of making payment transactions.”

These are just some of the innovations moving forward, but with the faster 5G mobile network coming soon to Australia, the increased development of AI and the spread of The Internet of Things, Coca-Cola Amatil will continue to work on new solutions for vending machines across the board.

 

Tools to Help Your Business get Organised Every Day

Now more than ever, running a business is a 24/7 commitment. On any given day, you have staff to manage, meetings to schedule, marketing objectives to meet and customers to keep happy.

There are plenty of apps and tools on the market to help you manage, schedule, appoint tasks and arrive on time. These include “email slayers”, spending trackers, flight planners and even an app to help find a font you like. Here are 10 little-to-no-cost wonders that will help you run your business without a hitch.

IFTT (If This, Then That): IFTT is a series of applets that perform a specific task. These applets connect features across multiple platforms to do things like get a notification if it’s going to rain tomorrow, or automatically save new Gmail attachments to your Google Drive.

Cost: Free

TinyScan: This handy app turns your phone into a pocket scanner that can scan in documents, receipts, or even multiple files in seconds. TinyScan uses your smartphone camera to take a photo of any A4 document (in colour or black and white), all while on the go. It stores your virtual copy ready to share via email or a cloud-based platform.

Cost: Free limited use version. Full version: A$7.99 or US$5.99.

Hopper: Business travel can sometimes come up last-minute, but if you know the dates of when you want to fly, and your destination, Hopper alerts you on when to book to get the cheapest airfares. Add multiple trips to your “watchlist” and enable notifications to get alerts that let you know the best time to buy. Once you’re ready to purchase, Hopper lets you book directly from the app.

Cost: Free.

Unroll me: If you’ve subscribed to work-related email newsletters (and maybe some personal ones as well), it’s probably causing your inbox to burst at the seams. Rather than trying to wade through your inbox and unsubscribe one by one manually, Unroll.me sends you a once-daily summary of all of them and lets you quickly unsubscribe to the ones you no longer want.

Cost: Free.

What The Font: If you’ve seen a font on a logo you like the look of, this tool can help. Simply upload the logo, check the letter mapping and you’ll be given a list of possible font matches.

Cost: Free. Payment required for the font (should you wish to purchase).

online_tools_social_media_presence

 

Down For Everyone or Just Me: This handy tool allows you to enter a website URL to figure out if it’s down for everyone, or if it’s a problem on your end. Enter the URL in the search box, click the link, and away you go.

Cost: Free.

Grammarly: As we’re communicating more and more via email, this handy tool skims as you type, highlighting any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors and suggestions on how to correct them.

Cost: Free. Premium tier starts at A$39.30 or US$29.95 per month.

Postfity: When it’s all hands on deck in your business, it’s hard to schedule time to update your online social presence as well. This is where Postify can help. It lets you update Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, connecting up to five unique accounts. You can send immediately, as well as schedule updates.

Cost: Free. Basic tier pricing starts at $A6.55 or US$5 per month.

MyWeeklyBudget: With a streamlined and simple-to-use interface for tracking your spending, this app allows you to enter the item and amount after each purchase. It’s a good alternative to a spreadsheet or logging into an app once a month to see if you’ve stuck to your budget.

Cost: A$1.49 or US 99c.

BONUS: As our digital lives become increasingly intertwined with our physical ones, developers have been looking for ways for family members to have access to our digital files after we die. Dead Man’s Switch is a service that lets you leave some important info (usernames, passwords, etc) for your loved ones. It lets you craft a secure email to be sent out if you don’t respond to the service’s periodic emails checking in with you.

Cost: Free. Premium tier: A$26.25 or US$20/lifetime.

Now with these business helpers, you’ve got a few ways to make your worklife a little easier to navigate.

Related Article:

Marketing Your Business in the Digital Age

About the Author

Angela Allan is a journalist, copywriter, social media manager, and content strategist. A former music writer for Rolling Stone, FHM and Australian Penthouse, Angela started her own online publication, Soot Magazine, in 2012. She went on to become managing editor of Australia’s first brand-led newsroom at CHE Proximity. In 2016, she led the digital video campaign for Crown-owned brand, San Antone by Bludso’s BBQ. Currently, she is the digital copywriter for Melbourne startup Foxley

How 457 Visa Axing will Impact the Hospitality Industry

The 457 visa is no more. The Federal Government has brought the axe down on the controversial work visa for overseas visitors in Australia.

In its place will be a new two-tiered visa program, which will come saddled with higher restrictions and greater skills tests for migrant or travelling workers.

But what does this mean for the hospitality industry?

Of the 97,766 primary 457 visa holders in Australia last year, 15,260 worked in the accommodation and food services sectors alone, which means this news is going to have major ripple effects throughout the industry.

Food and beverage

There is already a shortfall of workers for jobs in the food industry, and that isn’t likely to get better anytime soon.

Industry body Restaurant and Catering Australia predicts that 160,000 jobs may go unfilled by 2020, with Restaurant and Catering SA deputy chief Sally Neville saying this shortfall would need to be met by overseas workers.

“Given we do not have adequate numbers in training, it’s clear that the industry will need to rely more on immigration to fill jobs,” she said.

Neville said that regional areas of Australia were already finding it more difficult to find workers than businesses in the urban regions.

“They just don’t have the steady stream of travellers or uni students to plug the shortfall,” she said.

Accommodation

Despite the accommodation industry’s heavy reliance on workers on a 457 visa, the Australian Hotels Association remains optimistic.

A spokesman said the changes presented an opportunity to leverage a more targeted approach towards getting migrant workers into hotel jobs.

“We will be happy to work with the Federal Government to ensure that their objective of growing local employment is met, while also encouraging growth in the hospitality sector through carefully-targeted temporary skilled worker placements, particularly to support regional Australia,” he said.

457 Visa and how its impacting the hospitality industry

Travel and tourism

Regional tourism operators stand to be the most affected by this proposed change to the visa scheme, with 457 employees filling many roles they struggle to find locals willing to take on.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) chair Martin Ferguson said they would be pushing the government to ensure training is supplied for locals to fill the roles that could potentially be vacated by those previously on 457 visas.

“Once we have seen the full content of the government’s changes we will be making representations to relevant ministers to ensure that our industry—one of the country’s largest growth industries—receives the support it requires over the next five years,” he said.

“We are also seeking greater investment in training and development of local residents to ensure that we can offer world-class service standards to complement the massive transformation of the industry’s physical product.”
Related Article:

What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?

About the Author

Josh Alston is a versatile and experienced journalist, covering rounds for daily, regional and community newspapers that include; news, sport, politics, community issues and much more. In 12 years working as a journalist and editor, Mr Alston has covered major events like Federal elections, budgets, sporting events such as State of Origin and covered the economic and physical growth of Queensland. Today, Mr Alston is the founder of Art of Writing PR, generating topical and engaging copy for his clients to enhance their online presence and build their brands.

Five Lessons I Learned Going From Franchisee to Restaurateur

By Wally Mostafa

As part-owner of middle eastern-fusion restaurant BEKYA, my prior experience of owning four Subway franchises has been enormously helpful towards the early years of setting up a restaurant of my own.

So, here are my top tips for others looking to make the big move…

  1. Franchising teaches you how to divide up your budget

With Subway, it’s all there in the manuals and the training provided—what percentage of operating costs should go on staffing, rent, produce and other costs, and even how to turn over a reasonable profit. Having worked in the hospitality field through Subway for so long, it’s taught me what proportion of my costs should go into each area of the budget to maximise profit.

That said, with a popular franchise like Subway, location is key, as people come to you because you’re located in a convenient spot. With a restaurant, you become the destination, so the rent represents a lower percentage of total costs, wages, and training; the things that make for a great customer experience from the food to the treatment they receive, are of a higher percentage.

  1. Staffing your restaurant at the optimal level is a big part of your success

Staffing is a huge element of getting a restaurant right.  You need enough employees back-of-house creating wonderful food, and you need the right number front-of-house ensuring a great customer experience. Getting it wrong means blowing out costs, and damaging your reputation. My years with Subway have taught me how to get that balance right.

  1. Customer experience is key to fine dining—they aren’t just looking for a well-priced sandwich close to work.

In a Subway store, people come in for a quick and easy sandwich. One bad experience won’t necessarily cause a great deal of damage to your profit, but it always pays to strive for excellence. You also have some leeway when you get started, as people are ‘kinder’ to mistakes at that end of the hospitality industry. But with a restaurant, it can be one strike and you’re out. With social media, all it takes is one bad review and your restaurant sees a dip in sales. This means you need to hit it right out of the park to start with and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in damage control, trying to earn back a good reputation.

Wally_Mostafa_Bekya_Sydney_Restaurants_Cafes

 

  1. As a franchisee, a lot of the operation is made easy for you, and when you go out on your own, you need to learn new skills

With a franchise, you’ve got pre-existing supply chains and buying power when it comes to ingredients and other materials—from uniforms to cutlery and packaging. You’ve also got support on tap if anything goes wrong. If, for example, a machine breaks down, you simply call head office and it’s dealt with quickly from there. Since opening BEKYA, I’ve had to build my own network of suppliers, negotiate the best price for the best produce, and stay up to speed with pricing. Likewise, if machinery breaks down, I have contracts with the equipment suppliers, but it’s not quite as seamlessly sorted out, and definitely not as quick

5: Being a franchisee gave me the flexibility to open on my own

Owning a franchise like Subway usually provides a stable income, and that’s the appeal for a lot of owners. A Franchise system gave me the flexibility in my personal life to get set up and ready to go out on my own. It’s also taught me many of the skills I use now and it’s provided something of a blueprint to what I need to be doing to turn a profit.

Obviously, there are differences between a restaurant like BEKYA and a chain sandwich bar like Subway, but there are also many basics that stay the same, and without my experiences there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Related Article:

From Subway to Bekya

 

High Expectations and Hospitality Aggregators: How to Manage Reputation

Online Digital Hospitality experience

The digital economy has opened up ways for people to interact with hospitality businesses. What began with booking a hotel room or ordering pizza online has continued to evolve at a rapid pace, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.

App-based aggregator sites that leverage information (rather than actual goods or services) have become a familiar and trusted presence, mostly because they offer customers improved choices, convenience and value.

The question for hotels and restaurants is: how do you leverage aggregators without diminishing your own influence online?

Online spend will continue to increase, especially on mobile devices

The first thing to recognise is that it’s impossible to be in the hotel or food service business without a digital strategy. Online shopping is now a pervasive part of the decision-making and purchasing process for customers across all industries.

Market research company Reportbuyer analysed the global online takeaway food delivery market and estimated it would increase significantly in the years to 2020. This is due to continued increases in urban populations, spending by the global middle class, and increased smartphone usage.

Additionally, a report from Deloitte on the outlook for travel and hospitality in 2017 forecasts that people will continue to turn to online booking sites to compare options and find deals.

It advises the battle between online sites and hotels chasing direct bookings will be influenced by those who can provide “best-in-class shopping and booking experiences (particularly on the mobile front)…”

Challenges of aggregator sites for hospitality businesses

Aggregator sites offer customers greater choice and transparency, but the downside for hospitality businesses is that they commodify your offering, create distance and remove control.

They limit the way a business is presented and rely on their own data to match people with options or provide recommendations. If the aggregator also manages the logistics of food delivery, it exposes a business to customer service problems they cannot directly remedy.

This makes it more difficult for hotels and restaurants to differentiate themselves, deliver integrated cross-channel marketing, or provide a joined-up customer experience.

Aggregators have been successful in building brand recognition, and research by McKinsey shows that platforms are sticky—that is, once customers sign up they are unlikely to switch.

That poses an additional problem of how to choose between the growing number of popular aggregators, and maintaining an accurate presence on multiple sites.

Food Apps Foodora UberEats Deliveroo Menulog

Understand and leverage the appeal

Despite the potential negatives, aggregators offer enormous potential to reach customers and increase sales, and businesses can’t escape the fact that customers enjoy being empowered.

Hotels and restaurants can find ways to benefit from aggregators, and maintain a strong influence over customer experience and online reputation.

Firstly, even if customers ultimately purchase via an aggregator, it doesn’t mean they aren’t using their smartphones to research buying decisions. A stand-alone business website is still a powerful marketing tool.

Content on aggregator and stand-alone sites should always be up-to-date, but your business website should be the definitive and best source of information. Ultimately, it should drive home your points of difference. Use the control you do have to give customers a richer experience.

In the same way that customers in-store rely on menu boards to make decisions, online customers want to carefully consider your menu before they buy. They seek beautiful photos of the meals, descriptions and increasingly, specific information about ingredients and advice about nutrition.

Nielsen research on Australian consumers found an increasing trend of online customers researching grocery purchases online by visiting a manufacturer’s site or app directly, rather than relying solely on the retail site.

Ensure the design, speed and user experience of your own booking and ordering interfaces match that of the best mobile apps, and invest in online advertising and content marketing that boosts your visibility in online searches.

Cultivate your community and contacts to manage experiences

Customers trust aggregators because they offer transparency and make purchasing decisions simpler. But your business’s perceived value within an aggregator platform starts with building a connection with your customers outside of it.

Find ways to market your hotel or restaurant that focuses on fostering relationships at every stage of the customer journey.

For example, social media communities where people are encouraged to engage, share their experiences, and generate their own content will allow to forge an emotional connection to your brand.

Email marketing is incredibly valuable, if used well, to maintain contact with previous customers, provide tailored deals and continue a conversation that enhances brand loyalty.

Meet your customers where they are, and build your own brand

Online booking and food delivery aggregators make life easier for customers but necessitate that hospitality businesses put more energy into strategies that build relationships with customers before and after a transaction.

By doing so, hotels and restaurants can maintain a strong online presence that minimises the disruption caused by third-party sites, all the while continuing to meet customers’ high expectations for accessibility.

About the Author

Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community.  In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.

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