Tag Archives: technology

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

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.

What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?

Online Customer experiences shared through Food apps

Having a vision of an ideal customer experience should be the starting point for investing in technologies and marketing approaches to grow your business. That’s one of the key messages for hotel and restaurant owners from Deloitte’s Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook 2017.

Touch points are part of a bigger picture

Deloitte’s report suggests that gaining loyal customers in 2017 will come from, “…a shift in thinking to make customer experience paramount.” But what is customer experience?

Customer experience is shaped by many things: the quality of your products and services, the friendliness of staff, price, convenience, your decor, the music you play…the list goes on. But what matters, even more, is putting all these elements together in a strategic way.

Insights by consulting firm McKinsey shared in the Harvard Business Review reveal that perfecting individual touchpoints with customers may not be enough, if the sum of the parts does not meet expectations. That’s where customer experience comes in, ultimately acting as the impression a person develops over time based on their entire interaction with your brand.

McKinsey found that companies that successfully manage the entire customer journey “…reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”

growing business customers experience online

What experiences will drive real value?

Given that customer experience is a cumulative effect, most people don’t get fed up by one bad interaction. But that doesn’t mean customers are inclined to be loyal. Most people are indifferent—willing to change their plans to take advantage of a better price, service or experience.

That means you need to envision the ideal journey for the customers you want to attract, and then prioritise efforts that will allow you to offer those experiences consistently, and at scale.

Deloitte’s report suggests brands need to provide truly valuable and memorable experiences that focus on authenticity, personalisation and immediacy. It says hotel guests, “…will define a brand by the quality of their experiences across a proliferation of touch points, including smartphones, desktops, wearable apps, over the phone, and on property”.

It takes a holistic, integrated approach to cultivate devoted customers, willing to leave positive reviews online, share your hashtags on social media or recommend your business to a friend.

 

 

Navigate new technology carefully

Deloitte’s report points to the fact that, as in many other industries, travel and hospitality leaders will be those that adapt to changes in the economy, technology and consumer mindsets.

Making the customer experience special and embedded throughout your business while riding the wave of disruption will inevitably involve investments in technology. But there is a balance to be found between being left behind and moving too quickly.

An example from the Deloitte report is the millions spent upgrading hotels with tablet kiosks similar to those used by airlines, only to be made obsolete by the rise of app-based mobile check-in.

The report acknowledges that making smart choices will only become more difficult as new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of Things emerge. Decisions need to be driven by a clear understanding of what makes a great customer experience and what technologies will support that.

Create experiences worth sharing

The report also uses the example of a successful airline app that allows passengers to track their luggage using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The app was not created to meet a significant practical need (lost luggage affects a small percentage of people) but rather to boost customers’ peace of mind: integral to a positive flying experience.

Understanding your ideal customer experience will also allow you to take full advantage of the most influential marketing platforms, including social media.

In a recent review of social media trends that matter in 2017, content marketing platform Contently highlight the fact that most people that use the internet also use social media, more often than not via their mobile, and most likely to watch or share video content.

Hotel and hospitality businesses need to understand how customers use travel and hospitality experiences to build their own personal brand; especially using image and video-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Deloitte’s report suggests that brands, “…make it a point to create experiences worth sharing in order to capitalize on the enormous exposure these platforms provide.”

Start with customer experience to succeed

It’s not possible to design and promote experiences that break through apathy or to cleverly leverage technologies and platforms to boost loyalty unless you can clearly imagine the ideal customer experience.

Using that knowledge to make decisions will ensure a cohesive customer journey where marketing promises are consistently met or exceeded in unique ways that resonate with your customers and deliver excellent hospitality experiences.

About the Author

Josh Alston

A former news hound, editor and roaming reporter for News Corp Australia for 12 years, Josh is now a freelance copywriter covering politics, innovation, technology, health, science and financial services, among other topics.

Marketing Your Business in the Digital Age

Successful hospitality restaurants driving online presence

Marketing your business in the digital age has its advantages and challenges. By understanding the tools available and how they can work best for your business, you can increase your reach and improve your bottom line.

To help you achieve this, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the main aspects of digital marketing and how they can help you leverage the success of your business.

Social media

Social media gives you access to a marketplace that is both global and local. These platforms give you the opportunity to build brand awareness and strengthen customer loyalty. But there are important points to keep in mind for a successful social media strategy:

  • Differentiate: What works for Facebook may not work for Twitter, and so on and so forth. When considering your social media plan, make sure you tailor your content for each platform.
  • Localise: While social media gives you a global reach, don’t forget it is the local touch that often has the greatest impact. Use geolocation tools, hashtags and mentions to establish yourself within your community. This is also a good way of building community ties.
  • Personalise: Quick response times and personalised responses are highly valued by social media users. If a follower asks you a question on social media, make sure you have the tools and resources to answer promptly. It is also a good idea to plan how you will manage customer complaints, and whether a social media policy is actively in place for your business.
  • Watch out for trends: Be it the mannequin or ice bucket challenge, staying ahead of trends on social media can help you position your brand and stay relevant. While it may not be appropriate for your business to jump on “trend bandwagons”, it pays to understand what is influencing public thought.

Melbourne-based mezcal bar Mamasita is one business that has built a strong social media presence across multiple platforms. From short Facebook videos to recipes and memes, Mamasita provides an engaging mix of content that speaks to the interests of their customers. What’s more, there is an overarching social media plan to integrate all platforms. Twitter posts link to Facebook events, Facebook to TripAdvisor and Instagram to the website. This strategy helps define the brand’s image, increase website traffic and user engagement.

Marketing presence in the digital space for hospitality industry

 

Peer review sites

Platforms like these can have a dramatic impact on your business. Like word-of-mouth marketing, these sites help spread awareness and strengthen your brand credentials––especially in the food and hospitality industry.

Today, an increasing number of sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor or LocalEats are informing consumer decisions. A 2014 study by Google Consumer Surveys found that 67 per cent are influenced by online reviews. So, what does this mean for your business? To make the most of this growing form of customer engagement, follow these considerations:

  • Promotion: If your business has a good rating, advertise it. Many websites will provide you with marketing collateral to showcase your score. This is one easy way to connect your online performance to your real-world business.
  • Think in categories: Another point to keep in mind is how to ensure your listing appears in search results. It is one thing to have a good rating but if your business doesn’t appear in search results returned to users, it will be of limited use. Incorporate typical search filters like “date night”, “family friendly” and “budget” into your business profile to help with optimisation.   

The cafe 2 Fat Ladies in New South Wales, for instance, is number one of its category on TripAdvisor and also has a strong Zomato presence. By actively responding to reviews—both negative and positive—the management show that they care about customer feedback. Importantly too, there is personality to their comments. Be it “Thank you for calling in for a visit. The quiche is pretty awesome” or “Can’t go past the good ole ham, cheese & tomato sandwich”, the cafe has a warm and personal tone that helps differentiate them from their competitors.

Digital content

Another way to market your business in the digital age is through content. Providing value-adding content that enriches your reader’s experience is a powerful way to build customer loyalty and strengthen yourself as a thought leader.

This can be achieved regardless of the size of your business. A small business, for instance, might focus on creating a monthly email newsletter while a larger company may consider creating a specialised blog or digital magazine. Think about what will work best for your scale and resources. Here are some other considerations:

  • Plan ahead: Be it a monthly newsletter or a daily blog, it is crucial to organise your content ahead of time. A blog that begins weekly but drops off to every now and again will do little to promote your business. Creating an editorial calendar is a useful way to bank up ideas and structure future posts or news items.
  • Don’t overdo it: It is important to be realistic about your capabilities and priorities. Setting up a high-tech food magazine may not be within your reach but perhaps it is possible to send out a personalised recipe once a month. What’s important is that you provide high-quality content that speaks to your customer’s needs and interests.
  • Integrate with social media: If you do decide to use digital content to promote your business, make sure that it is shared across all your social media platforms.

Abbey Beach Resort has been able to build customer loyalty via its newsletter, blog and integrated social media strategy. The resort shares regularly updates to its followers on upcoming deals and also invites them to share their own content. This commitment to digital content has allowed the business to define its brand voice and strengthen customer relationships.

Digital media has made marketing more accessible, scalable and personalised than ever before. Be it social media, digital content or peer review sites, there is a wide range of platforms that can help improve your business—now is your chance to use them.

 

About the Author

Melissa Kitson is a bilingual journalist who has worked for the Buenos Aires Review, Fodor’s Travel Guides and Oxford University Press.