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How to regulate the people flows at vending machines in peak hours

Friday Coffee: a new meeting!

Friday 30 October, fifth appointment of Friday Coffee with MatiPay!

The meeting, dedicated to the topic “How to manage the flow of people at vending machines“, was led by Francesco Liuzzi, Operations Manager of MatiPay.

The aim of the event is to offer operators ideas, also deriving from other sectors and markets, on how they can manage the flow of people at vending machines. During Friday Coffee we also illustrated the operation of TAKE 5, the break booking system launched to support vending operators in the reopening phase immediately following the lockdown.

A quick overview of the situation in the sector

The vending sector involves more than 30,000 employees employed in more than 3,000 vending operators; and Italy is the country with the largest number of vending machines installed, vending machines are considered the most widespread network and, in Italy, 1 vending machine is available for every 73 inhabitants against an European average of 1 vending machine for every 190 people.

The Italian vending network has over 822 thousand machines located for more than 50% in public and private professional environments.

Francesco Liuzzi retraces some numbers and facts that are involving the whole sector, highlighting what is defined in the Ministerial Decree of 11 March where it is stated that vending machines may remain active, provided that the interpersonal safety distance of 1 meter is guaranteed together with hygiene measures.

Despite the possibility of keeping the automatic retail services active, during the lockdown period, there was an 80% decline in volumes and after the summer break the decline was 20 – 30% due, in particular, to 2 events:

  1. Smart Working, which changes sociability habits in the working environment and reduces the presence of people inside buildings
  2. Partial closures of school activities or limitations in the use of vending machines

In some schools, for example, the use of vending machines was not allowed despite the fact that there were no real requirements in this regard.

The impact of these restrictions, imposed by the Coronavirus epidemic, was severe and this is also evidenced by the report published by the EVA – European Vending & Coffee Service Association.

The research aimed to highlight the impact on the sector caused by the restrictions in force from March to May, including:

  1. 58% of operators recorded a reduction in turnover in April between 61% and 99% compared to the same period in 2019.
  2. 60% of operators have an increased demand for cashless payments

Confida, the Italian vending association, estimates the loss of consumption of more than 50% of turnover following the recent Minister’s Decree of 18 and 24 October and for this reason it is activating a strong campaign in which the needs of the involved sector are spoken of. in the Decree DL RISTORO.

What is the approach of the media towards the use of vending machines?

The approach of the Italian press is to communicate the stop to vending machines, to emphasize that gathering is prohibited and in recent weeks there have been municipal decrees that prohibit the use of vending machines or forecast their complete closure.

The reaction of the sector was to commit even more to ensure the safety at breaks, implementing sanitation protocols, placing signs near the vending machines that inviting and helping consumers to maintain social distancing.

All this was supported by the CONFIDA campaign activated as soon as PHASE 2 began, in May 2020.

Confida has drawn up guidelines for both operators and users, inviting them to act responsibly and reassuring them of safety of vending machines.

The advantages of automatic retail are numerous and the foreign press has given voice to these aspects, enhancing them, both in Italy and abroad there has been no shortage of actions that have enhanced the strengths of the sector.

What happens in other markets? Is it possible to apply a single touchless solution?

Some companies have enhanced their “pickup point” services that allow you to collect what you have purchased at any time, therefore one of the strengths of automatic retail is back, namely being open and running potentially H24 in contexts open to the public.

Some players have proposed touchless solutions, with purchases directly from the app, others have modified the mechanics of the machines, making it possible to buy with their feet.

These solutions require significant investments, for example, the solution that involves purchasing directly in the app does not appear to be applicable with all vending machines on the market. End users, consumers, should use many different applications or approach different payment methods to use the vending machines.

Not all vending machines are ready for touchless management. We have many examples where in the same break area there are vending machines of different manufacturers, that have different technologies on board and provide the service based on different communication protocols. All this makes the purchase experience less fluid with so many obstacles, that a user could give up before even starting.

In this contingent moment, which we hope will be limited in time, it would be interesting if the automated retail market would have implemented some well-established practices of the classic retail, where solutions that manage the flow of people in stores have been implemented right away. These systems manage the queue, schedule the entrances, establish how many people can be in the same place at the same moment.

In recent months, solutions such as UFIRST adopted by IKEA and Esselunga have helped to manage the queue outside the shops and avoid crowds.

These are two large companies that also sell ONLINE but that have not channeled all their efforts into online sales, but have found a solution to be implemented as soon as possible to continue welcoming people from their large STORES.

Or other examples ,such as “FilaVIA“, which allows users to book the first entry time available through the app.

To date, the latest Ministerial Decree invites us in a loud voice to maintain an interpersonal safety distance of at least one meter and for shops and clubs to display a sign indicating the maximum number of people admitted to the venue at the same time.

By applying technology we can achieve the best results and work more effectively.

The TAKE 5 solution can help you manage the flow of users to vending machines, indicate how many people are allowed in each specific break area, all this by establishing direct communication with the user who can receive automatic notifications that:
1. remind of the reservation
2. invite to book the time of the bresk
3. assign additional loyalty points, if TAKE 5 is active at the same time as the Loyalty initiative we spoke about in the previous Friday Coffee appointment.

Once the break areas are defined, it is possible to manage the vending machines by reservation so to avoid congesting specific areas and keep the machines active without limitations.

For more information on the booking solution, contact us.

Friday Coffee Q&A

Why is it not possible to adopt a single touchless solution?

It is not easy and immediate to apply because the operator does not always have a possibility to install vending machines of a single manufacturer. If each supplier offers its own solution, it means that the end user will have to adopt these different solutions. From a technical point of view, there is currently no solution to this. Abroad we observe a different trend: the extensive use of the unique protocol MDB 4.3, allows touchless selection, contributing to the technical implementation of a single solution for the sector.

It is time to acknowledge the standard, because it means that you could have a single solution without each going down a different path.

How can I encourage the adoption of a booking system?

Loyalty and promotional mechanisms, in addition to an economic advantage, can be useful in activating and stimulating users to do their part by rewarding bookings with purchases from vending machines.

In this case, the positive reinforcement mechanism, generated by the loyalty initiative, will lead them to do something socially useful and this will preserve both their health and that of others.

Of course, it is an investment on the part of the operator, but at the same time it is less expensive and less impactful than the loss of the customer. We believe there are many tools to incentivize users, also because respecting the distancing rules at vending machines is something that consumers are obliged to do, but why not offer them a small motivation?

Can I communicate with customers via the app based on their booking attitude?

Yes sure. Each break is recorded in the MatiPay system. You can then contact the user asking them to continue booking, give them a reward, communicate new rules or give any other information that you consider useful.

Can I restrict the use of the machines only for those who have made a reservation?

Yes, it is an approach that our system allows to implement.

It is an important choice that places a strong limitation on the use of the vending machine and therefore could result in the loss of some sales, we invite you to apply it with caution and consider it as an extreme solution.

Before applying this approach, we believe it is necessary to make an attempt to bring all consumers on board, explain the importance and value of certain consumption logic, so it will probably not be necessary to limit the use of the machines. Clearly, if this limit is imposed by ordinances and regulations, we will not be able to do without it.

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