Micro markets continue to be a growth area for the entire vending industry, especially for operators. From new kiosks to redesigned café-style shelving, micro markets dominated at the NAMA OneShow this year. In 2017, there were more than 30 exhibitors selling micro market equipment or related products and many sessions dedicated to making the most of this segment.Here are the highlights.
1. Product management
Identifying consumer trends and the different taste profiles at each micro market location is paramount. So is finding product options that meet these taste profiles. Sweet flavors that offer consumers a grab-and-go treat are still popular for people looking to indulge. That means operators should take advantage of cookies, crackers, and conveniently packaged pastry items. Use the sales data from your kiosk supplier to create reports on what items are selling at each location. Eliminate your worst sellers each month and bring in new options. Don't just track sales, however, also take a look at high-profit products that sell for a good margin. These should be at eye level in your micro markets to ensure consumers see them and consider buying them.
The number of consumers looking for healthier entrees, snacks, and beverages has reached critical mass. This is no longer a trend, but the new normal. Therefore, it's imperative you offer items that meet the various definitions of healthy. Some trendy solutions to try include protein snacks such as bars packed with protein-rich cheese. Another popular definition is gluten free, which can benefit people with a gluten allergy, but also is sought after for those who just want to avoid wheat and certain carbohydrates. Also, aim for fresh entree items. Not only are these on-point for today's consumers who want clean labels, natural ingredients, and minimal processing, fresh food can pair well with other snack and beverage items to create a meal. Be sure to promote combinations through digital advertising and in-market signage.
Today's micro market area needs to be more than functional. To really impress, it has to look and feel like an on-site café for the consumer. For the operator, it also has to be convenient to install and durable. Look for quality materials with a flexible style. Let locations help choose designs and color schemes to personalize their micro markets. They might even offer to upgrade other areas of the break room with things such as natural light, better tables, chairs, lounge areas, and live greenery – all of which add value to the micro market as an employee retention tool. Stay in touch with your locations that have large break areas and offer to help when it is time for them to redo those spots. That way operators can ensure proper counter heights, outlets, and the extras needed for micro market equipment and stylish product displays.
4. Adaptive services
While micro markets are pretty recognizable (kiosk, shelving, coolers, a base of a couple hundred people), there are plenty of combination services and related equipment. At the NAMA OneShow, there were smaller, table-top micro markets at nearly every supplier booth. These allowed a smaller micro market to be put in, possibly at an executive level of an existing location or at a smaller technology-startup with employees that work long hours and are willing to spend money on convenient food. There are also opportunities to meld micro markets with foodservice. One new kiosk solution doubled as a cashier's register, so a market could be staffed during high volume times and then be self-serve the rest of the time. Pantry service or micro kitchens, defined as service that includes employer-paid food and drinks free to employees, were also a big win for many operators according to NAMA OneShow roundtables and forum discussions. Sometimes the locations even wanted a person on-site to stock the break area or a barista who could serve specialty drinks for a few hours in the morning.
5. Technology integration
There were more "technology" companies than ever before at the 2017 NAMA OneShow. These providers were trying to enhance every step of the process for operators, especially in integrating the vending and micro market data. Some suppliers already have systems that collect and input micro market data into the company's existing vending management system, so it is easy to see an overview of your entire operation. Others make the reporting systems mobile friendly, so both can be accessed on an iPad or tablet via their respective apps. Payment technology is also crossing the vending machine to micro markets chasm, with apps that can be used on all equipment. These mobile wallets and apps allow a user to pay at a micro market and the on-site vending machine all with the same program as well as rack up loyalty rewards regardless of which equipment from which they buy. It's the next step in making the convenience channel even more convenient to consumers.
Micro markets have excited profits and elevated the industry in the eyes of the consumer. From product management to adaptive services to technology integration and more, vendors are dedicating increasing resources to micro market advancement and development. It's a continually evolving segment that promises to push the envelope in the years to come. Don't miss what the new era of micro markets will offer during the next NAMA show.