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Author's profile photo Tim Clark

SAP Gets the Munchies at Mobile World Congress 2014

There’s no question that one of the greatest challenges facing mankind today is keeping Funyuns fully stocked in the millions of vending machines around the world. Ok, maybe that’s just me, but I know you feel my pain. It’s a real bummer when your favorite vending machine beverage or snack is out of stock, isn’t it? Now imagine how vending machine operators, and the myriad consumer products companies responsible for stocking those machines feel? They’ve been losing out on big-time revenue for years.

/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/vending_395387.jpgThanks to SAP’s push into The Internet of Things, all of that is about to change.

Under a traditional vending machine process, drivers hit their routes without full knowledge of the machines they need to restock. After parking their trucks, manually counting the missing stock then going back to their trucks for replenishments, the entire process could take up to an hour or more. That’s not taking into account broken machines or ones that don’t need to be re-stocked, according to Christian Busch, Senior Director, Internet of Things, SAP.

Busch tells me that SAP’s Connected Retail capabilities – powered by, you guessed it, SAP HANA – allow consumer products companies to place sensors inside vending machines that provide real-time data on stock, product mix, maintenance and more. Drivers can tap into this real-time data via an app on their mobile devices and know exactly how they need to stock vending machines before they hit the road. The efficiencies gleaned from such knowledge means operators can double the number of vending machines without increasing staff, according to Busch.

Real-time analytics also means consumer goods companies can measure revenue performance of products and adjust vending machine planograms accordingly. Vending machine operators can also use predictive analytics to take a peek at historic sales and demographics data to set optimal price point and product mix. For example, a vending machine at a fitness center might need more Gatorade while Red Bull might be more popular in an office building.

The biggest selling point of these newfangled vending machines is the high level of consumer interaction enabled via debit and loyalty cards, cell phones and even Blue Tooth technology. Busch tells me that many SAP customers are well under way in retrofitting their vending machines, or deploying completely new ones, to heed the call of today’s connected consumer.

“Vending machines will know what your favorite items are,” said Busch. “More importantly, these capabilities could triple revenues in this space for consumer products companies as it bypasses retailers and connects them directly to consumers.”

Check out which snack I picked below from SAP’s Smart Vending Machine in Hall 6 at Mobile World Congress.

Don’t forget to share a snack with me on Twitter @TClark01.

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