A ubiquitous sight in train stations, hospitals and offices, Coca-Cola Belgium has thousands of coin-operated vending machines across the country.
However, hard cash has been slowly disappearing from our daily lives and wallets for some time, and the COVID-19 pandemic, with its distancing requirements and hygiene concerns, has only accelerated the trend.
While around half of all Coca-Cola vending machines in Belgium already have card readers or a contactless terminal, the company wanted to find an efficient and cost-effective way to offer an additional ‘mobile payment’ option. This would also give a new lease of life to vending machines that were still only accepting coins.
When we analysed Coca-Cola Belgium’s IT infrastructure, we saw that all their vending machines are fitted with an API that relays information about stock levels and cash takings back to Coca-Cola.
So, rather than develop a custom mobile payment solution from scratch, and have to integrate it in each machine, we took the joint decision to leverage the existing API. This saved on development time and paved the way for an almost fully remote roll-out, with no costly recalls needed.
From a customer perspective, we wanted to make the buying experience as effortless as possible. To avoid customers having to download a stand-alone app, we opted for a QR code-based solution – with the QR code clearly visible on a sticker on the machine itself – that opens a web app on the customer’s device.
Customers can now quench their thirst in three short steps: SCAN the QR code on the machine (Coca-Cola staff placed the QR stickers during routing re-stocking), CHOOSE the drink, and PAY using Payconiq.
machines to be upgraded by end-2021
“By taking a holistic approach and seeing technology as an enabler, November Five have delivered a beautifully efficient solution that is both cost-effective and user-friendly.”
Manager Digital Acceleration at Coca-Cola European Partners
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Vending machines have long offered a convenient way to refuel when we’re on the go. But in a COVID-19 climate, we’re even less likely to have coins in our wallets, pushing us to seek out machines with card-based or mobile payment options.
Working closely with the Coca-Cola team, we understood that we needed to make the customer experience as safe, simple and efficient as possible.
By opting for a QR code-based payment system, customers wouldn’t need to download yet another app for what might only be an occasional, or even one-off, purchase. Scanning the QR code on the machine – an act familiar to any smartphone user – opens a web application on the mobile device.
From there, they simply choose their drink on the machine, and pay via the app using Payconiq.
When embarking on any new mission, one of our first steps is to carry out a thorough assessment of the existing IT infrastructure to identify any challenges or opportunities. At Coca-Cola Belgium, we discovered that all its vending machines – whatever the model – use an API to monitor aspects such as stock levels and cash takings.
We realised that leveraging this would bring two big advantages. Firstly, we saved on development time by connecting our solution directly to the existing API. Secondly, because all vending machines are fitted with the same technology, deployment of the new app would be a relatively straight-forward process.
With the decision taken to use this approach, we explored various options to determine not only the best possible user experience but also the most efficient and cost-effective way to roll out the solution across the country.
Coca-Cola has thousands of vending machines across the county that needed to be upgraded with the new mobile payment option. Recalling each machine would have been disruptive and costly, so we worked to find the smartest way to deploy the complete solution.
Thanks to the API, we were able to activate the payment option on each machine in the back-end. Then, once the corresponding QR code sticker was placed on the machine itself, the mobile payment option was fully operational.
The stickers were placed by staff during routine re-stocking of the machines, meaning no additional intervention was needed, thereby optimising costs. The app was even designed to guide the employee installing the QR code, with instructions on how to check that it was working correctly.
Easily extendable to other kinds of machines, e.g. commercial fridges with a remote-controlled lock that can also be ‘unlocked’ by a mobile payment, this simple yet highly effective innovation has a bright future!