Unleashing Convenience: The Rise of Unattended Retail
The advent of modern technology continues to revolutionize our way of life, permeating even the most ordinary aspects of our daily routines. The retail sector is not immune to these changes and, in fact, is embracing novel concepts to optimize its services. One such innovation is the emergence of unattended refrigerated retail, a game-changer poised to transform the way we shop and provide ample benefits for both store owners and customers.
Unattended refrigerated retail refers to self-service retail systems that utilize refrigerated units. These units can be found anywhere from high traffic public areas to office spaces and residential buildings, providing access to fresh groceries, ready-to-eat meals, drinks, and other perishable goods 24/7. The key features of these systems include advanced refrigeration, self-service operations, digital payment systems, and often, smart inventory management.
Ease for Store and Space Owners
From a business perspective, the advent of unattended refrigerated retail presents multiple benefits, which include:
Cost-Effective Operations: This technology mitigates the need for continuous on-site staff. With an automated payment and inventory system, it is possible to run the operation without any staff, significantly reducing labour costs.
Efficient Inventory Management: Sophisticated technology often powers these unattended retail units, capable of monitoring inventory levels, tracking sales, and indicating when restocking is needed. This real-time data can lead to better product turnover, decreased waste, and increased profitability.
Versatility and Accessibility: Unattended refrigerated retail allows businesses to extend their services beyond traditional stores. These units can be placed in high-traffic locations such as airports, hotels, universities, or office spaces, thus capturing a new customer base and serving consumers at their utmost convenience.
Lower Rent and Overhead Costs: Instead of renting large retail spaces, these smaller, self-contained units can be more economical. Also, being energy-efficient, these units can further drive down electricity costs.
Increased Revenue Opportunities: These systems can provide an extra revenue stream for property owners. By housing one of these units, they can benefit from rental fees or a percentage of sales.
Meeting Modern Consumer Demands
With the advent of the ‘always-on’ consumer, the demand for convenience, efficiency, and speed has never been higher. Unattended refrigerated retail ticks all these boxes, providing the following benefits:
24/7 Accessibility: These systems cater to the customers’ needs around the clock, enabling them to purchase fresh and chilled products at any time. This convenience is particularly beneficial for those with non-traditional working hours.
Quick and Efficient Shopping Experience: There is no need to stand in queues or navigate through crowded aisles. Customers can select their desired items quickly, pay digitally, and leave – all in a matter of minutes.
Health, Safety, and Hygiene: Innovative touchless solutions result in less risk of spreading bacteria, which has a positive effect on the customer base as a whole!
Freshness Guarantee: Unlike traditional vending machines, these refrigerated retail units can stock fresh products like salads, sandwiches, and dairy products. Customers can be assured that they are purchasing goods that have been maintained at the correct temperature, guaranteeing their freshness.
Eco-Friendly: These systems are designed with energy efficiency in mind, which aligns with the global trend towards sustainable and responsible retailing. Also, by minimizing food waste through efficient inventory management, they contribute to environmental conservation.
Due North Partnerships in the Unattended Retail Space
At Due North, we focus on bringing our technology partners’ visions to life by creating joint solutions that extend beyond conventional retail refrigeration limitations. Our joint solutions enable retailers to accomplish various outcomes and help them achieve a competitive advantage. Our manufacturing process allows turnkey integration of their technologies and ours, to create an efficient, reliable, and technologically advanced solution.
Among the pioneers in unattended retail are 365 Retail Markets, Kooick, Coolr, and PatronScan, who have all partnered with Due North to offer innovative solutions that are transforming the unattended refrigerated retail landscape.
Stockwell 2.0 from 365 Retail Markets Inc.
Stockwell 2.0, a product from 365 Retail Markets Inc., is an ambient and refrigerated merchandiser that uses Due North’s Minus Forty retail refrigerated merchandiser. The Stockwell 2.0 boasts numerous features including a side dedicated to refrigerated products, a modern design, increased merchandising space, improved processing power and product recognition accuracy, and multiple payment options. It also offers easy access to serviceable components via the front panel.
The PicoCooler, also from 365 Retail Markets, is a high-tech cooler offering secure checkout solutions and a diverse mix of products. It’s designed for semi-public spaces and offers a variety of payment options. The PicoCooler is designed to open only when a customer presents payment, making it a secure and convenient solution for various locations. It also provides a wide variety of fresh, cold food and beverage options.
The PicoCooler Breeze, another product from 365 Retail Markets, uses AI recognition, load-bearing sensors, and smart planograms to recognize and track products. This product is designed to open only when payment is provided, and it can hold any item that fits on its shelves. The PicoCooler Breeze is an excellent solution for locations like hospitals, universities, gyms, and airports, where it can provide a wide variety of grab-and-go options.
Kooick is a solution that utilizes computer vision and artificial intelligence to enable unattended self-service product purchasing and requisitioning. It can identify and track inventory and transactions in ordinary spaces, such as inside refrigerators, freezers, cabinets, and kiosks, transforming them into automated vending and storage solutions. Kooick develops scalable, low-footprint, and plug-and-play solutions with a range of applications across industries and use cases, including upgraded vending machines for break rooms, secure storage for drugs in medical facilities, and self-service pickup for take-out at restaurants.
CoolR has been helping CPGs and retailers with static camera vision applications to support planograms, brand purity and inventory management. The partnership between Due North and CoolR was born out of meeting the needs of a Minus Forty customer requiring a solution to monitor inventory and brand purity. The CoolR inventory management system utilizes visual AI decision-making technology to report planogram compliance and inventory status.
Due North partners with PatronScan on the integration of PatronScan’s proven age verification technology that enables the unsupervised vending of age-restricted products (e.g., alcohol, cannabis). Minus Forty merchandisers are built turnkey in partnership with PatronScan to fulfil this need. The PatronScan and Due North relationship gives confidence that more commercial refrigeration technologies are in development to best help food and beverage retail businesses reimagine retail refrigeration.
The Road Ahead
The rise of unattended refrigerated retail signifies the evolution of retail towards more automated, efficient, and customer-centric models. However, it’s crucial that as these systems evolve, they continue to balance technological advances with personal human touch, perhaps through 24/7 customer service and effective marketing techniques, to address any potential system issues or customer queries.
As more retailers and space owners start recognizing the potential of unattended refrigerated retail, the expansion of these units is expected to gain momentum. At the same time, product offerings may diversify, and systems could become even more intuitive and user-friendly.
To conclude, unattended refrigerated retail is a promising advancement in the retail sector that enables a more efficient, safe, and customer-centric shopping experience. For store and space owners, it offers a flexible, cost-effective, and profitable venture. As such, it is a win-win situation for all parties involved – and the environment. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, this new model of doing business will likely become increasingly prevalent, proving that the future of retail is not just about selling products, but also about providing convenience and accessibility in the most innovative ways.