Advice from the cutting edge practitioners of PoS IoT, across the world.

Cooler Leaders: Karen Shevchenko, Carlsberg Croatia

Nexo spoke with Karen Shevchenko, Business Development Director at Carlsberg Croatia, about his experiences investing in connected coolers.

Please tell us about your role at Carlsberg Croatia, and what you are trying to achieve.

My title is Business Development Director. I have key accounts reporting to me, but I mostly focus on business development- which means that my responsibility is to work on commercial efficiency projects. Anything that has the potential to help us to sell more, to generate more profit, or generate more value.

To name just a few projects: we have, for years, run value management; we looked at execution excellence, how we can improve our operations, and use the time in our sales trips more effectively, all with an aim to generate more value.

What are the challenges you face in achieving your objectives? What part do connected coolers play?

For a country like Croatia, coolers play a very important role, because first and foremost it’s a highly seasonal market. The index of the season versus the off-season can be one to five, or one to ten- meaning that, during the season, you sell ten times more than off-season. Of course, coolers play an important role in this regard because being able to provide a cold product during the hot summers here gives you a competitive edge. That is why all beer and beverage producers in Croatia invest a lot in their coolers.

Also, because Croatia is a highly tourist-driven market, with a population of four million, increased by 16-17 million tourists every year, you can imagine how much that affects the sales of any beverage. Our main objective is to understand how we can get maximum value out of the cooler, so it comes down to which outlets to place it in, and in what location in the outlet.

The biggest challenge we had in the past, working with standard coolers, is that we had very little idea how efficient the coolers actually are. We tried to guesstimate, using some assumptions, some empiric knowledge- but it was never a truly data-driven decision process. And this is where a connected cooler gives us an advantage.

The connected cooler allows us to see how the environment around the cooler changes, depending on where it is placed, and what we do with it. This is recorded using two simple metrics, foot traffic and door openings- which are good proxies to tell you whether the cooler is efficient or not, or whether the efficiency is going up or down depending on what you do with the cooler. This creates a wide field for decision taking, for now you can predict results depending on how you use your equipment.

Which stakeholders are involved in your project, and did you need to put any new capabilities in place?

I don’t think the stakeholders changed, pre- and post-Nexo; all of them are interested in the same point: using data to prove different hypotheses, or concepts, or ideas, circulating within three major functions.

Sales, interested in selling more using the coolers, and want to see the data to be able to manage the customers. Finance, interested in return on investments and want to get our assets working as efficiently as possible.

Marketing are interested the most in which brands or SKUs we put into the coolers. They fight for the planograms, to include certain SKUs; for Marketing, having a broader presence is important, whereas for Sales, a major task is to narrow it down and have fewer SKUs, and through that, increase efficiency.

To maintain a constructive discussion between all three functions, you need to operate credible data, to try to maximize your output on all three dimensions: volume (for Sales), value (for Finance), and assortment (for Marketing). With connected coolers, we receive an opportunity to have better understanding of how to manipulate these three dimensions efficiently. Therefore…

Rather than new capabilities, what changed was access to the credible data. We are still trying to answer the same questions; the only significant change that happens is that, where before you had to speculate – unless you had a specific market study – now you have access to specific data, through which you can take decisions.

A lot of companies ask us where they should integrate the data that comes from connected coolers into their business. What is your advice?

I think that Nexo, or data per se, is not a panacea- having more data is not going to solve your problems. It still comes down to capabilities, and the people that work with this data: develop entrepreneurial culture, train your people and they will take care of data, they will find the best way to use what they have at their hands to improve results. If you only invest into better data, it would be a waste of money to get a very powerful tool that you don’t know how to use.

How will you ultimately measure the success of the connected cooler program?

For us, Nexo data is a means to get to the final destination. Efficiency of the equipment is measured through sales per unit, and we use Nexo and other tools to achieve our sales targets.

The trick is, if you focus purely on Nexo, it becomes very difficult to measure its effect, because there are a lot of other factors in the market, affecting your final efficiency: competitors’ activities, weather, out-of-stocks situations, and others. You consider all of these to understand if you’re able to achieve your final target. Therefore, rather than focusing on small parts, we focus on the holistic view: are we getting there using all the tools we have, Nexo included?

I will give an analogy to demonstrate the concept. Take an artist: he needs to learn to mix pigments, prepare the canvas, to put the layers of paint on the canvas, wash his brushes – this is the learning process, this is how you build your people’s capabilities. You need time and experience. But when it comes to creating the masterpiece, you do not control how well the artist mixed the pigments – you look at the final result. But if you trained him well, he will be able to use his instruments to create the best possible results. The same with managing value – sometimes it is an art to create value using the resources you’ve got. And Nexo in this case, as an additional tool, can give you a bit more to work with.

Are there things you know now about deploying this kind of solution which you didn’t know when you started?

Certainly the things you need to take care of before you launch such solutions include: a) a clear understanding of how you will use the solution – having a pilot is highly recommended; b) a plan with clear roles and responsibilities; and c) strict discipline and training – we lost some time at the beginning to train the sales organization how to work with Nexo coolers, scanning them, processing data, and so on.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about investing in connected coolers? We hear people say that the business case isn’t yet justified, it’s not proven- and they’re absolutely right. What would you say?

I’d advise them to try the same approach as we did. Two years ago, when considering an investment in Nexo, we did a pilot in Zagreb, where Nexo provided twenty units that were retrofitted into existing coolers. We were able to see how the technology works.

It was a very controlled pilot. We looked into the data, and experimented for several months; and found that there was enough proof for us that we could scale it up to the entire cooler fleet that we have. We saw that we are able to take decisions that would allow us to increase our efficiency faster than before, and have more transparency on each individual cooler in the market.

Again I think that we, as producers, shouldn’t focus very much on proving whether Nexo is generating uplift or not, because sometimes that’s very difficult to prove: there are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration. Assess the result in its entirety: did you make your equipment work better, or not? Sometimes you need to take the decision based on intuition. In the case of Nexo, our intuition was pretty strong- and it wasn’t very tough to sell this case to the rest of the management of the organization. Everyone was able to immediately grasp that if we can use the data correctly, then we can generate benefits.

I have a strong belief in Nexo. There are so many opportunities- as soon as we are able to find the way to use it.

Cooler Leaders: Cristian Araya Tobar, Andina Chile

Nexo spoke with Cristian Araya Tobar, Head of Cooler Operations at Coca-Cola Andina in Chile, about his experiences deploying connected coolers.

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Please tell us about your role at Andina Chile, and what you are trying to achieve.

I’ve worked at Andina Chile for about nine and a half years, and my role is head of Cooler Operations. I’m in charge of everything related to the company’s marketing assets, whether coolers, vending machines or coffee machines. I oversee purchasing, maintenance, installation and distribution, as well as analysis of these operations. We look after the whole lifecycle of the assets.

What are the challenges you face in achieving your objectives? What part do connected coolers play?

Well, we know that the main driver of sales is the cooling equipment; what makes the difference is often the presence of the equipment, or its size for example. Given this, we have two challenges: how to provide useful information to the sales team so they can make the right decisions to win and increase sales at each PoS; and secondly, how we can best look after the assets, so that once they are installed, they’re registered in our asset list, the retailer performance is available, and our information is up-to-date. We see this second challenge as fundamental to sustaining sales through coolers.

How we solve those two challenges through a connectivity implementation is the challenge we’re addressing now. It can, to begin with, help us with the care of the asset; and beyond that, once we have collected the data, we can transform it into valuable information so that we make good decisions, and increase sales.

Which stakeholders are involved in your project, and did you need to put any new capabilities in place?

Our department is 100% involved in this project, and I have instructed team leaders to drive progress, and ensure that connected coolers gain importance over time.

We’ve already incorporated the idea into the DNA of the commercial department, so they know that we’re already working on concepts ‘of the future’. I’ve also introduced the project to IT systems teams.

Where we have perhaps the greatest challenge is to introduce this project to the marketing department. I predict that a restructuring will be necessary when we have scaled up- by which, I mean that we will need analysts that dedicate 100% of their time to monitor the solution and to validate things such as location data.

I can see that we will also want analysts to mine the data, process and distribute this to the commercial teams.

A lot of companies ask us where they should integrate the data that comes from connected coolers into their business. What is your advice?

I believe that a new department and capability ought to be built- a connectivity department, a customer engagement director perhaps- where every project related to connectivity should reside.

And that area is the one that will process Nexo information to make it available for salespeople: to advise on the best regional opportunities, and actions to take to drive sales for existing customers. The department would present information, to show what’s currently happening and where things are moving. In short, it’s a new concept that needs to be generated, to make the most of this sort of product.

How will you ultimately measure the success of the connected cooler program?

One of the best outcomes is the communication with the customer. Several initiatives, not just this one, will allow us to hand over a tool to provide valuable information to the retailer, information that is useful to them and to us. I would like them to connect, to see the data, and provide more useful information to us. So, it would be a win-win, to strengthen the retailer partnerships we already have. I hope that customers will be more proactive, committed, and connected, with us.

The outcome that connected coolers is going to enable is for the retailer to sell more, but also for us to control the asset, and make things such as product ordering and sales more efficient. We can improve our operations, and at the same time protect the assets in case of loss.

Are there things you know now about deploying this kind of solution which you didn’t know when you started?

With Nexo’s arrival came a million opportunities, ideas and processes. Opportunities were opened to us that we previously thought were unthinkable. We had been looking for connectivity, but perhaps through incorrect paths- GPS and RFID.

What gaps do you see between what you still need, and what vendors in this market are providing?

From my experience with Nexo, I would describe there being a gap between simpler software that was previously available, and Nexo Discovery. A leap was needed to understand that the web application should be more user friendly- and it changed completely. So, the Nexo solution has been transformed.

However, there is another thing to highlight, which is the surrounding support to accompany the innovation. Usually when companies come to us with an innovation, there is no accompanying support, and typically that innovation will be lost, no matter how good it is. It’s necessary to understand whether the company has support on its agenda.

What Nexo does is very good because it supports us, pushes us so that this project goes forward.

The challenge for vendors for the future is to make sure that the development of both the mobile app and the web page will be as efficient as possible in terms of the user’s time. Everything needs to be executable in a fast way, that doesn’t involve ten steps to get to the final result.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about investing in connected coolers? We hear people say that the business case isn’t yet justified, it’s not proven- and they’re absolutely right. What would you say?

My advice for those that are skeptical about this technology: the best thing is to try it, have it in hand, go out to the field and perform studies. What convinced us at Andina was using the solution in real situations with the customer, and understanding the results having them analysed by professionals. We decided to try it, look at it and analyse it. Only after doing that can you evaluate its true worth.

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Cooler Leaders: Arturo Tapia, Sigma Alimentos

Nexo spoke with Arturo Tapia, Director of Commercial Transformation at Sigma Alimentos, about his experiences investing in connected coolers. Sigma Alimentos is a global food company headquartered in Mexico.

Download a copy of this interview here.

Please tell us about your role at Sigma, and what you are trying to achieve.

I have worked at Sigma for twenty years, and nowadays I’m in charge of the transformation of the commercial area. I look at improving operations, technology, information, resources and integrating best practice from all over the world in order to drive better performance for the next five to ten years.

What are the challenges you face in achieving your objectives? What part do connected coolers play?

I believe we are at the point where we have to bridge the gap between our existing expertise, and the new information we can discover.

If you can’t fully understand what’s going on, and translate this into a vision that helps your team to make better decisions, it’s going to be a tough time. There is a huge need for companies like us to engage properly with customers, wherever they are- and likewise, we are at threat from new entrants that could maybe do this job better. Things like eCommerce pose a threat and an opportunity depending on how we react. We are therefore always looking out for tools and techniques that help us to perform better.

One of the objectives we have is to personalize the offer that we give to customers- every week, we serve 300,000 of them. So, it’s not easy to make a proposal to each of them in a personalized way. The way that information from connected coolers helps is to address a better customer segmentation, and to understand what the best offering is for that customer.

We are at the beginning of understanding what’s going on at the point of sale, and trying to connect with the other touchpoints in the area. Because of the nature of our products [dry meats, cooked meats, dairy], we are always on tables in homes, or in refrigerators- but we don’t know why customers choose to buy them in a mom-and-pop, a supermarket, or a convenience store. We have many studies and insights into this, but no single source that tells us about the product’s performance. This is our driver for collecting, and understanding data from connected coolers.

What kind of stakeholders have you involved in your project, and in pushing a strategy like this forward?

First of all you need to be very aware of what is going on with the sales team, what’s bothering them, what are their needs- what’s happening in the marketplace. Secondly, I’ve involved marketing, because we have a strategy for the brand, and we need to address each point of sale.

The finance team is also involved, because you need to have a profitable model; as are the areas that support the project, such as our eighty sales offices, with distribution and vehicle managers, administration colleagues, and so on. We need to be connected in a way that allows us to find metrics and processes that will help us in all areas.

My vision is that, in providing a solution, you can help not only the sales team, but make all processes more efficient; but it’s not easy.

Have you simply found new ways of working, to achieve this- or have you had to add new capabilities to teams?

Both of them. It has to be about new processes, new technologies and new capabilities, in many ways.

One of the things we’ve learned in the last year is that we must handle the change in a very professional way, taking care of the emotions and the needs of the people; our commercial team in Mexico numbers 14,000 people. It’s important to be aware of what they are thinking, and how we are involving them in this change- and training them in order to achieve what we want to.

How do you envision that the connected cooler data will be integrated into Sigma’s business?

For me, it’s an enabler. It’s going to help us to make better decisions for sales reps. Currently, it’s difficult to achieve a high level of accuracy in selecting the best portfolio, or location for a cooler. With connected cooler data, we’ll be able to see the number of times the door is opened; how many SKUs should be placed; if the planogram is right; whether the purity is ok or not.

In that way, we can help the sales reps simplify their way of thinking, and use their energy for challenges that I can’t solve with technology. So, we’ll help them with the basics, and train them in a more advanced way of creating solutions and proposals for customers.

Many readers of this interview will work for beverage businesses. Are there any particular challenges that a company like Sigma faces, that a beverage business would not?

We are a multi-category company, so we need to understand the best place to put our products- and mix them. There are people in our industry that think the best way to place products is based on the solution that you’re offering- for example, to provide for sandwiches, you place ham and cheese together. Others say that you have to think about category, and the need you’re solving: this could mean putting yoghurt out in the morning, and changing it to ham in the afternoon, because of what is typically consumed at different times of day. I’m not an expert in beverages, but it looks simpler than the things we try to do, because we have many categories.

And, as you know, we are not a traffic generator to the Mom and Pops [independent stores], so we need to allocate another kind of resource, material or communication that brings us closer to the consumer. That’s why we need to understand what kind of consumer is going to that location. Connected coolers give us the opportunity to connect with the consumer, to give a tailored promotion for that consumer, going to that fridge, at that store; this is the way we can track what’s going on with our brand.

How will you ultimately measure the success of the connected cooler initiative?

The obvious one is sales. That’s what you’re looking for, sales and market share.

The difficult task here is to find the correct time interval to measure. Sometimes you want to see a return on investment within one or two months, or maybe one year; but maybe it will take two or three years. It’s something right now we don’t know.

But it’s a no-brainer. I feel that, with experience, you know that you have to do it, because it’s going to help you to address many other things that you can’t yet predict.

Are there things you know now about deploying this kind of solution which you didn’t know when you started?

I think that we as a large company can sometimes forget about the basics. They are very important. Your data must be accurate, your number of customers- the link between the cooler and the customer, too- is very important. When you want to build programs like this, the first thing you have to achieve is to be clear that your data is correct.

Even though we have processes that we are not touching, what we’re doing right now is to clean and segment the database- because sooner or later, we’re going to use it for those processes. I’m taking care not to have to invest more time and more resources when that happens.

Secondly, try to understand what you’re looking for. It’s a basic objective: you want to be more productive, or more efficient; to send the message to your customers that you are a high-tech company looking for better solutions. So define an objective, and work on it.

What gaps do you see between what you still need, and what vendors in this market are providing?

I think the big mistake, as I personally see it, is that most vendors are providing platforms in which you can look at the granular detail of the data. For example, you may have detailed information on routes, on cooler maintenance, and performance; who is going to look at that kind of detail in each of the portals?

The challenge I put to vendors is: how do you translate and present KPIs around these alerts and measurements that you’re making, in order to help your customers make better decisions? And, for key decision makers, I need something actionable, that helps me to increase sales, reduce waste, increase productivity or improve performance in any sense. It also has to be connected to your own platforms, in order that the user can work quickly across all our business information.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about investing in connected coolers?

I would tell them that sometimes you should take a risk on something that looks likely, but which you’re not 100% sure will give you the exact number of efficiencies you’re looking for. With the experiences that you’ll have, and with the possibility of growing or thinking differently, sometimes it’s better than not doing something because you’re not sure of what the benefit is.

If you’re not sure, try with a sample, do an experiment at a scale that you can handle- but don’t do nothing, it’s a bigger mistake than doing it.


Cooler Leaders: Carlos Arango, Quilmes

Nexo spoke with Carlos Arango, Commercial Capex Director at Quilmes, about his experiences investing in connected coolers. Quilmes is the AB InBev Opco in Argentina.

Download a copy of this interview here.

Please tell us about your role at Quilmes, and what you are trying to achieve.

I look after Commercial CAPEX in the company, which covers coolers, draft beer, and post mix for soft drinks. I have under my control the cycle and lifetime of this equipment- from the very beginning when evaluating suppliers, to purchasing and defining what kind of coolers and equipment to buy; to making changes in the technical specifications that adapt to our needs. I work with finance to develop the budget, and with the sales force to tackle the challenge of where to send equipment in the market, and in what volume.

Regarding maintenance, I look after commercial and technical aspects: tracking coolers, and understanding the sales volumes. I work on better defining our technical services, managing the servicing in the field. My department also repairs equipment, and manages write-offs. Examples of measuring success include having a target of cleaning the draft beer pipes at least once a month, and processing cooler sales calls within a certain time limit.

What are the challenges you face in achieving your objectives? What part do connected coolers play?

We have many, many coolers in the field, and it’s not easy to be sure that the minimum sales volume in the store is good enough. We are also faced with the basic challenge of being sure where the coolers are. To know where, exactly, each cooler is in the field; connected coolers allow us to align this information with the code or the owner of the store in our database.

Secondly, we want to try, with the information we can get from the controller, to find some metrics that help us to have a better understanding of the business in each store. The idea of that is to give us a competitive advantage.

Do you think you know what all those metrics are, or do you think you’ll learn as you explore the data?

We have some ideas, some theories about how the data will help us. We are not yet sure. One idea concerns the ‘invasion’ of the cooler with products of competing brands; and we are also focused on knowing our market share in the store. That, to me, is important.

Another is, regarding the function of the cooler, to have a sense of the temperature in the condenser. It could help us to define if the compressor could break in the future.

Which stakeholders are involved in your project, and did you need to put any new capabilities in place?

Business information [BI] from the connected coolers is to be used in the whole sales department, including Trade Marketing; Pricing; Tap Sales; and Operations. We intend to use it in the whole department.

We are already working with KPIs in our department, and this is another way to work with them, so I found we didn’t need any new capability. It’s about adding new information to the current information we have, to make better decisions.

A lot of companies ask us where they should integrate the data that comes from connected coolers into their business. What is your advice?

In the beginning, we felt that it was ok to keep the information in the cloud [Nexo cloud], separate from the rest of the information in the company. But, when we really knew that the information was relevant for the business, we felt it should be integrated with our BI, and the company should have its own cloud, with all the relevant information of the company, to compare with the other information- sales information.

Our sales information should be integrated with the information of the controller, so we could have more interesting or more relevant KPIs. It’s not only about the KPIs that we can develop from the controller; if we combine the information from the controller with our sales information, I believe we can create more interesting KPIs for the business.

How will you ultimately measure the success of the connected cooler program?

We’d measure success with more sales. But… not only that…

If we can make something happen that helps the consumer to perceive us as a better brand, in the long term it should impact the sales. Maybe not in the short term, but it’s also a good reason to do it. We are not yet sure how to involve the controller in improving perception of the brand. But this is not only about sales. That’s the obvious objective in the short term, but with the technology we will have the possibility to manage some marketing campaigns, for example.

Are there things you know now about deploying this kind of solution which you didn’t know when you started?

In the beginning, I thought that it would be quicker to develop the integrated hardware and software solution. And, maybe one mistake was not trying to find help in other departments in the company to do it more quickly. One reason for that was that nobody was really sure; partly because it’s seen as fashionable to have a project involving connectivity. But in general, people in the company are as yet unsure about how to benefit from connected coolers and then how to do it. It’s very new, and ours is not a technology company- unlike a bank, or a software company. However, if you look at the competition, nobody else is doing it, so we hope to take advantage of the time we have spent on this subject to date.

What gaps do you see between what you still need, and what vendors in this market are providing?

There are two things. Firstly, to have a website that is really oriented to the needs of the client. Which is not easy, because I don’t know what I need! So, the first challenge for vendors is to have a really good understanding of the business.

The other thing is regarding data mining, or some kind of methodology with which to classify or segment our clients. I am talking about the South America market, where it’s not easy to find a partner to work on this kind of thing. We’d like to take a second step, and take things further. Profiling case studies that I’ve read are typically about banks, or insurance companies; it seems there is no experience in the market in working with a mass consumption market like ours.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about investing in connected coolers? We hear people say that the business case isn’t yet justified, it’s not proven- and they’re absolutely right. What would you say?

I think the issue for people who are skeptical is more the cost of the solution; because nobody is in a position to say this doesn’t work. To me, cost versus benefit is where the discussion is. We think that this is interesting and new, and that probably we should do it; but in the moment when we need to define the costs of the project, we worry that it is massive. We’re talking about thousands of coolers. So, if you have a strong case to show the benefits are relevant, against the cost- there is no big argument against it.