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