Micromarkets – the next big thing?

Micromarkets are very new, and there is a tendency for people to speak of them in terms of things with which they’re already familiar: “A self-service convenience store in your location.”

This has the advantage of painting a picture for the prospective client, but it can be misleading. In a recent foodservice column, it was stated that it is easy for vending operators to imagine micromarkets as little convenience stores, and it was argued that they should resist this temptation, and “it’s better to envisage them as little foodservice establishments.”

Micromarkets are focused on a specific group of repeat customers, and the success stories generally have come from operators offering “better-for you” products, particularly in the fresh fruit and food categories. Selling the same product mix as a convenience store may be a mistake that could lead to decreased customer satisfaction, and thus lower sales. Food manufacturers should assess what they produce and sell to micromarket operators, and to use this channel to promote their highest-quality products, allowing for greater profit margins.

Micromarkets provide an excellent opportunity to make the most of each individual location by adding more product offerings specific to the tastes of its clientele. It might replace the current system, or supplement it. Either way, success starts with knowing your customers’ preferences for products and categories. The good news is that today’s technology has made this easier to do than ever before.

Joe Hessling of 365 Retail has pointed out that taking sales information and using it to reach out to customers can convert them into evangelists for the micromarket. “If you have that information and you know the customer, it’s in your best interest to connect and give them more incentive to come to your store more often and try more things. It’s worth the time you spend in knowing who they are and what they buy from you, to parlay it into profits”.

Jim Brinton of Avanti Markets emphasised that a starting-point for selling micromarkets is to rule out any talk of commissions: the value of the installation to the account precludes any thought of paying for the privilege of providing it. In retrospect, that should have been recognised by the pioneers of full-line vending too, but it wasn’t evident in the booming market of the early ’60s. We can learn from history here.

Micromarkets are proving to be the next big thing in retail automation. The vending industry has sown the seeds for this development by accustoming the public to round-the-clock convenience and perfecting payment systems for unattended points of sale.


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