Business Management

The New Age of Digital Media and Elevated Consumer Experiences

March 2, 2020 | By Adrian Austin

The New Age of Digital Media and Elevated Consumer Experiences

Digital Screens and Micro Markets Are Accelerating Growth for Empire Vending

How you deliver a positive and elevated consumer experience in today’s age has become one of the true differentiators that can set you apart from your competition. We sat down with Jonathan Abernathy from Empire Vending, located in Houston, TX, and talked about what 2020 looked like for him and his team—digital media and micro markets floated to the top of their list heading into this year.

“We have built our business focused around leveraging technology to provide the best customer experience,” said Jonathan. This is why one of their focuses in 2020 is to continue to deploy interactive screens on their machines. “The ability for us to leverage these screens for ads is great, but the simple fact that it looks better, creates more engagement with consumers, and we can ensure refunds are handled instantly—reducing the bad experiences, is a win for us,” said Jonathan. While the Empire team looks at this as a task they can easily achieve in 2020 they also are shifting their attention to how they deliver experiences through optimizing and deploying micro markets.

According to the NAMA 2018 Industry Census, micro markets saw a 100% increase in annual industry revenue from 2016 to 2018, making up $2 billion dollars of the total convenience services market. Empire wants to continue to capitalize on this growing trend but doing so in a smarter way. “For vending, people don’t call us for that anymore. We have to go out and knock on doors or make cold calls, but people are calling us for micro markets,” said Jonathan.

Jonathan goes on to say, “In 2020, our big focus is micro markets, but doing them right. We want to study the industry, figure out what products work, and how we can provide a market experience that is different and better than our competition.” To them it isn’t just about taking vending products and putting them in a market, it is a strategy to understand consumer demand and better equip their micro markets to compete with the likes of Amazon Go, and other premium consumer experience “grab and go” concepts.

“The trick to investing more in micro markets is making sure we can manage that growth effectively and efficiently,” said Jonathan. “One strategy that we will be implementing in 2020 to support our goal to grow in micro markets is leveraging a Micro Market Consultant.” Here is how the consultant will help Empire:

  • Serves as an implementation consultant for rolling out markets
  • Best practices on managing inventory in the warehouse
  • Provides a comprehensive checklist for setting up a market
  • Sample planograms based on location profiles
  • They share industry knowledge coming from years of experience working for large organizations whom have deployed markets at scale
  • Best practices for managing location profitability and costs

One of the biggest challenges in managing micro markets as you grow is ensuring you keep controls over shrinkage at locations. Empire Vending plans to solve for this by leveraging a third-party security camera service that installs, tracks and manages the footage for them. “We plan to explore solutions like this to streamline our internal processes and ensure we are putting our resources where they need to be. Services like this allow us to grow quickly without worrying about taking time to manage theft ourselves,” said Jonathan. He explains that they just send you the video when they think someone has stolen something and you can easily take it to compare against inventory all in real-time. 

“Leveraging services to add onto our technology stack is truly how we know we will be able to optimize our people’s time and ensure we grow efficiently,” said Jonathan. Notice how all of Empire’s 2020 goals align to providing a better consumer experience? This is what consumers are demanding in unattended retail and Empire looks to deliver on that as they continue to grow and support their customers.

About Empire Vending: Empire Vending was founded in 2012 and has grown into a full-line operator providing vending, micro markets, office coffee and pantry services. Empire is a family owned business and services over 200 customers across the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. To learn more about Empire Vending visit their website.


Adrian Austin

Director, Product & Partner Marketing

With 6+ years in product management and marketing, Adrian thrives on being able to communicate the benefits of technological products to customers in easy-to-understand ways. He is an active member of NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network and is the host for USAT’s quarterly education webinars.

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