Serving Up Soft Drinks, Freestyle
In this week’s posts we’ve covered a variety of topics related to the application of RFID in the beverage market, including beverage supply chain optimization, product authentication, inventory management and patron identification, but there’s more. Coca-Cola recently began testing a new drink dispenser called Coca-Cola Freestyle™ that they hope will reinvent the market. This may be one of the most innovative uses of RFID and other technologies that the beverage market has seen in a while.
Innovation - Freestyle
If microdispensing and PurePour aren’t terms you are familiar with now, they will be soon. These are but just a couple of the new technologies used in the Coca Cola Freestyle – a drink dispenser that also includes a curved metal enclosure created by the designers of Ferrari race cars and the latest in touch-screen menu technology.
Using technologies similar to those used to deliver precise doses of drugs, a single Coca Cola Freestyle can dispense over 100 different beverages. Through this microdosing process, drink ingredients are blended with water and sweetener and then dispensed from the machine. Taking innovation a step further, the 30+ 46 ounce flavor cartridges in each Freestyle machine are RFID enabled, allowing Freestyle to detect its supply levels and transmit data back to Coca-Cola and the dispenser owner for re-stocking, and to report which brands of drinks are being consumed and when.
With 1.6 billion servings of Coke sold worldwide every day, one of the most interesting aspects of this system is the massive amount of real-time data it will be providing to Coca-Cola to help assess consumption trends and to improve test marketing activities. For a view of what a dispenser analytics dashboard might look like, check out these images from SmartData Collective.
The way that beverage manufacturers and retailers are connecting with their customers is also changing. High-cost broadcast and print advertising is giving way to social networks and other methods of permission marketing to extend reach and deliver personalized messaging.
As mentioned in our post RFID and Social Networks, Coca-Cola and handful of companies including Facebook, recently teamed to host an event that leveraged RFID to bring the digital ‘Like’ to the physical world. With over 500 million active users on Facebook and nearly 11 million who “Like’ Coke’s Facebook business page, a new way for brand owners like Coke to market to their customers is beginning to rapidly emerge. Will a combination of RFID enabled displays, wristbands like those used at the Coca-Cola Village, and mobile devices help retailers, restaurants, theme parks, museums, and even brand owners, take “Like’ marketing beyond its virtual confines even further to the physical world?
Coke also has a Freestyle Facebook page that lists its test locations, drink flavors, and, of course, Wall comments from many satisfied customers. This page also has many requests for Freestyle to be sent to "my" location - building awareness and demand from its virtual community of 'Friends'. Described by Coke:
It's the ultimate beverage experience.
It's about choice.
It's the perfect pour.
It's 106 brands in one special place just for you.