From portal solutions to robot baristas and unmanned stores, WMF Professional Coffee Machines has seen huge changes in the coffee machine industry, driven by the digitalisation and transformation of businesses and customer experience.
WMF Professional Coffee Machines was among the first manufacturers to actively embrace the possibilities of digitalisation in the coffee industry and translate them into new solutions and digitalised coffee machines. At an early stage, the shift was primarily characterised by connectivity and equipping the coffee machine with a modem.
Today, WMF’s solution concepts make full use of the technological possibilities of digitisation, and enable completely new business models in the international coffee market. The ongoing trend has been increased again in recent years, especially by the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, when it comes to the main drivers for the digitisation of international coffee businesses, WMF Professional Coffee Machines Vice President Digital, Benjamin Thurner, says the influences are found elsewhere and the pandemic was only an additional accelerator of these developments.
“There are two main drivers that were already pushing digitalisation before the pandemic,” says Thurner. “First, the move towards more efficient operational processes and second, the expectation of end consumers to use new technologies for more convenience and efficiency.”
Thurner says the biggest changes are not coming from a specific market or region. For example, while the first unmanned coffee shop opened in the United States, this concept now plays a bigger role in some European countries, where dozens of unmanned concepts are being rolled out as a new business model.
Rather, Thurner says the decisive changes are coming from the digital ecosystem of specific segments, like petrol stations and convenience stores, where big chains have to ensure they offer and coffee quality is the same in every store nationwide. They also have to look into self-service and the expansion of the offer 24/7, where robotics and unmanned stores are coming to the fore. These are complemented by mobile payment offers and the integration of customer loyalty programs.
Thurner says this has meant a shift from a pure coffee machine manufacturer to a total solution provider. Which, in addition to the coffee machine, provides a broad portfolio of digital solutions.
Thanks to increased automation, WMF is seeing the simplification of individual roles within in the coffee industry, including that of managers, operators and service providers, because the coffee machine owner can efficiently monitor and control the machine. To aid their knowledge, the WMF CoffeeConnect Portal is the gateway to the business side of the machine, giving an almost real-time overview of how the machine is performing. Owners can see sales figures, find out what the most popular drinks are, and check the quality of the brew. They can also troubleshoot to keep the machine functioning at the highest quality, and see when it needs to be restocked or serviced.
“You can get reports that state when your peak performance was, and when the machine is not working well,” Thurner says. “There are also remote functions enabling you to be more efficient; you can roll out new recipes, you can restart your machines, and even fix problems without sending somebody out to check on the machine.”
Thurner says that while the WMF CoffeeConnect Portal is convenient, one result of listening to the market is that the needs of some customers go beyond that.
As such, WMF offers other possibilities for interface integration. This includes connecting a customer’s machine through ‘a cloud’ to the business’s own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Thanks to this integration expertise, business models such as a pay-per- cup can be implemented, giving the roaster the possibility to offer additional financing models to their customers.
WMF says it’s also possible to create digital solutions thanks to the increased expectation of end consumers to use new technologies for more convenience and efficiency.
“It started with the demand of so-called robotic baristas. We have already implemented some of these robot concepts, where the coffee machine communicated over an interface with the robotic arm,” Thurner says.
In San Francisco, there are Café X robotic coffee bars. In Germany, there is the first robot café, opened by start-up MyAppCafe, and in South Korea, coffeebanhada opened more than 80 robotics stores. Various WMF solutions also offer the possibility of customer retention programs, cashless payment models, and the remote control of seasonal offers on the machine displays.
“We have recognised that the topic of customer loyalty, coupled with the trend towards more and more self-service models, is becoming an important factor, which we try to integrate in our solutions. Loyalty and loyalty schemes are an important part of digitalisation because you need to know how to push customer loyalty if the human factor is disappearing,” Thurner says. “Customer loyalty was previously influenced by the guy who said ‘good morning’ every morning, who knew your name, and your consumer behaviour.”
WMF first started manufacturing coffee machines in 1927 and is now considered one of the market leaders for professional, fully automatic coffee machines. The company has always led the way in terms of innovation, with more than 100 patents in the coffee machine sector to its name. Digitalisation is the new frontier, with an entire WMF team dedicated to digital innovation, led by Thurner.
“It started simply enough in the 2000s when we equipped the first machines with modems and had RDA (remote data access) only for a few selected customers, but now it has spread to all customers and to all areas of business,” Thurner says.
Since then, the team has been on a “digital journey” so they can stay on top of market needs and answer questions such as: ‘what does loyalty mean these days’ and ‘what will the self service of the future look like?’
“Today, digital solutions are indispensable when it comes to selling coffee machines, since the majority of our customers are asking for them,” Thurner says.
“As a market leader with the responsibility to drive the coffee machine business we have one mission: reacting to the market changes and seeing what the future brings,” Thurner says.
“For customers, it might mean going all digital so you walk up to the machine and your phone knows that you want a triple shot macchiato in the morning, and a decaf coffee in the afternoon. You will use your phone to pay and it will automatically redeem or collect any loyalty points owed to you.
“On the business side, it is all about being predictive, getting to the point where it is not the customer calling us but we are showing up to their business and telling them that if they don’t service the machine now it will be broken in two hours.”
WMF realises that full acceptance of digitalisation will be a gradual process. Places in Germany are still selling coin checkers, while markets like China are almost fully cashless. Part of the digital transformation is taking the huge amount of data it has available and interpreting it.
“We have around 130,000 connected machines sending data to our cloud, with this we are the manufacturer with the most connected machines. We need to use this data smartly; Thurner says. “What can we learn from the data, how can we improve our services and how can we improve our offering how can we better consult the customer in their journey.”
For more information see wmf-coffeemachines.com
This article was first published in the November/December 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.