The average time frame for lunch breaks varies across the globe ranging from 19 minutes in Greece to 36 minutes in the US.1 That, combined with travel time plus wait time in lines, leaves very little opportunity for employees to refresh their bodies and minds while enjoying a delicious yet nourishing meal. If only there were low-cost, low-overhead solutions on-site affording members of the workforce an opportunity to truly maximize their break time, thereby returning to work as the best versions of themselves. Well, this is exactly the concern micro markets set out to remedy.

What Is A Micro Market?

Micro Markets started as small unattended food retail set-ups that can transform the mundane break room into self-service convenience stores where employees can purchase popular and healthy food and beverage options not only during their lunch breaks, but also intermittently throughout the workday. Given the unattended nature of these retail environments, micro markets were traditionally limited to ‘closed’ environments where most of the daily traffic was part of a known population.

Today, micro market technology has advanced to tackle high-traffic areas including hotel lobbies, airports, college campuses and more. In these environments, locked smart coolers allow for secure placement and reliable sales even when transient populations are the core audience.

Micro Markets are generally maintained by food service operators (FSO). They source the equipment, brand and stock the markets based on the client environment in which they host the micro market and set the prices, promotions and general operating standards of a particular market. FSOs are essentially the merchant with whom an end-user, or consumer, conducts business when they make autonomous purchases at a micro market. They are no different than the owner and manager of a traditional store, with the exception that FSOs do not require staff to run the market. Instead, the kiosks, coolers and shelving are technologically enhanced to carry out a store clerk’s core tasks.

How Does An Unattended Store Work?

Similar to the self-checkout functionality at your favorite grocery store, retail shop, or pharmacy, a micro market leverages a self-service kiosk during checkout for maximum convenience. However, instead of an entire store front, micro markets optimize small spaces to facilitate prime product placement, putting a consumer’s meal and snacking desires within reach.

Micro Markets often feature grab-and-go food for consumers to enjoy quickly and conveniently. This product mix could include items such as chips, snack nuts, candy, granola bars and more. However, as the world progresses to a more health-conscious era, micro markets also offer healthier items and fresher food choices such as boiled eggs, salads, sandwiches and other selections. These product mixes are facilitated through smart coolers and shelving that can accommodate any environment necessary.

How Does A Micro Market Differ From A Vending Machine?

Vending machines are enclosed machines that offer a limited product variety. They are restocked on a strict fulfillment schedule and can oftentimes malfunction when dispensing goods. This obstacle requires host locations to contact machine owners who then need to seek maintenance teams to repair the vending mechanisms.

Micro Markets, on the other hand, offer a more modern user experience with a much more responsive team of support if the technology experiences a lapse in operation. Troubleshooting can oftentimes occur remotely in shorter time frames than vending machine repair technicians. Likewise, micro markets are enhanced to accept all payment types and offer sales and promotions as well as a wider variety of products. Moreover, FSOs will restock their markets as often as needed to ensure their clients have fresh and popular items available when desired. Inventory at a market can be monitored by the FSO remotely so they stock the items based on sales trends and velocity, leaving clients satisfied with product selection and availability.

However, as unattended retail technology continues to advance, vending machines can even provide a small subset of micro market perks, if the machine owner and operator upgrade them with the cashless, touchscreen technology created to innovate the otherwise dated devices.

Why Are Micro Markets Growing In Popularity?

Along with being a growing foodservice trend, micro market manufacturers focus on continuous improvement with respect to not only the consumer experience, but also to the operator experience.

FSOs typically construct micro markets in environments that experience a high level of foot traffic from consumers who need to spend extended periods of time in one location. While that used to mean the workplace, it has expanded to academic institutions, manufacturing facilities as well as medical and fitness facilities. They underscore consumer convenience by offering on-the-go nourishment at affordable pricing with reduced wait times by leveraging multiple kiosks as check-out points. When a consumer is prepared to complete a purchase, these same kiosks offer payment flexibility—empowering consumers to use cash, credit, debit or mobile pay options. Many micro market providers also offer member cards that consumers manage through an app, on the market kiosk, or online. Employers also have the option of subsidizing all or part of employee purchases, creating an added workplace benefit that companies can leverage for employee retention and recruitment.

However, the convenience of a micro market does not end at the consumer experience. Some unattended retail product and service providers can address all of an FSO’s retail technology needs as a single company. They produce the hardware that acts as the self-checkout kiosk, the software that provides the point-of-sale processing needed to accept payments and they also create seamless backend management platforms for FSOs managing multiple micro markets.

Which Manufacturers Are at The Helm of The Micro Market Industry?

365 Retail Markets has redefined the unattended retail experience with its Connected CampusSM. This first-of-its-kind, fully-integrated, consumer experience ecosystem seamlessly connects a location’s 365-based micro market, office coffee service (OCS), vending and dining technology. Leveraging a Global Market Account (GMA), both operator and consumer can create and fund accounts, view purchase history, scan and pay for products, and connect to any location’s 365 devices all with the flexibility between direct kiosk interaction or mobile app. In short, GMA empowers consumers to execute retail transactions globally across any 365 device in a given location with only one account. It also empowers FSOs to manage their business with a mobile device. FSOs can check the status of a 365 kiosk in real-time, perform remote reboots and a full sync right from their phones.

Micro Markets are essentially another innovative mechanism to enhance consumer experiences and simplify the lives of various people spanning almost any industry. To learn more about micro markets or other unattended retail opportunities, visit www.365RetailMarkets.com.

Resources

  1. QuickBooks

About 365 Retail Markets

365 Retail Markets is the global leader in unattended retail technology. Founded in 2008, 365 provides a full suite of best-in-class, self-service technologies for food service operators. including end-to-end integrated SaaS software, payment processing and point of-sale hardware. Today, the company’s technology solutions autonomously power food retail spaces at corporate offices, manufacturing and distribution facilities, and more, in order to provide compelling foodservice options for consumers. 365’s technology solutions include a growing suite of frictionless smart-stores, micro markets, vending, catering, and dining point-of-sale options to meet the expanding needs of its customers. 365 continuously pioneers innovation in the industry with superior technology, strategic partnerships and ultimate flexibility in customization and branding.

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