Coca-Cola is Using AI to Put Some Fizz in Its Vending Machines

Artificial intelligence is driving many of the digital initiatives being pushed forward in today's industries, and Coca-Cola is using the technology to drive its own unique purchasing experiences.

The original Coca-Cola recipe was developed by John Pemberton as a medical solution to treat his own morphine addiction. Initially branded as French Wine Coca in 1885, the non-alcoholic version, Coca-Cola, was developed the following year. Originally sold as a patent medicine, Pemberton marketed Coca-Cola with claims it could cure ailments as wide-ranging as indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence. From there, the brand grew exponentially - eventually dropping the medical pretensions and being marketed as a pure soft drink instead.

Today, Coca-Cola is one of the world's largest most recognizable brands. The company employs over 100,000 people and has revenues of $41,863 million, placing it at #64 on the Fortune 500.

Artificial Intelligence Vending Machine

The famous soft drink has been around for a long time, but one of the ways in which Coca-Cola is driving innovation today is by incorporating advanced artificial intelligence technology into its worldwide network of branded vending machines.

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In Japan, Coca-Cola fans can use their smartphone to access a vending machine loyalty scheme. By installing the Coke On app, they can collect points when they visit a machine by connecting their phone to it. They can then redeem those points against future purchases from the same machines - giving people a reason to use a Coca-Cola vending machine over a competitor's.

"Coke On is essentially a mobile-driven loyalty platform that allows you to walk up to any of the 1 million vending machines in Japan - 200,000 in Tokyo alone - and actually be able to redeem loyalty rewards with just the flip of your thumb," said Coca-Cola's Chief Digital Officer, David Godsman. "We've also looked at some forms of AI in terms of optimizing how our vending machines are placed and where they're placed to ensure we're meeting consumer demand based off of patterns and things of that nature. I would say it's been a lot of trial. The Coke On app has been incredibly successful; it's approaching 6 million downloads. People are using it with great frequency."

AI is also being used to offer different purchasing options. New vending machines being launched in the US, Australia, and New Zealand will allow customers to pre-order two drinks at a time via an app, and then collect them from a machine.

The new artificial intelligence technology will also allow Coca-Cola to fine tune each machine to its location.

By analyzing purchasing behaviors and customer data, the vending machines will be able to promote appropriate products for the area, and even offer discounts and deals which will be bespoke to that machine. In addition, the artificial intelligence will also be able to adjust the "mood" of the vending machine to be appropriate for its location. This means that in a gym, for instance, a machine may promote more water.

"One of the most annoying things today is that we couldn't serve two drinks on a vending machine," said Greg Chambers, Global Director of Digital Innovation at Coca-Cola. "The app, which launches in about two weeks in places like U.S. universities and locations around Australia and New Zealand, will allow you to order a Coca-Cola drink for yourself and a friend, then have it available on the vending machine. The app will adjust to the vending machine requirements. At college, the vending machine and app might have a fun personality, whereas in a hospital it might be less about the "fun" involved and more about the utility and functionality."

The new artificial intelligence technology powering these vending machines not only helps Coca-Cola mine huge volumes of data which can then be used to drive further marketing decisions, but also offers unique and personalized purchasing experiences for fans of the brand.

Final Thoughts

Artificial intelligence is going to be at the forefront of all digital and omnichannel marketing in the future, and we can surely expect to see many more innovations like Coca-Cola's vending machines moving forwards.

The final word goes to Greg Chambers.

"My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward. AI is the foundation for everything we do. We create intelligent experiences and AI is the kernel that powers that experience. As humans, we build emotional connections to machines and with products. We will do this in new and exciting ways. You should enjoy the process of acquiring a Coke as much as you enjoy consuming a Coke."

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