Fitbit HK's smart vending machine to expand its B2B market

Fitness product company Fitbit is betting on smart vending machines to increase its B2B sales in Hong Kong, its local agent Leader Radio Technologies Ltd tells Marketing.

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While vending machines are often perceived as being unimaginative and temperamental, Leader Radio Technologies' head of operations planning Ida Lee said Fitbit's machine will be the complete opposite.

The smart vending machine, which is offered by SmartRetail and powered by IBM's Watson, can not only track sales and inventory real-time, and allow cashless payments, but it can also recognise certain features of the consumers through the front-facing camera, thus providing personalised recommendations.

"For example, the machine may recommend a light-coloured hand band to a young woman, whilst recommending a dark-coloured one to a 30-ish man," explained Adam So, founder and director of SmartRetail. Marketing messages, which is shown on a screen on the vending machine, can be delivered in a more engaging way as well.

The visual data will enable Fitbit to respond more rapidly to consumer tastes, as the brand would be able to access all transaction data, analyse the conversion rates, learning which product sells best to specific groups, he added.

"In the past, it was a long journey for marketers, from collecting transaction data, to analysing them, to planning marketing campaigns," So explained. "Now you can learn which product sells best to which age groups in real-time, then promote the products at the right target."

IBM Hong Kong's CTO, Samson Tai, added that the visual and transaction data can also be used to enhance the brand's operation.

"You could analyse the traffic at different time periods, the weather of a specific location, and how these environmental factors could affect your sales," Tai explained.

"It's also possible to integrate the solution with loyalty programmes. The potential with this real-time data is huge."

The smart vending machine, which was showcased at the Hong Kong Computer Festival, is still being tested, but Fitbit's Lee said she has received positive feedback, and that the brand is looking to introduce the machine in gyms or corporate offices.

"In Hong Kong, we have more B2C customers than B2B clients," she explained. "We have a stable retail and distributor ecosystem, and we wish not to disrupt it. Rather, we want to tap into the fitness, banking and corporate industries by placing some of our machines in their places, given the machines' automated characteristics."

"Many companies are calling their staff to take a healthy lifestyle, or encourage them to visit the gym with offerings. Fitbit can leverage these initiatives and take it to a more engaging level."