You Say Evaluation, I Say Analysis…

I’ve said elsewhere that technology is flattening society and giving the individual more control. One impact of this phenomenon is increased customer participation in the product development cycle. And not only in focus group sessions, but through daily product purchases. Companies also benefit, of course, because they get real-time data on customer preferences so that they can continually tune their product development, marketing, and sales strategy.

Freestyle Dispenser

Freestyle Dispenser

An interesting example is Coke’s new Freestyle drink dispenser. Capable of dispensing over 100 varieties of drinks, the new dispersers are rolling out this summer in select states. Aside from the sheer amount of choice to consumer has, the interesting element for me is the tremendous amount of data that Coke gets in the bargain. Using RFID technology, information on volume and type of purchases is sent to Coke for analysis.

An InformationWeek article provides more detail on Coke’s strategy:

Test marketing via Freestyle will be a lot cheaper than the model Coke’s been using: bottling and bringing to market new products that sometimes don’t gain traction and get canceled after a year or two. “This is a huge jump from our current fountain dispensers,” says Christopher Dennis, Coke’s IT director of e-business transformation. “It’s like going from the dial phone to the BlackBerry.”

And this summary of hoped-for benefits of Freestyle:

  • RFID-tagged flavor cartridges let Coke track inventory and distribute beverage formulas over a wireless network
  • Data on drinks served is uploaded daily to Coke’s headquarters
  • Consumption data helps Coke and fast-food outlets decide what to serve and promote, and when and where to launch new products
  • Operational data identifies dispensers with problems

Clearly the potential payoff for Coke and its vendors and customers is great. This leap forward in business intelligence could have great implications for performance technology. Stay tuned.

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