AUSTIN, TX: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks group, is exploring ways in which its interactive vending machines can be turned into marketing channels which tap into the power of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Derek Myers, Group Director/Strategy & Commercialization at Coca-Cola North America, discussed this subject at MediaPost's OMMA Conference at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016.

"When you think about vending in general, it's not this obscure box that feeds off these dollar bills that you never get back. We think of it as our retail store for our brands around the world," he said. (For more, including further details about the firm's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Coke's three steps for IoT marketing.)

And, increasingly, these "retail" hubs are becoming interactive marketing channels thanks to the addition of digital screens and the connectivity offered by tech tools including WiFi, Bluetooth and beacons.

"In the US, we have 50,000 screens of a variety of sizes that help deliver digital content for promoting our brands. And that helps us tell our brand stories at the most important point – and that's at the point of sale," said Myers.

While vending machines may, at first glance, appear to be more of a legacy business than at the cutting edge of digital innovation, these appliances in fact possess some uniquely beneficial qualities.

"If you think about the Internet of Things, one of the most important things is data and scale. And … we have millions of vending machines across the world today," Myers said.

Alongside scale, this equipment could ultimately provide unparalleled frequency, with over 100 purchases made every second from its units globally.

"That's a tremendous amount of information that we can gather in terms of who's buying, where they're buying it, what the temperature is, what the occasion is," Myers said.

Effectively tapping this kind of opportunity, however, will require unprecedented technological expertise and truly holistic strategies for joining data points together – a lesson that Coke learned as it first tested beacons.

"The other piece that we've seen, and this is something we missed on, is that we beaconed the heck out of a lot of our assets in the world, but we didn't have a strong eye on how we connect everything," said Myers.

Data sourced from Warc