Go back five or so years, and the only free coffee the average consumer would be offered was at the bank or a new-car showroom. Times have changed. Retail has changed. Nowadays, forward-thinking retail businesses know that the battle for customer loyalty isn’t just about prices, but about offering a better experience.
Could a commercial coffee machine enhance customers’ perception of your business? And should you be giving coffee away for free, or offering it at a competitive price?
It’s not just about the value of the transaction, it’s about the environment you want to create, the suitability of your space and products, and the nature of the buying process. Of course, serving a frothy cappuccino in a tiny clothing store is just asking for trouble, and it makes no sense to make a mocha for a customer in a greengrocery.
So what kind of business suits what type of coffee experience?
Firstly, if you’re not a coffee business, you probably don’t want your staff spending time making fancy coffees from an espresso machine. One of the few exceptions to this would include a high-end jewellery store. Generally, however, a bean-to-cup machine makes more sense. Particularly as takeaway cup with a lid reduces the chances of accidental spillages. And until you’ve seen that your investment is making you a good return, go with leasing a bean-to-cup machine rather than buying. Far more affordable.
Now, if your shop’s footprint is large enough to encourage lengthy browsing at length, virtually any sort of retail offering might suit a self-service coffee machine. This is never truer than if you often see bored partners staring into the distance as their other half peruses your products. In this case, the bored partner is as much your target as the browser. If you’ve got space to add a comfy chair or sofa, perhaps a coffee table and a relevant magazine or two, so much the better.
To charge or not to charge? Choosing coffee machines for shops
Here, the value of the transaction or the type of experience can be your decider.
For large transactions – think high-end furniture and jewellery – don’t even consider charging for coffee, and if an assistant can serve good coffee from an espresso machine in a proper cup, so much the better.
For estate agencies, car showrooms, hairdresser’s and beauty salons and the like, an espresso machine coffee is great, but a bean-to-cup coffee-to-go would be fine – but again, you should be giving it away for free as an experiential bonus.
For department stores and regular retail outlets, lease a bean-to-cup machine and charge for each coffee. Getting the price right is your challenge. You’re going to be offering high-quality coffee to rival any of the big chain coffee shops, but you want to undercut them by a little. This way you might just add footfall as well as increase the amount of browsing time – and transaction values – in your shop.