4. July 2023 | Interview, Leading Voices, Retail Technology, Visions of Retail

How a self-service freezer can lead to more turnover and less food waste

by Jennifer Meyer (exclusively for EuroCIS.mag)

In April, the vending company Selfly Store introduced its latest product: the Selfly Freezer. We spoke to CMO Malin Östman about first experiences with the smart freezer and the potential of unmanned shopping.

A person with long blond hair - Malin Östman

Malin Östman, chief marketing officer at Selfly Store.
© Selfly Store

Malin, how is the Selfly Freezer shopping experience?

The Selfly Freezer shopping experience is seamless and enjoyable. Customers unlock the door by tapping a credit card or mobile wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay) on the payment terminal, select their items, and close the door. Once the customer has closed the door, they can continue their purchase. The cabinet reads the items taken, automatically charges the customer’s card or digital wallet, and a summary of the purchase is shown on the cabinet screen.

What are the advantages of the Selfly Freezer compared to traditional freezers or automated vending machines?

Compared to traditional freezers, the Selfly Freezer is an intelligent, data-driven solution that offers accurate item-level real-time analytics to the retailer. This allows the retailer to make informed data-driven decisions about their business.

Since there is no limitation on how products need to be fitted into dispensers and how they fall down, the retailer can stock the freezer with any product, regardless of material or shape.

For the consumer, it offers fast and easy grab-and-go shopping, reducing waiting times. A purchase takes merely 10 seconds. Unlike vending machines, the Selfly Freezer allows customers to touch and feel every product before buying, which enhances the shopping experience.

Two people standing in front of a freezer; Copyright: © Selfly Store

Malin Östman sees both advantages and disadvantages to self-service shopping. Self-service offers convenience, longer service hours and a more personal shopping experience. However, it can eliminate personal interaction, advice or offers of assistance that some customers value.
© Selfly Store

What exactly do you mean when you talk about “intelligent” freezers?

The Selfly Freezer is “intelligent” because it’s IoT-enabled, using RFID technology for 100 percent detection accuracy and is cloud-connected for data-driven insights. This helps retailers optimize sales and operations in an entirely new way. Unique features include real-time inventory tracking, sales optimization, expiry date tracking to reduce food waste, and many more. Moreover, the cloud solution includes several discounting and advertising features that can be leveraged to increase sales remotely. Plus, advertising can be displayed on the top screen. In addition to the existing features, the software will be updated on an ongoing basis, so new features will be available to retailers.

How easy is it for retailers to integrate and operate the Selfly Freezer in their store?

Integration and operation of the Selfly Freezer is relatively simple. It’s set up at the merchant’s location and training is provided to ensure best practices are followed. Product replenishment is done via a mobile app, and real-time inventory, purchase data, and other analytics are provided through the Selfly Cloud. Integration to other systems or ERPs can be done via the Selfly Cloud API.

Are there additional costs for the retailer?

In addition to the intelligent vending machine, an Encoding Station is needed to encode the product information on the RFID tags, which are placed on the products. And retailers should consider the costs of RFID tags for the continued operations. The Selfly Cloud is a SaaS solution carrying a small cost every month, which includes the customer success advisory, continuous software updates, data storage, and new features frequently added. However, the solution is also available through leasing.

Is there already an example of use?

Blockstore, a pioneer in the unmanned retail industry, recently completed a successful pilot project using the Selfly Freezer in its Helsinki-based concept store. This project saw the Selfly Freezer being accessed by roughly 800 recurring customers monthly. During the trial period, hundreds of purchases were made from the freezer, earning impressive satisfaction rates and high praise from customers. In particular, frozen pizza and ice cream offerings were eagerly anticipated by consumers.

Juha Maijala, CEO of Blockstore, highlights the freezer’s seamless plug-and-play integration into their existing system. The pilot’s success supports Blockstore’s vision for a fully unmanned grocery store, with the Selfly Freezer complementing their Selfly Ambient and Selfly Fridge, offering a full range of items from dry and non-food items to chilled and frozen products. Given the successful trial, Blockstore is now set to pilot the complete concept with its retail customers.

Three Selfly Freezers side by side; Copyright: Selfly Store

© Selfly Store

How do you see vending machines and staff-free automated stores evolving?

We believe that the evolution of vending and staff-free automated stores is expected to progress as consumers seek convenience and as businesses seek to optimize operations. These solutions enable extended service hours, reduce queuing times, and can serve a variety of customer needs.

Personally, I believe that there is a need for strategically placed service points wherever people are – whether that is on their way home from work, at their kids’ football practice, or in the emergency room. They don’t necessarily have to be big, but they just have to have the items that people need at that moment. By using data and artificial intelligence, the service points would be stocked with exactly these items.

You said that the Selfly Freezer can minimize food waste. How does that work?

The Selfly Freezer offers a unique expiry date tracking feature for reducing food waste. The expiry date feature is enabled by the RFID tags placed on each food item. When encoding the tags, the expiry date is also encoded. When the expiry date is approaching, the solution can automatically trigger a discount on the expiring item and advertise it on the top screen of the machine.

How important is the range of convenience food in the retail sector?

Convenience food and snack offerings are increasingly relevant to customers due to busy lifestyles and the demand for on-the-go options. We see that over 50 percent of revenue generated from Selfly Store are meal items, like sandwiches, salads and wraps. Traditional vending machines are not catering this need and at the same time grocery stores and restaurants are not always conveniently located or have long queues.

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