Aeguana was founded ten years ago, but Managing Director Jason Vincent accepts that, when compared to ‘the big vending manufacturers’, his company is still seen by potential customers as ‘the new kid on the block’.
‘We started Aeguana as a software company’, he said. ‘Our first client back then is still with us – Rentokil-Initial. We manage around 27,000 machines for them, through our software, the vast majority located in washrooms. We built a vending management system specifically to manage that massive estate of machines. There was no telemetry back then, they were the most old-school machines you could picture. So, the platform we created had all kinds of algorithms to predict when a machine required an operator visit, to help save time and money. From those beginnings, we did all kinds of other work with Rentokil-Initial in the vending space, but as a company, whilst we recognised the opportunity for significant disruption within the vending sector, we didn’t fully focus on it because we didn’t feel the industry was receptive yet to new technology. In fact, in that time, we did all kinds of other projects outside of vending. It’s only in the last five or six years that this has changed and the vision we believed in for what vending ‘could be’ started to materialise.’
‘One of the problems we came up against was the whole fragmentation of the industry.’
At that time, there were a lot of other software companies around providing telemetry solutions, but none that felt truly integrated, so Aeguana began to think, ‘what could we by looking at the whole solution, including vending hardware?’ Jason had already been involved as a consultant with vending manufacturers and he came to the conclusion that no one was really getting the hardware right and that maybe, Aeguana could come up with something that really raised the bar…
‘One of the problems we came up against was the whole fragmentation of the industry’, Jason recalled. ‘The typical way of working was that you’d buy a vending machine, you’d buy a payment system, then potentially you’d buy a telemetry system. You sometimes end up with a machine with two SIM cards inside and two antennas…’
Vending was a very difficult market back then, particularly if a customer was new to the industry. For instance, if a retailer made the decision to install vending machines there was a very steep learning curve to negotiate. So Jason and his team started thinking, ‘what if we just made it all, from scratch?’
‘The first machine Aeguena built was the Digital Vend, a wall-mounted machine’ he said. ‘We built the machine and we provided the online platform, which we called ‘VendLive’. It was a platform that was easy to explain because essentially, it was a telemetry system. However, it took things a whole lot further than simple telemetry.
‘These days, we work with Coffetek and Jofemar.’
‘If you think about an e-commerce web site and all the capabilities you’d expect that to have, such as customer segmentation, voucher codes; promotional capabilities, remarketing and so on – all that cool stuff you can do on web sites – we brought that to the vending sphere. We can track analytics, we can show you heat maps of who’s clicked on what on the screen, how far they got with the purchase, how many times they dropped off before buying; things like that. So, that was the software.
‘We only got into building the hardware because at that time, we couldn’t find a suitable company to work with. Since then, things have come a long way and our technology today is mostly machine agnostic. We currently work with leading manufacturers such as Coffetek and Jofemar, taking their machines and vastly expanding their capabilities with our tech’, Jason said.
‘All our machines are MDB compatible, so you can plug and play different payment devices and still have on your machine all the capabilities I referred to earlier. So basically, that’s what we do.’
Despite the capabilities of Aeguana, it’s not been easy for ‘the new kid on the block’ to make a mark in an industry that, until recently, has – arguably – stubbornly resisted change.
‘Operators were not very receptive to us at first’, Jason admits. ‘They either just laughed at us, or they simply didn’t ‘get’ what we did; but that has completely changed over the last two years. During that time, we’ve secured some really good contracts, for example with VendEase, a company based in London that operates several hundred machines. They were the first operator we worked with; they’ve taken quite a few of our machines and they really do ‘get’ it. They understand what we do; they appreciate the value we bring to them as a business. Our relationship with them has really solidified, to the point that we are working with them now on all sorts of opportunities.
‘We’re more interested in working in the bigger opportunities in the retail space.’
‘During that time, we’ve been having wider conversations with larger operators, even as far as Selecta. Many operators are interested in what we do, but they can’t justify the additional investment, unless their customers drive the demand for what we can do. For example, groups in the hospitality or travel sector might say, ‘we’ve got your service, but can we do something for our guests that’s more interactive; more advanced?’ When that happens, that’s when operators contact us and ask ‘can you help us to deliver the solution this customer wants?’ That’s how Aeguana’s relationships with operators typically evolve and it’s happening more and more. I firmly believe that in the next few years, a lot of our business will come directly from operators’, Jason said.
So, to misquote ZZ Top, is ‘the future so bright they’ve got to wear shades’? Jason is quietly confident. ‘At Aeguana, we call what we do ‘Automated Retail’, because we’re more interested in working in the bigger opportunities in the retail space. If you think about a typical drink and snack machine on a railway platform, there’s not too much we can do to improve that offering. Granted, we could make the buying experience more interesting, more interactive, but are we going to increase the bottom line for the operator? Probably not. In other scenarios, though, we can deliver a massive impact. A good example of this is what we’ve achieved with WH Smith in hospitals. Together with Coffetek, we’ve created a kind of ‘micro store’, where people can get excellent coffee, fresh food including sandwiches, as well as snacks and drinks. Our technology allows WH Smith to offer meal deals and promotions so that, for example, NHS staff can get a discount. It’s in similar scenarios that we see our growth coming. It’s not really micro markets, it’s vending: the offer relies on vending machines.
‘I think Aeguana will always be a specialist, premium manufacturer, working at the high end of the market’, Jason said, ‘but I think in terms of scale, the kind of projects we’re working on are growing fast and we believe that will continue going forward. We’ve experienced exponential growth over the past 3 years, doubling year on year – and we’re excited by what the future holds
Visit Planet Vending, HERE
For more information, take a look at the Aeguana web site: https://aeguana.com/