London Self-Serve Coffee House Taps Watson Analytics for Critical Customer Insights

ARMONK, NY - 11 Jun 2015: IBM (NYSE:IBM) today announced that Honest Café, a new type of “unmanned” coffee house in London, is using Watson Analytics to unearth client insights to help determine everything from coffee products and pricing, to marketing and promotions.

Honest Café is a new venture from Revive Vending, one of the leading vending service providers in the UK, designed to encourage healthy eating and social engagement.

Unique to the Honest Café plan is staffing: the three cafés currently in operation, and four more planned, are all unmanned. Instead, the company deploys and positions high-end vending machines at the Honest Café locations. The cafés offer a mix of health-conscious snacks, locally-sourced and low-calorie organic options, juices, fruit teas, flavored popcorn, baked vegetable snacks, and Fair Trade hot drinks.

Although the absence of wait staffs, cooks, and baristas can mean greater efficiencies and lower overhead costs, it makes understanding clients’ needs and desires a little more challenging.

“Because Honest is unmanned, it’s tough going observing what our customers are saying and doing in our cafes,” said Mark Summerill, head of product development at Honest Café. “We don’t know what our customers are into or what they look like. And as a start-up it’s crucial we know what sells and what areas we should push into.”

What Honest Café did have was data. All those vending machines were capturing important information, from product sales and selections, to the timing of purchases, and more. But even then, the company realized it was not getting the value out of its transactional files.

“We lacked an effective way of analyzing the data,” Summerill said. “We don’t have dedicated people on this and the data is sometimes hard pull to together to form a picture.”

That’s when the company turned to Watson Analytics, IBM’s breakthrough natural language-based analytics service that provides business professionals across disciplines fast access to powerful, predictive and visual analytics. With the help of IBM Business Partner, EBI Solutions, Summerill uploaded its transactional information and quickly began discovering insights.

“We identified that people who buy as a social experience have different reasons than those who dash in and out grabbing just the one drink,” Summerill said. “They also have a different payment method, the time of the day differs and the day of the week. Knowing this, we can now correctly time promotions and give them an offer or introduce a product that is actually relevant to them.”

“Honest Café is a great example of how young new businesses are leveraging predictive analytics for the first time to make better, more strategic business decisions,” said Marc Altshuller, Vice President, Watson Analytics, IBM. “The company is harnessing the power of Watson Analytics to not only be responsive, but proactive.”

Since its release in December 2014, more than 40,000 people around the globe have registered for and are using Watson Analytics. Through IBM’s relationship with Twitter , Watson Analytics also enables customers to analyze social sentiment for insights around programs, products, trends and more.

Because of his early success with Watson Analytics, Summerill is in the process of upgrading to Watson Analytics Personal edition which offers access to 25,000 tweets per dataset.

“Having direct access to Twitter data for insights into what our buyers are talking about is going to help augment our view and understanding of our customers even further,” he said.

In addition to providing clearer insights into purchases, the combination of Watson Analytics and Twitter data could help Summerill predict what customers are likely to buy. For example, since the company has technology to dispense drinks remotely, it can provide drinks to customers for free – remotely – when they engage with a vending machine.

“Watson Analytics could help us make sure we offer the right customers the right drink, possibly their favorite drink,” Summerill said.

But for Summerill, the key aspect of Watson Analytics is its ease of use.

“I’m no analyst and data sometimes leaves me feeling cold, but Watson Analytics has helped me understand the data and the story we can tell,” Summerill said. “We can be focused on what really matters rather than what we think might matter.”

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