Marek Wieteska: the market no longer asks questions, but implements instantly

24 listopada 2021

Marek Wieteska, CEO of SelfMaker, in an interview with HandelExtra.pl talks about a completely new concept of stores based on technology, vending and e-commerce in one. In his opinion, the market no longer asks about self-service technologies, because it knows that implementing them is a must.


HandelExtra.pl: SelfMaker wants to enter the market with a new product - Coolockers. These are lockers adapted to store orders from e-grocery shops and those stationary markets that also sell online. What stage is the project at?


Marek Wieteska, CEO of SelfMaker: The premiere of the device takes place during the ongoing Modern Distribution Congress in Warsaw. For two days, Coolockers will be tested by specialists from the retail industry, which is evolving so dynamically that automation in this sector is a natural step for us. That is why we have designed and manufactured a vending machine that supports three temperature ranges and is thought out in such a way that its modular structure allows you to create various modifications without having to change the entire equipment.

Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the backstage of the talks we are currently conducting at this stage, but there is a thing that connects all these negotiations: the market no longer asks whether it is worth automating processes and investing in additional sales channels. Everyone knows that these purchasing changes will stay with us for good, the only question is how to keep up with them.


As the demand for in-store self-service is growing, which specific solutions are most sought after by retailers?


The UCE Research and Syno Poland research carried out in 2020 showed that a total of 66.1% of Poles want more self-service checkouts in stores. A similar trend applies to lockers that allow to collect parcels from stores on your own. We have recently carried out a study on this subject in cooperation with the SW Research Research Agency. It shows that 80% of respondents choose lockers as the preferred form of delivery - among others due to the lack of the need to wait for the shipment in a specific place and time.

Similar conclusions can be drawn from queries directed to SelfMaker. In addition to self-service checkouts and classic lockers, we get inquiries about lockers adapted to large-size shipments, e.g. from construction or furniture stores, lockers that allow to store food products, including fresh ones, maintaining the right temperature, and other self-service solutions, such as catering stations, kiosks or extensive vending machines .


What is the impact of the pandemic on the development of self-service technologies in stores?


In times when we limit contact with other people, fearing infection, self-service solutions not only improve the comfort of buyers, but also streamline and accelerate the entire purchasing process. In addition, they reduce the costs of running a business and allow the operation of the outlet (in fully self-service mode) even in the event of a trade restriction. You hear more and more about staff-free stores, although, in my opinion, the idea of fully automatic stores on the Polish market is still quite utopian. I believe that vending machines that can accommodate up to 1000 indexes will be accepted much faster - something like a convenience store in a nutshell. This trend has already started to develop strongly under the influence of the pandemic, and the result will be the emergence of completely new concepts and networks based on technology, vending and e-commerce in one.


Does the size of the store matter when it comes to the retailer's search for modern system solutions? Or maybe not (ex. Żabka) and what counts is simply capital for investments, which is or is not there?


The store area does matter, of course, but it is not a determining factor. We design our solutions individually, adjusting them in terms of functions, size, design and materials to the needs of each partner. Thanks to this, we are able to provide a product that will be functional and will fit into the space and aesthetics of the store. Like, for example, in the case of the implementation of self-service checkouts in Rossmann. We have designed a device that combines the functionality of a traditional checkout with a self-service one, and the whole thing is closed in a device the size of a PC.

Personally, I believe that each store has the potential to implement self-service solutions on a larger or smaller scale. The starting point is simply a thorough analysis of the needs of the client and the end recipient. We should also remember that investing in self-service solutions is a long-term activity that will reduce costs and, as a result, increase profit. This is clearly visible on the example of courier companies, for which the cost of the last mile is approx. 70 - 80%. By implementing a network of lockers, such a company not only improves distribution and shortens the last mile, but also reduces its costs by delivering multiple parcels to one collection point.


So let's talk about money. Are SelfMaker self-service products affordable for a stand-alone store?


I believe that every innovation requires long-term thinking, so it is difficult to answer this question unequivocally. Due to the many market factors we are currently struggling with, we can see that the market is cautious and looking for instant solutions, as it struggles with current problems such as lack of staff, restrictions and an imbalance in logistics chains. Such a situation is not conducive to investment planning, where the rate of return becomes visible after a period of 3 to 6 months, or even longer.

It all depends on the sales model. I would not offer a local grocery store a refrigerated locker, but a mobile device for accepting payments, a scanner and a logistics center in the palm of your hand, certainly yes. We offer such integrated solutions thanks to cooperation with the Asian giant supporting retail automation, Sunmi. We always try to adapt automation to business goals, never the other way around.


Which large networks does the company work with and what specific solutions/products does SelfMaker offer them? Have you managed to acquire new customers in the past year?


Certainly, it was quite a challenge to create one of the largest click & collect points in Europe and we did it for the Leroy Merlin supermarket chain in Poland, of which we are extremely proud. Lockers in the big size version fits perfectly into the service of the DIY store chain and our production works very intensively. I can not say anything except that soon also the customers of the furniture industry will receive added value to the purchasing process, and the size of the shipment will not be a problem at all. In addition, we handle orders for invoice kiosks, checkouts and self-service kiosks on an ongoing basis, including those for the medical industry, which is also undergoing an evolution in the field of patient service, but we will tell more about this cooperation soon.


What are the company's plans for 2022? New projects/investments?


We recently participated in Expo Dubai 2020 and brought from there a lot of valuable insights about foreign markets. In 2022, we plan to intensify expansion and go beyond the borders of Poland with our products. We will continue to develop lockers, in various variants and adapted to various industries, but in the SelfMaker portfolio we also have fully automated SelfCoffee food stations, including the hot vending option, which is very popular among owners of petrol stations and convenience stores. It is also a mini revolution in the approach to the standard gastronomic point, but at the moment I cannot say more, but I will reveal that hot dogs here are great, and the sandwiches are waiting for the testing phase.


The original interview  was published in polish on November 23, 2021 on the website handlextra.pl and is available at: https://handelextra.pl/artykuly/255319,marek-wieteska-selfmaker-rynek-juz-nie-pyta-tylko-wdraza

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