Costa Express has unveiled a revolutionary new concept set to transform the self-service coffee bar market. Combining convenience with quality coffee and all the added extras that characterise a Costa café experience, ‘Marlow’ appeals to all of the senses.

Audio has been added to the vending machines to recreate the hustle and bustle of a lively High Street coffee shop, as you get closer you become absorbed in the aroma of coffee, freshly baked goods and hot chocolate, and a touch screen display makes it fun and easy for customers to navigate their way through the 250 drink options. Of course the taste is there too with freshly ground Italian beans and fresh milk in every cup. You can read all about Marlow at Costa.co.uk/marlow.

While Costa’s approach to self-service presents a huge opportunity to drive new business and expand its reach on the High Street, some retailers are using self-service in-store to leverage the shopper experience; attracting customers, enhancing convenience and keeping them entertained.

The option to self-serve is commonplace in supermarkets, DIY stores and outlets such as Argos, giving shoppers the power to choose the way they purchase and often with the added bonus of reducing queue-time.

An Australian café, Yo2go, has just launched as a wholly self-serve concept to capitalise on the fact that people like to do their own thing, help themselves, and handle their own food. And in the US, a self-serve frozen yogurt shop has opened its doors so customers can choose their own quantity, toppings and syrups.

To keep ahead retail brands must innovate and the next generation of self-serve offerings that we will only see more of on the High Street will not only be a leap forward in the creativity and technology stakes, but also address some of the challenges.

Retailers must be mindful of the fact that self-serve can take away some of a brand’s personality. The joy of the physical experience of shopping comes down to fantastic customer service, friendly helpful staff, and the feeling of added-value that you get from the personal touch – all of which are absent from most self-serve propositions.

The key to success and where the opportunity lies for retail is to capture the convenience and cost-savings attributed to self-serve while continuing to deliver the essence of a brand’s personality.

This may be following in the footsteps of Yo2go which is immersing customers in its proposition by getting them hands-on with the product and creating interest in the process. Costa’s Marlow recreates its coffee shop experience by stimulating all of the senses so even without a barista on-hand they continue to connect the customer with the brand.

Facilitating a shopper’s freedom to choose when and how they purchase is part and parcel of today’s retail environment. By using self-serve as an opportunity to deliver an enhanced customer experience brands will help ensure their high street survival.

Adam Tregaskis