Point-of-use (POU) bottle-less coolers represent a rapidly expanding market opportunity for dealers, wholesalers and distributors of water quality products for commercial businesses.
Today, more than one million bottle-less coolers are in use—approximately 18% of total water coolers. This market segment is growing at a double-digit rate, which is good news for dealerships looking to fortify their recurring revenue stream and increase customer retention.
By the same token, more commercial organizations are going bottle-less because this option is more cost-effective, better for the environment, contributes to greater employee safety and wellness, and is simply more convenient. Increasing market adoption is the result of newer, simpler and more intuitive technology that makes bottle-less coolers an attractive alternative to conventional bottled water coolers. It is a win-win proposition for your customers and your business.
Traditionally, commercial customers have used bottled water coolers in waiting rooms for patrons and in lounges for employees. But those proverbial in-office “water cooler conversations” usually come with a price.
For small businesses, the variable cost of purchasing 5-gal containers of bottled water can add up to almost $150 per month when you consider that these employers typically consume roughly four bottles a week at up to $9 per bottle, which equates to $36 per week. Larger businesses, on the other hand, can spend thousands of dollars per month on delivered bottles.
Bottle-less water coolers offer many advantages for your customers, such as:
- Unlimited drinking water. Having a bottle-less cooler is like having a mini water plant inside your customer’s office with endless quality drinking water literally on tap. There is no worry that your clients will run out of their drinking water supply, whereas a 10-employee business could easily drink 30 gal of bottled water every month. Rationing and running out of bottled water are common occurrences in small businesses today, requiring additional resources to take on the extra duty of bottled water inventory management.
- More economical. With bottle-less coolers, there is only a nominal one-time installation charge and no monthly bottle delivery fees or surcharges. Some companies claim they have saved between 20% to 50% monthly on drinking water expenses by switching to a POU system.
- No deliveries or bottle clutter. Because the water comes directly from a building’s existing water source and is automatically filtered for drinking, there is no more heavy lifting, delivery or storage of 5-gal bottles, which weigh 42 lb each. Most bottles do not have handles, and, if they do, are difficult to lift from the floor to the cooler, which can contribute to the risk of injury.
- Low maintenance. Because deliveries of bottled water are eliminated, companies have no inventory or delivery receipts to manage. Bottle-less coolers only require an annual maintenance check and filter replacement, so they are easier to maintain with minimal service calls.
- Better for the environment. Reducing plastic bottle waste by not using large multigallon containers shrinks your customer’s environmental footprint. Without emissions from large diesel-burning trucks required to deliver bottled water, the benefits of “green” multiply.
Dealer Advantages of POU Coolers
The biggest advantage to offering your customers a bottle-less water cooler system is that it generates recurring revenue for your business long term. The many other benefits include:
- Steady cash flow. Aside from a small, one-time installation charge, customers receive one predictable bill each month for equipment rental, which means steady cash flow for you and less headaches for them. Most businesses keep POU coolers an average of six years—four to five times longer than bottled water customers—allowing you to grow your revenue and retention rates. Dealers also make an immediate return on the equipment (generally a 300% markup) should a customer decide to purchase a bottle-less cooler system outright.
- Fewer cancellations. With bottle-less drinking water systems, your customers have less to think about. There is no noticeable hassle from deliveries, lifting, bottle inventory, deposits and constant billing variability associated with bottled water. Your customers are just glad the system is in place and working, and therefore do not cancel service nearly as often as with bottled water.
- Easy installation. POU coolers are very easy to install at your customer’s site. The unit simply hooks up to a water main off the sink or other existing water source in a single service visit, and the system is virtually maintenance-free after the initial installation.
- High demand. With the advent of innovative new technology, bottle-less water coolers have features that customers want and need, which in turn helps to drive product demand and sales.
Technology Drives Demand
Today’s advanced technology used in bottle-less water cooler systems is causing businesses to change the way they think about water from a tap. There are various models of POU systems that are suited to different business sizes and drinking water needs. This means you can give your customers more options and a solution that is tailored to them based on their water quality, average consumption and other special considerations.
Following are the latest advances in innovation when it comes to the features of bottle-less water cooler technology:
- Filtration flexibility. Some POU cooler systems offer two types of filtering options: activated carbon filtering, which reduces chlorine taste and odor; and multi-stage reverse osmosis filtering, a custom solution that reduces lead, sodium, radium and cysts such as Giardia. The type of filtration is determined by performing an initial test of the customer’s water to assess if any particles, impurities, organic contaminants and dissolved substances are present.
- Added safety. There are specific technologies that offer added protection on certain types of bottle-less water cooler models. Some units include ultraviolet light, which sanitizes the drinking water stored in the tank to protect people from bacteria without the use of harmful chemicals. Another new, proprietary technology called BioCote provides exterior antimicrobial protection against fungi, mold and bacteria to prevent odors and illness. This feature is ideal for locations where germ-spreading potential may be heightened.
- More temperature choices. Most POU cooler systems can dispense cold and hot water, but newer technology can produce water that is room temperature or even very hot. The latter option allows people to make instant soups, pastas or other water-based meals without requiring a microwave oven.
- Smart electronics. Customers don’t want to wonder whether their water cooler is working, so the added convenience of features that make their lives easier is an attractive selling point. Some bottle-less cooler models offer built-in automatic leak detection and shutoff, an energy-saving hot tank sleep mode and a hot water safety lock. All of these “intelligent” technologies also help save money and the environment.
POU bottle-less coolers provide many benefits to dealers and their customers alike. For distributors, they represent a ripe opportunity to build a steady revenue stream and a more loyal customer base. For end-user companies, going bottle-less helps business leaders reduce operating costs, go green and contribute to employee safety and wellness. New advances in POU technology afford even more opportunities to attract customers and encourage repeat business for years to come.