Good news! The vending experience of the future will be an engaging one for consumers. Not only will they know the nutritional content of the product they buy before making a purchase, but the process of reading the nutrition information will be exciting. They will be enticed by a colorful display of graphic images that scroll across a screen that resembles a giant smart phone.
This is not fantasy. For many consumers in the Northeast, it is already reality, as the Diji-Touch machine, an Internet-connected machine with a 46-inch touchscreen that makes the vending experience more interactive for consumers, has dazzled 20 locations served by Canton, Mass.-based Next Generation Vending & Food Services Inc.
Next Generation recently completed an 8-month beta test for Diji-Touch, a partnership of Kraft Vending & OCS, Crane and Samsung, including colleges, health care facilities and transportation locations. All parties believe the test has been very successful.
The next step will be a pilot test among independent vending operators, according to Kraft. The long-term goal is for the machine to be available to operators nationwide.
Next Generation, which was selected for the beta test because of its technological expertise, plans on purchasing more Diji-Touch machines, based on the results to date.
The machine, which Kraft and Crane both displayed at the National Automatic Merchandising Association OneShow in 2010, has undergone some changes during the beta test. Next Generation and Kraft are both awaiting reports from researchers who are analyzing data from the beta test.
Digitas LLC, a digital advertising company, is determining metrics such as how long consumers are viewing nutrition data before making a purchase, and what relation exists between nutrition reading and purchasing. Digitas can determine these metrics because each time a consumer touches the LCD screen a file is recorded.
Nielsen Strategic Media Service, meanwhile, has interviewed consumers and will determine how consumers use the machine and how they perceive it. (See sidebar.)
A long-term goal is to use the Diji-Touch as an advertising medium. While the machine in its current stage uses promotional advertising to encourage vending sales, the system also has the potential to carry paid advertising, offering “passive” income to vending operators.
The Diji-Touch machine, besides offering a more interactive buying experience, marks a new type of development process for vending. Unlike other innovations that are tested and then brought to market, Diji-Touch is an ongoing process. This is because it uses a technology, liquid crystal display digital video, that is still evolving.
The Diji-Touch mimics a traditional glassfront snack machine in that it displays a grid of product facings. The first difference is that instead of displaying actual product, the screen presents a grid of colorful graphic icons representing the products.
Once the consumer touches an icon to make a selection, a larger image of the product appears on the screen, prompting the consumer to “spin” the image. The image of the product rotates in place in the center of the screen, allowing the consumer to view the package from different angles. The consumer can then choose a view of the ingredients, the nutrition data, or move on to the actual purchase process.
The touch prompts lead the consumer through the purchase process, offering a choice of payment method: cash or credit. At the end, the screen displays the sale information and asks the consumer if they’d like to make another selection.
These text prompts appear on a rectangular image in the center of the screen against a solid background. The screen is highly versatile and can include an advertising banner or virtual images of mascots such as Mr. Peanut.
The user can even adjust the product grid so the top and bottom rows switch position, allowing someone who is visually impaired to view the top rows at eye level. This feature makes the machine ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.