The vending industry is experiencing its most difficult time ever. And while operators struggle, technology continues its march forward, setting the foundation for future where automated retailing plays a major role in the way consumers live.
All segments of the vending industry — operators and suppliers alike — struggle to sustain sales and profits, while a parallel industry — kiosks and digital signage — evolves, creating new opportunities to sell a greater variety of products and services in a more sensory intensive manner.
As Automatic Merchandiser has reported on these innovations in recent years, the magazine’s editorial team has wrestled with the question of what relevance kiosks and digital signage has to traditional vending.
I believe that the most recent Self Service Expo in New York City was especially instructive in answering this question.
During the expo, several exhibits presented technology that provides new ways for vending machines to give shoppers promotional deals and offers. By incorporating some of the technology that the kiosk and digital signage industry is using, vending machines can provide more information to answer shoppers’ questions and, at the same time, speed up transactions.
To date, kiosks and digital signs have been deployed outside of the traditional vending industry. These devices have become very sophisticated — with excellent graphic capabilities and fast, responsive customer interfaces. Getting vending, kiosks and digital signage to work together is a significant challenge.
The good news is that it’s already being done. There are market tests in progress in the U.S. and in Europe with cold drink machines, snack machines and hot beverage machines.
It will take time. And it will take money — serious investments — for the companies involved to test and refine these exciting new developments.
But for the traditional vending industry to become relevant to the retail foodservice and refreshment consumer, these investments have to be made.
The young consumers who grew up with iPhones, digital video entertainment, iPods and wi-fi are becoming the new work force. Just observe people in shopping malls, transportation terminals, lounges and waiting rooms.
THREE CONCEPTS ALREADY IN THE FIELD
Here are three important examples of the blending of vending equipment and kiosks and digital signs:
1) The Coca-Cola interactive vending machine from Coca-Cola, Sapient and Samsung.
2) The diji-touch snack vending machine from Kraft Vending & OCS, Samsung and Crane Merchandising Systems.
3) The Douwe Egberts BeMoved coffee vending machine from Sara Lee International.
The keynote speakers at the Self Service Expo in New York City were from companies succeeding in “monetizing” kiosks and digital signage by delivering products with vending transactions. “Monetizing” refers to getting financial results (i.e., sales value) out of an existing application — in this case a kiosk or digital sign.
One of these keynote speakers was Keith Berman, senior marketing manager for strategic partnerships at Coca-Cola Co. In his presentation, Berman explained how the company transforms simple transactions into brand interactions.
Coca-Cola has 150 Coke interactive vending machines deployed at shopping malls around the country. The company is focusing on changing the way it works with teens.
The interactive vending machine resulted in the soft drink vending machine being moved from bathroom hallways to front and center in the mall atrium. Improving where the machines were placed generated more sales and much more brand exposure.
The primary objective was to shift from “shopping transaction” to “brand interaction,” Berman said. Through the use of sight and sound, shoppers can be attracted to approach the machine.
Next, they interact with the touchscreen. Three screen sections offer the following: