I attended the Self Service & Kiosk Expo in New York City a few months ago and got a glimpse of the evolving world of self service retailing, which many believe will become a major force in our nation’s commerce. The self service systems utilize some of the same technologies that are used in the traditional vending industry. One might ask: What does this have to do with the vending industry as we know it? The answer is, “plenty.”
Most vending operators realize that technology has evolved faster than their ability to take advantage of it. This will change, simply because the benefits that new technology provides create new efficiencies and new revenue opportunities. As these technologies become more reliable and more affordable, self service kiosks will bring even more opportunities to provide new products and services.
SELF SERVICE KIOSKS: MULTIPLE OPTIONS
The self service kiosks will introduce new services to customers. Consider the following applications that self serve kiosks now offer: access control, ATMs, banking and bill paying, coupon dispensing, digital signage advertising, digital downloads of music and videos, gift card dispensing, nutrition information, Internet access, digital photo printing, product ordering, ticketing, location finding (“way finding”), and more.
The vending operator will have a big opportunity to introduce these new services. It is the vending operator, after all, who controls much of the real estate for these potential applications.
The installation of a vending machine control board in an existing vending machine can give most of the new capabilities that you have been reading about in Automatic Merchandiser in recent years.
EXISTING CONTROL BOARDS ARE READY
Let’s first consider how a modern vending machine control board can impact our current operations.
Consider the opportunity to reduce daily operating expenses. A state-of-the-art modern machine control board can:
- Improve the ease and simplicity of changing prices and retrieving data in the machine. This reduces service time for drivers and technicians.
- Act as a wireless router, collecting all of the DEX data and sending it to either the curb or the local office.
- Provide the ability to get accurate column and row sales data without needing a paper planogram.
- Provide the ability to deter and prevent theft and vandalism. While this is not a problem at every location, a modern control board, in combination with an imbedded digital camera, can detect a vibration and photograph any effort to physically harm the machine.
Now consider the opportunities to increase same-store sales:
- Enable the installation of a credit and debit card reader. This can include stored value cards, allowing the operator to have all of the benefits of a stored value solution without all of the costs associated with such systems.
- Enable the installation of guaranteed delivery systems that assure and document product delivery.
- Enable the installation of digital signage on the machine. A modern machine control board, in combination with an LCD screen, creates opportunities to sell advertising, promote products, and provide information such as nutrition and ingredient data.
That’s a lot to consider, but the ability to introduce the applications mentioned in the beginning of this article will create even more revenue opportunities. Keep in mind that the market is creating the need for these additional self service concepts, as evidenced by the emergence of the self service kiosk industry.
FOR VENDING, A NEW BEGINNING AWAITS
The important point is that the technology to bring all of these opportunities to market exists. For the vending operator, these opportunities are an additional incentive to invest in technologies that will make them more profitable.
The vending operator has a unique opportunity because of his or her existing relationship with the location being served.