Back in October, I examined the emergence of self serve kiosks in the U.S. and attempted to define how the full line vending industry will be influenced. The self service kiosks are defined by their functionality, which to a large extent has separated them from traditional vending. This does not mean that vending won’t be affected by these new technologies.
Some possible changes to the vending industry, as a result of the convergence of self-service technologies, are identified in the table on the opposite page.
Following is a description of some of the anticipated advances in vending technology:
Hybrid payments – Since consumers are becoming accustomed to self-service devices capable of processing both cash and cashless transactions, vending will likewise adapt this range of settlement options, including open system (bank clearinghouse payments with a fee), closed system (private in-house payments without a fee), and payroll deduct (or similar processing) with no external fees.
Dynamic digital displays – The ability to place digital screens on a vending machine or alongside the machine (networked to the machine) can provide unique and powerful product information/promotions. Dynamic content can be loaded at the machine or downloaded to the machine for displaying. In addition, commercial or public service information can also be displayed on the screens as an additional source of revenue or for customer service broadcasting.
Touchscreen activation – The placement of an intuitive touchscreen display on a vending machine allows the customer to request detailed product information via screen navigation. Nutritional data, diet considerations, product expiration date and pricing, and related information are readily displayed upon inquiry.
Avatar – The term “avatar” is used to describe a virtual actor or online personality usually reserved for Website interactivity. Giving a vending machine a personality (voice and on-screen image) will significantly alter the customer experience. This feature has entertainment value but is also capable of up-selling and cross-selling products and bundled products.
Product information display – Regardless of whether there is a digital display or touchpad activation, vending machines will have some form of product display. The displaying of nutrient content, expiration date, pricing, promotional features, etc. are important factors to consumers.
V-engineering – This is similar to the popular foodservice industry software entitled, “menu engineering.” The application of category management and product mapping techniques have been effective in identifying product offerings based on sales mix and trend analysis. V-engineering represents the next stage in the progression from product mapping to category management. V-engineering blends sales data with item profitability to produce a powerful evaluation.
Technology platform – Less than 20 percent of the installed vending machine base reports using DEX capabilities. Microsoft Windows, although it may carry an unreasonable incremental cost, or Linux are two possible operating systems for replacing DEX.
Machine topology – Vending machines will be built with remote machine monitoring and networking as standard component parts. Machines will be networked across a venue, route, and company. Data will be aggregated for enhanced operational efficiencies and ‘best practices’ comparisons.
Affinity programming – Development of a location, supplier, distributor, and/or machine manufacturer system that encourages repeat purchasing and rewards customers for selecting vending as a preferred automated retail location. Consumer reward points, discounts, e-coupons, or free vends based on purchase patterns would be available.
Product packaging – Some machines will possess the ability to customize or personalize machine-based products as well as support new product introduction. The ability to build-to-order product offerings (sandwiches, salads, meals, entrees) will be a reality. Might an automat format return?