Asked specifically if they have noticed vending machines carrying healthier products, most consumers did not believe strongly one way or the other. (See chart 2.)
Poor vending image equals low usage
The survey explored the different perceptions of vending among consumers who expect to use vending more often and those who don't.
Among those who expect to use vending less often, most were unaware of technological advances, most believe vend prices are higher than other outlets, and most believe vending is a poor value.
Non-users pay more attention to nutrition facts panels and ingredient statements on food labels than users.
If nutrition labels were easier to read in vending machines, more consumers would buy them. (See chart 4.) While only a minority, 23 percent, said they expected this would make a difference in their purchasing, this is not an insignificant number.
More consumers indicated freshness information would increase likelihood of a vending purchase.
Lack of healthy or fresh products topped the list of reasons why consumers will decrease their vending use. (See chart 7.) At 27 percent, this clearly outranked price at 18 percent, the second biggest reason.
The reasons for not buying were very similar to the findings of an earlier consumer survey. A Frito Lay survey, conducted by Elrick & Lavidge in 1996, was based on 2,500 person-to-person interviews at glassfront machines.
The 1996 survey found that 54 percent of consumers believed vending is not a good value for the money.
The 1996 survey found the following reasons for not using vending machines:
- Not a good value for the money
- Poor product selection
- Unrecognized brands
- Poor freshness perception
- No healthy alternatives.
Changing the habits of non-users will be difficult because the top reason they don't use vending more frequently is that it is not seen as a good value. (See chart 9.) Value contains several elements.
The brand really is important
The need for improved point of purchase activity was revealed in the finding that most consumers (68 percent) browse the machine before making their selection. Only 32 percent said they typically know what they want before they go to the machine.
This finding indicates that consumers are spending more time browsing the machine than they used to, based on the findings of an earlier consumer study.
The 1996 survey found that 43 percent of all vending purchases were planned ahead of time. While only a minority said they know what they want before going to the machine, the majority of these users (59 percent) indicated they don't make a purchase if their desired product is not available.
The 2006 Harris Interactive survey confirmed the findings of several other surveys in reporting the importance of branding; close to 70 percent said that the brand is either always or sometimes an important part of the vending purchase.
A minority, 31 percent, said that promotions would influence purchase decisions, but this is not an insignificant number.
Vending competitors' advantage: variety
Several questions addressed why consumers patronize competing retail outlets. Here, there were some differences between users and non-users of vending machines.
Users of vending machines were more likely to patronize competing retail outlets on the basis of convenience than non-users. (See chart 11.) Users were also more likely to patronize competing outlets on the basis of variety. Users were less likely to patronize on the basis of price.
Consumers strongly perceive vending prices as higher than other retail outlets. (See chart 13.)
This finding is consistent with the Frito-Lay survey 10 years earlier, in which 63 percent of consumers said convenience store prices were lower than vending prices.
Consumers want cashless, but not aware of it in vending
The 2006 Harris Interactive survey found that consumers overall are very comfortable using cell phones and credit cards.
However, 85 percent are not familiar with technology that can assist them with vending machine functions.