It didn't take long for some marketing firms to realize that the cost of a billboard or premier advertisement panel in a heavily trafficked public space was much more expensive than placement of the advertisement on the lighted front panel of a vending machine. Similarly, vending companies are beginning to consider machine-hosted video screens to advertise on-board products as well as generate additional revenue from external product offerings.
One supplier is testing small screen placement above the machine's payment mechanism, another supports a larger screen across the top portion of the machine, a third experiments with linking wall-hung screens with an on-board display, while yet another focuses on implementing touch screen applications.
A variety of designs are being tested as manufacturers eagerly intensify experimentation with vending machine-based digital signage and video broadcasting. As digital display devices become more affordable and influential at the point of purchase, vending operators need to take notice.
LCD DISPLAYS EMERGE AS A NEW MEDIA
The leading developers of vending industry digital devices rely on liquid crystal display (LCD) components to effectively deliver, project, and maintain high-quality content. An LCD consists of an array of tiny crystals which can be manipulated to present data or images, such as letters, numbers and video graphics.
For some time, a variety of technology suppliers have experimented with touch-enabled interface devices positioned onto the front of a vending machine. Given the level of machine traffic and products offered, touch screen designs can be highly effective as they provide the user with unparalleled, self-guided video content, especially when the items offered for sale are non-traditionally vended products (e.g. iPods, cellular phones and cameras).
An important concern in the vending channel is the ability of a touch screen to easily be integrated with the components of the machine as well as maintaining a high level of responsiveness, reliability and simplicity.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR VENDING
While many of the advantages of touch screen displays are familiar, additional vending considerations include: 1) Replacement of mechanical buttons with graphic icons with longer life and reduced maintenance expense; 2) Replacement of static information with dynamic user directed content displays; 3) The computer required for touch screen applications also enables simplified machine networking for bi-directional remote machine monitoring; 4) Presentation of product information and advertising for upselling at the point of purchase; and 5) The ability to provide a competitive advantage. As vending equipment and kiosk devices continue to evolve into self-service devices, the touch screen may be inevitable in the vending toolbox.
INFLUENCING BUYERS AT THE POINT OF SALE
In the retail sector, it is a popular belief that a consumer makes a final purchase decision at the point of purchase. It is for this reason that promotional campaigns, signage, couponing, tagging, branding and related sales efforts have proven highly effective.
While a similar decision-making percentage for the vending consumer is unknown, it is likely the buyer's decision can be similarly influenced. It is for this reason that manufacturers are developing digital displays to hang on the machine and be part of the point-of-sale designed to impact product movement. In addition, digital content tends to create a perceived personal space that provides a basis for educating and entertaining while stimulating sales activity. Digital signage also enhances the vending environment and can be coordinated with other digital signage.
There are two key factors that render liquid crystals important for use in vending applications: size and weight. A liquid crystal display (LCD) consists primarily of two glass plates with liquid crystal material placed between them. There is no need for bulky picture tubes in order to display components as required by alternative image generation formats.