Innovations for @VendingMagazine

Social media is certainly a catch phrase buzzing around businesses these days. It can increase consumer reach or encourage discussion among professionals. That’s why it’s my vote for an innovation award — figuratively.

Social media is already being used successfully by a number of vending operations. CNC Vending won the 2012 award for its social media contests which gained it more than 360 likes. There’s also Gourmet Coffee Services out of California who is very active on Facebook. They continue to run special promotions and have 502 likes (as of this writing). A number of people comment during each contest and the OCS company records video announcing contest winners.

Social media can also foster communication among professionals. Just the other day I was reading that there are three different research papers that discuss how doctors who use social media improved their professional productivity, were more innovative and provided better quality care. That’s pretty impressive. Now what about vending?

As I was writing this, Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch had 349 likes on Facebook — and counting. It’s not just about likes, however, but about driving communication. Every month we watch the topics we post to social media sites increase traffic and get people talking. It’s an exciting addition to how we get information out to readers.

Social media nuances

While social media is a vast, uncharted area, there’s certainly ways to utilize it. Within our industry some of the most outspoken posters are the technology companies. They are actively engaging the vending community. And what about consumers? I’ve seen a number of them voice comments, whether it’s to participate in the latest OCS contest or lament the empty vending machine.

There is definitely lots of innovation going on in the physical world of vending as well. Micro markets are driving profits and new business models. We discuss how operators can rediscover fresh food sales in this issue on page 22.

The increase in telemetry and what’s available is another great example of innovation. Jim English, CEO of Sprout Retail discusses the roadblocks to telemetry and how we can find solutions on page 8.

Let’s not forget how many ways exist for operators to take used, dated equipment and make it new again. The benefits of retrofitting span from increased consumer engagement and merchandising to better security. Read about it on page 14.

Innovation at the point of sale is definitely important, but being innovative online gets consumers to come to the vending machine, coffee brewer or micro market in the first place. It’s a whole new level of engagement and one I think vending operators are just starting to scratch the surface in of what is possible.