Retailing, E-Commerce And Mobile Marketing Converge: Will Vending Be Part Of The Mix?

Podcast interviews last month with two vending technology players, MEI and USA Technologies, cited the rising importance of mobile phone payments to our industry. These interviews, accessible at, consider the evolution of mobile commerce as it relates to vending.Change is happening fast, and if we as an industry arent on top of it, were going to lose out big to competitors who are.RSR (Retail Systems Research) recently released its annual e-commerce report, titled After the Storm: Connecting with the New Online Consumer. The key take away of this report, based on a survey of 85 retailers, is that retailers are focusing on ways to utilize the emerging tools of social media and mobile marketing.The 24-page report identifies Investing in cross channel capabilities as the leading opportunity for e-commerce. Retailers are recognizing the need to broaden their marketing to incorporate new channels.Another finding is that most retailers believe the future of online commerce lies more with cross channel or merged channel capabilities.What does this have to do with vending? Plenty.The vending industry has more points of distribution than any other retail channel. If brick and mortar retailers see a future in mobile computing and social media, then vending, which is more pervasive than any retail channel, has even more to gain than brick and mortar retailers.It wont be long before consumer product marketers begin mass promotions via smart phones. Marketers will have data on mobile phone users buying habits, and they will target promotions accordingly. They will also direct consumers where to redeem their special offers.Will these promotions include vending machines?The RSR study indicated retailers made progress in 2010 in mobile marketing: 44 percent have added buy merchandise, register/redeem gift cards and check order status via mobile purchase.More importantly, the investment in mobile marketing has only begun. The respondents believe they will eventually allow consumers to receive coupons and rack up loyalty rewards.In time, smart phones will be allowing consumers to review the products available at all outlets (vending machines?) within a 1-mile, 5-mile, or whatever mile radius of wherever they happen to be. They will be able to access nutrition information and consumer product reviews.Theres a lot at stake here for everyone in retail. To download the RSR report, go to: