In recent years, the industry has begun a robust reinvention by producing more sophisticated and technologically advanced machines than at any other time in history. These new vending innovations, including facial-recognition technology, cloud computing, transaction flexibility and target marketing at the point of purchase, have given operators a strategic competitive advantage. In fact, the vending industry is so radically embracing new technology that leading technology companies, such as Intel and Cisco Systems, are now designing solutions for vending. Some operators who have implemented these new concepts have begun to reverse sales declines. Technology is helping shatter the old pricing models, allowing vending operators to create new ones that are driving revenues and profits for their businesses.
“The creativity flowing through our industry’s veins is creating new opportunities for operators and their businesses, but at the same time, it’s giving consumers what they want,” said Dan Mathews, vice president and COO of NAMA in a prepared statement. “Innovation and technology not only benefit the operator, but also the end-user. That’s why we are so excited to share these advancements at this event and show them the direction the vending industry is headed in 2013 and beyond.”
Cutting-edge technology on display will provide consumers with a variety of interactive experiences that are new to vending, such as the ability to:
- “Gift” a beverage to a friend;
- Watch a robotic arm dispense specialty ice cream;
- Spin a product 360 degrees with a tap of a finger on a 46-inch touch screen;
- Enjoy a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee or a hot caramel latte;
- Make freshly spun cotton candy; or
- Swipe a smart phone to quickly and easily pay for multiple purchases at one time.
Gratitude Events are designed to say “thank you” to vending users, especially Generation Y users (ages 18 to 29), who were shown in NAMA research to prefer vending over convenience stores and grocery/drug stores for snacks and cold beverages. As the industry incorporates more interactive technology and higher-tech payment solutions into the machines, vending is becoming even more appealing to Gen Y.
“The adoption rate of change in the vending industry is accelerating dramatically,” said Michael Kasavana, Ph.D., NCE5, NAMA-endowed professor at Michigan State University in The School of Hospitality Business. “New customer interfaces, mobile applications, real-time inventory management, emerging payment options – all of these factors are expected to have a profound influence on both operators’ ways of doing business and consumers’ preferences for vending as a self-serve retail channel of choice.”
The Gratitude Event is part of a NAMA initiative to capture consumer attention and educate the public about vending and all that it delivers today. The broader NAMA “Industry Growth Strategy,” as it’s called, aims to create a “vendialogue,” an ongoing conversation between the vending industry and consumers.
Among the groundbreaking and highest-tech machines on display will be the Diji-Taste, developed by Kraft Foods and Intel, the PepsiCo Social Vending Unit and the Mini Melts ice cream machine. Additional machines, technologies and industry leaders supporting the event include Coca-Cola, Starbucks/Seattle’s BestCoffee, Canteen Vending Services, Coinco, Royal Vendors, InOne Technology, Crane Merchandising Systems, U-Select-It, MEI, G&J Marketing and Sales, Horizon Canteen Vending Services Inc. and Aramark.