This year’s NAMA OneShow was rife with talk of mobile payments, mobile applications and Smartphones. It’s no secret that operators are looking to try something new, that much can be seen with the integration of micro markets over the years. While at the OneShow, one thing I noticed operators were looking for were products and equipment that can serve multiple, practical needs.
Serving multiple functions
Over the last several months I have heard of multiple OCS operators entering the vending arena through micro markets, water companies adding vending and vending operators adding office coffee. Few operators are simply in the just vending, just OCS or just water business. They are in multiple areas. In 2012, more operators (31 percent) began expanding into new services such as offering water service or adding micro markets as a way to compete with other operators. They are acting as single businesses with multiple functions. This year, it became apparent at the OneShow that manufacturers are complying with these multi-faceted businesses and offering product and equipment that can serve multiple purposes.
Consumers like to buy everything in a one-stop-shop and that’s exactly what many vending operations try to be. With that in mind, it seems to me that operators are looking to manufacturers to provide a one-stop-shop for them as well. And the ability for an operator to go to a location and provide multiple services will, I believe, set an operator apart from a competitor. For example, if a location doesn’t want or doesn’t have the employee numbers to open a micro market, there emerged a solution at the OneShow. Vendors Exchange revealed its Discover door that acts as a hybrid between vending and a micro market. The door can be installed on a traditional vending machine and comes with a kiosk that allows users to combine items from a free-standing shelf or a cooler into one transaction. The door can promote advertisements and even show nutritional information.
MTN Products introduced its new AquaCafe Beverage System that acts as a bottled water cooler and a single-serve brewer. Consumers can get a cold glass of water or a cup of hot coffee from one system. The operator wouldn’t need to purchase a water cooler and coffee brewer separately. With this system, there is a one-stop-shop for the consumer who is looking for several beverage options.
Additionally, vehicle equipment is expanding to allow the use of both micro market and vending functions to work together in one truck. Rush Truck Centers exhibited at the show and introduced a truck that can be used for vending, micro markets or both. The truck comes with a built in, walk in cooler for fresh food, a freezer and shelves for prekitting.
Hybrid equipment seems only fitting in an industry where operators dapple in several different business areas. I expect that we will continue to see equipment trends towards the multiple-purpose use, especially as the number of operators expanding into other services continues to rise.