What's in a name?

March 8, 2018

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." These famous words from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet are quoted often, the gist being that what matters most is what something is, not what it's called. While in Romeo's case I might agree, in the convenience services industry, I do not. A vending machine is a vending machine. A micro market is a micro market. They are not the same.     

Why it matters 

There is a small micro market in our office building. It's a fairly new addition, less than a year old. However, today an email went out about the "vending machine" in the break room being down. My first thought was, what vending machine? Do we have another break room I have been unaware of all these years that has a vending machine? That was not the case.  

Obviously, as the editor of this publication I have nothing but good things to say about vending machines. They are a great option to offer products to customers at any hour of the day or night. They protect products from tampering and theft. Today's models even have additional lights, payment options and video screens to truly make them cutting edge. However, they conjure up a certain image. The items are always behind glass or plastic or metal. The number of products is limited by space, featuring a familiar set of best sellers.  

On the other hand, what image does micro market conjure? It's a kiosk that coordinates payment, as in a vending machine, but the touchscreen is larger and more interactive. The kiosk holds no product, so a micro market also needs a cooler and shelf system. This is where the definition of a micro market can get confusing. Is a bookshelf type shelf with snacks stacked inside and a branded beverage cooler a micro market? Does it have to have fresh food offerings? What about high-end looking shelves, custom graphics and lighting that creates an atmosphere? Many questions. There is one thing I am sure of, however. Micro markets are nothing like vending machines. But the name "micro market" doesn't really cover both design extremes I mentioned.  

Micro Market Design  

One place this became relevant is in our new newsletter Micro Market Design. We started asking for before and after pictures of micro markets and it became clear that there is a wide variety of layouts. This presented a challenge in defining a micro market because it can look very different from one location to the next. After our premier issue, it became clear we should push the envelope of what a micro market should look like, in any size. We have changed up content on the second edition, due to hit mailboxes next week. If you are into micro markets, I'm sure you'll find it interesting.  

Despite what type of micro market a location has, it's important for operators to remember that end users might still be thinking of it (and calling it) a vending machine. It's up to us to make sure we are educating consumers about the difference, as well as delivering on what makes each concept unique and great in its own way.