A Point Of No Return

May 2, 2013

This year’s NAMA OneShow was filled with optimism. As I walked around and talked to attendees, I got the sense that we’ve reached a turning point as an industry. Gone are the days when an operator would stop, and during our discussion about payment systems, say: “Cashless is stupid, these young people just need to learn to carry cash.” An operator actually did say this to me at one of my first tradeshows. Instead, operators filled the room at the V-engineering session to learn about the technological innovations in the vending industry. I spoke with a number of operators who came to the show to investigate telemetry units, the return on investment for cashless, micro market systems and several other vending industry technologies.

There was a time, not too long ago, that technology was just for the front runners or large businesses, but now, it’s become a necessity for many more operations. Vending to manufacturing facilities and huge end user populations is just a memory. To survive in this environment, operators need to run their businesses smarter, more efficiently and over deliver (something we learned from Magic Johnson at the OneShow keynote on Wednesday) to be successful. And operators are embracing this new business model.

Operators evolve to maintain profits

Having survived the recession, the industry is making the changes that are needed to maintain profitability. Operators are starting to pre-kit at an astonishing rate and adding warehouse hardware and software to help them do it. As they see themselves leaning towards using cashless payments in retail environments, and their kids never carrying cash, they’ve begun installing card readers and preparing for the day the mobile device is the primary payment format. Operators are recognizing the huge advantages of vending management systems (VMS) giving them the ability to take control of their operations and make changes that improve revenue. And the list goes on. Many of these technologies aren’t new this year, or last, but what is new is how operators are excited about adding them. They are ready to buy and ready to succeed.

With the current state of business and industry as well as ever diminishing attendance in public locations such as malls, public transit and other locations where vending used to be profitable, a change is needed. Convenience can no longer be the sole reason a consumer visits a vending machine. Today, more is necessary and that all begins with technology. We’ve reached a time when there’s no going back, but while it’s a (learning) curve in the road, there are exciting and profitable times ahead.