Do you know where your smartphone is? For many of us, the answer is yes, and it’s within a few inches at any given time. Most of the studies I saw put estimates of U.S. smartphones around the 200 million mark. Apps available to download? Around 1 million. Apps designed specifically for consumers looking for vending machines? Two…so far.
Mobile apps are a limitless pool of fun and efficiency. In the vending industry there are apps used to verify vending delivery data and increase efficiency in the warehouse. More apps were launched in 2014 that allow mobile devices to be used to pay for products at the vending machine. The December issue of Automatic Merchandiser will feature a chart and article about these new mobile payment options. It’s a great opportunity for operators to get out in front of the trend in cashless payments.
Outside the vending industry, at least two apps have been created to lead consumers to machines. I think that is cause for celebration. Sales is all about driving consumer traffic to the point of sale after all. The two apps that we have come across are called Vndr and VendingMychine. Both apps are focused on the consumer and it shows in their word choices and tone, but don’t let that stop you from investigating them.
Vndr is a newly created app that shows the user all the vending machines near them (using their smartphones' GPS). It also indicates what sort of payment the vending machine accepts, which is important to the cashless generation. It will also indicate if the vending location is private, such as a workplace.
VendingMychine has some similar features. Users can find snack and drink machines, but VendingMychine is focused on allowing consumers to rate or vote for which snacks they would like in the machines they frequently use.
Certainly there are some concerns. Some people use online media to vent and their comments can be unhelpful and negative. However, without understanding what the consumer wants, how can any of us enhance the service we provide? And don’t we want consumers to be able to find our machines?
What about fake machine posts? The apps are fed by people, after all, and some people have a strange sense of humor. What’s to stop a college student from putting a vending machine out in the middle of nowhere? Vndr specifically reviews all vending location submissions, which include a photo, making it obvious which machines are fraudulent.
I'm sure there are other cons, as well as pros. Feel free to share your throughts in the comment section. I will agree that whether Vndr and VendingMychine are the industry’s answer to making vending a destination and engaging consumers remains to be seen. However, both are vending machine locator apps that are real and working right now. People outside the industry felt vending machines were so important that they created the apps on their own. Imagine how successful this idea might be with industry partners, especially in public or semi-public locations like hotels, colleges and public transportation stations. It’s a new and exciting time in vending.