The New, Intelligent Era Of Vending

June 17, 2015


The NAMA OneShow 2015 not only had record-breaking attendance, but it also had a strong message: embrace technology. Vending operators are focusing on technology to run their businesses more smoothly and gain profits; they are also using technology to offer intelligent vending solutions including digital advertising, promotions, nutrition facts and multi-option payment methods for one integrated consumer experience.

Intelligent vending

Technology integration is increasing in the vending industry. In its 2014 State of the Vending Industry report, Automatic Merchandiser magazine found that 24 percent of vending operators added remote monitoring while 54.8 percent installed credit and debit card readers. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 10 percent of vending machines in the U.S. are cashless enabled—compared to only 3.5 percent of machines equipped with cashless readers in 2010. This number is expected to continue to grow.

During her opening session during the OneShow in April, NAMA CEO Carla Balakgie encouraged vending operators not to hesitate when it comes to cashless. “Cashless gives you a 21 percent increase in sales,” she said. But cashless is just one form of technology in a new era of vending. Operators have more choices than ever when it comes to the right vending management system (VMS) or remote machine monitoring. They are using backend systems to make their companies more efficient and collecting and analyzing data to grow profits.

Vending operators have been using technology to compete with c-stores and big-box retailers for the consumer dollar and that includes offering an integrated experience at the vending machine.

The fully integrated experience

In order to compete with convenient retail solutions, vending machine manufacturers have also been developing solutions that integrate a plethora of consumer expectations in the form of touchscreens, multi-payment options, a flexible inside, a customized outside, promotions and advertising.

“We are really trying to contribute to changing the vending industry, to create a solution for the vending consumer,” said Frank Guzzone, business developing manager of strategy & innovation at Mondelez International, of diji-touch®. Guzzone worked with a team for several years in order to create a turnkey vending machine solution and to ensure the machine would benefit the vending operator, as well as the consumer. “We needed to make it affordable, sustainable and engaging for both the operator and consumer,” he said.

Today’s vending machine feature touchscreens that draw the consumer in and can be enabled with promotions and loyalty features. Screens can display calorie information to the user who can also bundle purchases. Multi-option payment methods such as mobile, cash and debit/credit cards also make purchasing convenient for the end-user. When not in use, operators can enable advertisements play on some of the more current machines. “It’s a retail-experience for the consumer,” said Guzzone.

For the vending operator, many machines come fully integrated. Connectivity allows data to be sent and stored in real-time.

In the field

The placement of “intelligent” vending machines has already begun. New York-based vending operator Tom Murn of The Answer Group is in the process of placing diji-touch® machines in Simon Malls, with plans to place around 600 diji-touch® machines by September.

Murn tested the diji-touch® machine early on. Five machines were placed and ran a three-week U.S. soccer league promotion. As part of the promotion on the machine, users had to “stop” three of five goals on the video touchscreen. If they were successful, they won a free snack. “In those three weeks, 15,000 games were played, 10,000 free samples were dispensed and 140,000 impressions were gained,” said Murn.

Multi-year relevance

The vending machine is no longer a singular black box. Instead it can interact with consumers through social media, offer promotions, utilize the “shopping cart” feature, accept mobile payments and vend nearly everything. The vending technology evolution will continue for future generations of vending users.