Soon we won’t have to fish for change or a small bill to grab a Snickers bar from the vending machine in the student lounge, office, or airport. Thanks to IoT enhancements, the on-demand snack dispensers which we count on to satisfy our desperate cravings for a sugary, soda-induced caffeine fix, a gooey bar of chocolate or a salty bag of chips is blazing toward the Smart Vending future.
While the technology won’t “beam us up” ala “Star Trek” or blast us off like Iron Man’s Mark IV suit, intelligent vending machines are evolving at a fast clip and are expected to thrust automated retail sales into the $15 billion mark by 2025.
Projected Smart Vending Sales Surge
The smart vending machine market is projected to grow at an impressive CAGR of more than 34 percent over the next few years, from 2018 to 2022, per Technavio data. This increase should ultimately represent about $11.48 billion by 2022, with 44 percent of the growth hailing from the Americas.
Ease of use and faster, mobile and cashless payment methods should also drive vending popularity and help them stake a place in the automated retail revolution.
Intelligent Upgrades Improve Vending Interface
Smart upgrade solutions to existing, installed vending machines will reportedly create a single, unified platform in which vending machine hardware, software, user interface, payment system, wireless communications, and remote management are all connected.
These high-tech enhancements will virtually transform a customer’s vending experience. Grabbing that package of cookies during a break will be easier than ever before as newly-equipped smart machines utilize touchscreen controls, cashless payment, audio, video, scent, and even gesture-based interaction to simplify and enhance a customer’s buying experience.
Smart vending machines will also leverage artificial intelligence (AI)-driven apps in a SmartPhone to enable customers to browse the machine’s inventory and consider their options as they approach the machine.
Retail Inventory Impacts
Customer buying and preference patterns, inventory levels, machine performance, and more can be tracked and analyzed in intelligent vending machines via data collection from Jabil’s sensors. Furthermore, transmitting information to operators via the cloud will also provide important data to support automated restocking or facilitate machine repairs.
Thinking Outside of the Vending Machine Box
A push toward automated retailing is already evident in the brick-and-mortar landscape with self-checkout stations and buy online, pick up at the store processes. Intelligent enhancements could move vending machines out of traditional locations like the hospital waiting room and help them occupy a niche in the self-serve, automated sales arena.
Sixty-percent of respondents in a Jabil survey reported investing in online and in-store technology as “an integrated omni-channel solution.” Vending machines could provide these types of omni-channel solutions, offering online retailers a unique physical presence, without incurring high traditional storefront expense.
Going a step further, smart vending machines could be placed both inside and outside of a store to give the customer a condensed display of readily-accessible on-demand goods, like an automated mini-mart or a high-tech product showroom.
Redefining the Sales Process
A surge in automated sales might mean the entire sales process will be redefined. For instance, incorporating vending machines could shift the physical retail space from a store to a product showroom. In an automated self-checkout, vending point-of-purchase environment, employees might serve as product experts who simply explain product features and benefits or answer questions.
Retail storefronts might also have to broaden customer experiences beyond just buying products. Barnes and Noble booksellers do this by having an in-store café, comfy chairs to sit back and read, and some locations even host a monthly book club.
Finally, as smart vending machine popularity grows, retailers may consider expanding product offerings. Retailers in every product sector may want to follow Japan’s vending machine lead. The country offers a wide array of products via its vending machines including ice cream, rice, disposable cameras, and more.
As vending machine presence and capabilities grow, product options are limitless. Maybe we’ll walk up to a machine, wave a smartphone and a clean-and-pressed outfit will drop down for us to change into to go out on the town after work.
Kind of like George Jetson. We can only hope, right?