How vending machines are making a comeback
This post is part of The Retail Reveal Series, with fortnightly content published on Retail IQ.
Vending machines have been in existence since the late 19th century. However, they are currently enjoying something of a renaissance, as they can be used not only as a novelty to promote a new product, but also as a means of a retailer easily expanding their footprint and offering shoppers a curated selection of their offering in a convenient location – furthermore, they are a relatively inexpensive way to launch unmanned stores.
The Opportunity: Easy Automated Retail
The opportunity presented by vending machines offers brands and retailers an easy way of introducing unmanned convenience retail. As shoppers are increasingly time-pressed, brands and retailers need to tailor their offer to meet this need and vending machines offer an easier way to implement unmanned retail, giving shoppers 24-hour access.
Vending machines are being used in myriad ways and some of these ingenious uses are allowing enabling brands and retailers to compete in the age of Amazon Go and the increasing numbers of unmanned retail solutions.
Some of the best examples of vending machines filling needs are Uniqlo’s To Go machines at airports, Applestone’s meat-dispensing machines, and Alibaba’s Future Pharmacy machine in China where there is a lack of 24-hour pharmacies.
Thinking about meeting future needs through established technologies proves that the answer to meeting shopper demands need not necessarily involve cutting-edge technology.
Summary of Key Learnings
- Rethink vending – it is no longer only for snacks and carbonated soft drinks, see Revlon, Tiffany & Co., Moët & Chandon.
- Capitalise on nostalgia – people have memories of using vending machines as children, so leverage this to create a meaningful connection with the shopper
- As technology evolves, the types of vending machines available creates myriad possibilities, with machines to make and dispense fresh pizza now available.
- Uniqlo’s To Go machines at US airports allows the Japanese clothing retailer to offer travellers jackets and vests from their lightweight down range – perfect for the traveller who arrives in a colder climate than the one they left.
- 7-Eleven in South Korea uses a series of vending machines to create a micro convenience stores that can be placed to intersect shoppers’ journeys eliminating the need to take a detour to the shops
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