Brands’ New Old Playground — Smart Vending Machines

Eddie Sit
Eddie Sit
Nov 28, 2018 · 5 min read

Why? What? How? And again, why?

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Once upon a time, there were vending machines that sold cokes. Well after decades of soda sales, they still do it but in slightly shinier armors.

Although, nowadays, vending machines also come with various features, functionalities, configurations, and capabilities that are only up to your imaginations.

Are you still seeing vending machines as the old metal box that drops sodas?

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Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

Do things even sell in there?

The better question might be: “Does it even matter?”. If you are not our lovely red cola brand, as a brand you go to a vending machine for the physical touchpoint and brand penetration, not for the measly 80c sales per unit.

Although it is a valid question as sales do imply, to a certain extent, how much traffic and eyeballs these machines are getting. And surprisingly (or not), they do sell, even in price-conscious locations such as Hong Kong with an extreme retail landscape that is so, so competitive. Euromonitor does a very good job of analyzing data over the years to support that the vending industry has been in a fairly good shape. And with digitalized smart vending machines on the rise, the numbers are only going to grow.

Smart Vending Market to Surge in Asia-Pacific — Over One Million Automated Retail Units to be Installed by 2023

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

So, vending machine. It must make a brand cheap.

If you plan to sell an [insert fruit name]-watch side by side with canned sodas, maybe. We can’t really blame ourselves to imagine vending machines being, well, vending machines. It’s been out there for too long our brain would auto-connect it to something cheap, convenient with that sound effect of something dropping.

But we are in the digital era, yes? If you are not doing it with blindfolds on, chances are you are going to deliver something quite unique, have an innate interactive brand experience, and physically easy to manipulate (after all it is a cube essentially). You are branding the entire machine into your brand experience, and with the right vendors, you can customize a good chunk of the entire UX journey.

So vending machine does not make a brand cheap, nor it is just okay for the premium mass but in fact, more than a handful of luxury brands have adapted to it.

Still a non-believer?

A Tiffany & Co vending machine now exists

Champagne Vending Machines Are Real and Your Office Needs One

Lancome event / Image Googled from the web

You say it is smart. But is it really? What do I look out for if I were to run a campaign tomorrow?

If it isn’t smart, then it’s just a wrapped box as we all know it. We can have all the cute boxes we want for our events but that is nothing to hype about.

As a brand running your own vending machines these days, you should have the desire for the machines to be smart enough to take over the world (quite literally but not on the robot-killing-mankind level). You will want data points to fuel sales and marketing needs, you will want custom elements to make it yours (unique features or something not quite expected), and you will want it physically appealing either built into an event set or a special look and feel.

benefit vending machines / Image Googled from the web

You might want to consider moving on to the next vendor if yours can’t do the following for you:

  1. Interactions tracking — clicks and taps on the screen will be the baselines so it can help you optimize your user journey, like website heatmaps
  2. Data collection — opt-in user emails and phone numbers are essential to continue your CRM efforts
  3. Customization — the last thing you want is to have signed up for a vendor before knowing them they piggyback off a 3rd party software and have no capabilities to make something different for you
  4. Sales analytics — there are instances where product sales can be a huge revenue driver especially when the unit prices are high, so you will want trends, numbers, charts, and even A/B tests implemented regularly. It will require data and analytics to support those efforts.
  5. [Bonus] Camera technologies — assuming privacy issues are cleared in your geo, with the right technology, turning on the camera could help you track footfall, eyeballs, pass-by vs interacted customers, or even personalize your message some-what to certain segments or demo.
    p.s. if you want Kinect activities with the camera I have recently tried a few of those vending machines, they still suck in 2018 and do not perform anywhere up to standard (even with Xbox embedded into the machine)
  6. [Bonus] Loyalty, CRM, and big data — if you are in it for the long run, there are more interesting things you can do with the vending machines. Imagine a mobile login linking up to a member profile, recommending new products, activating first purchase, pushing limited time vouchers, recording customer interactions and preferences.

The vending world is really your oyster.

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash

Last tip.

And remember: however you want to center-stage your vending innovation or not, this should only be part of your marketing and don’t forget to integrate with other bits and pieces to make this work.

Eddie Sit

Written by

Eddie Sit

Innovator | Marketer | Growth Hacker | Dreamer https://www.linkedin.com/in/eddiesky/

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