Vending machines have come a long way since its inception. Not a decade ago, bulky vending machines that required money in exact change to be tendered were scattered across popular marketplaces. Did you know that the very first vending machine was introduced in the first century Roman Egypt by Hero of Alexandria? This machine was used to dispense holy water in exchange for a coin.
Today, vending machines have become synonymous to a marketplace on wheels. Right from fresh cow milk to a customized pizza, products can be availed in minutes. But, the journey from providing holy water to 24-carat gold coin has been a long one. And, there’s still some ground to cover before businesses can encash on all the benefits of their vending machine business.
However, why is it that even though vending machines were invented before computers, their growth has been between stagnant to slow? There can be a few reasons for this, but the most pertinent one is the challenge in cracking & executing the right operationalization strategy. Vending machines are a great tool for any business, not only as a source of revenue but also a great way to improve brand awareness and interact with their consumers. But, with complexities like tracking inventory, checking the vending machine health and complying to the regulations of that area, businesses often refrain from using vending machines.
However, there are a few companies that have overcome these challenges. By launching pioneer strategies, these companies have helped the entire vending ecosystem evolve. This blog is dedicated to these companies!
#1. Quisisana – The Pioneer of Automats
A German company, Quisisana introduced the word’s first automat restaurant in 1895 in Berlin. Not very common in today’s times, an automat is basically a fast-food restaurant where food and beverages are served using vending machines. With the help of Quisisana, people could access food quickly and “on the go”. After the first automat was launched, Horn & Hardart introduced this concept in the United States in 1902. Back in the days, automats were considered a great bonding experience between communities, as the rich and poor sat side by side and shared the same dining experience. Over time, in New York alone, 40 automats accommodated customers from every class, initiating the revolution of vending machines.
However, in recent times the concept of automats almost dissolved due to the introduction and popularity of fast foods. Until 2015, that is. BrightLoom or formerly known as Eatsa brought the automat concept back into action in San Francisco. This new automat, however, allows diners to order their type of meal via an iPad or on the company’s mobile app. Within minutes after that, the meal pops up in the ‘Eatsa Cubbies’ that light up with the diner’s names until the order is picked up. Maybe, this marks the return of automates?
#2. Gaochun Double Lake Crab Company: Pioneers of Selling Live Food
You read that right! Vending machines are probably the only ‘marketplace’ where you will find variety at this rate. While machines around the globe were offering consumers a variety of items like candy, beverages, newspapers, books, etc., a company in China took this one step forward. Shi Tuanjie, Chairman of Gaochun Double Lake Crab Company introduced a special type of vending machines that sold live crabs to their consumers in the year 2010. The concept was so popular that in its prime time, the machine sold close to 200 crabs, every day. While extremely successful, it wasn’t easy for Shi to achieve this feat.
With his creative mind, Shi found creative ways to maintain the perfect temperature for crabs to live in, as well as use techniques that enhanced their flavour. Not only this, by simply using effective packaging, commonly referred to as “Golden Amour”, the containers with the crabs could simply be dropped into boiling water, minimizing the crab pinching risk!
#3. Carvana: Pioneers of Selling Cars Using Vending Machines
The concept of unmanned retail has really taken the world by a storm, with vending machines right at the centre of it. If you can buy gold, burritos and even fresh vegetables from vending machines, then why not cars? That’s probably what Ernest Garcia III, Ryan Keeton, and Ben Huston thought while launching the first-ever iteration of a car vending machine in 2013. Being called the ‘Amazon of Auto’, Carvana has effectively launched 14 Car Vending Machines across the U.S.
The process is extremely simple. First, a customer needs to visit carvana.com, where they can choose their car from over 10,000 vehicles, or even choose to sell their own vehicle. Then, simply schedule a car vending machine pick-up. After the vehicle is ‘vend’ into the delivery bay, customers can do a walk-around of the vehicle and complete any pending documentation. What’s even more exciting is that every car is Carvana certified, which means they have passed a rigorous 150-point inspection. Even then, customers have the option to return the car within 7 days, if they are not happy with the automobile.
#4 Coca-Cola: Pioneers in Using Vending Machines For Marketing
Coca-Cola always likes to find new ways to get people to enjoy its drink, which is probably why it is the number one brand around the world. And, it’s probably why it is one of the first companies to use vending machines as a key part of their marketing strategy. The main market play is to create one-of-a-kind vending machines that allow people to have a unique experience with vending machines. They rely on the fact that in today’s social age, the customers will then share their experience on social media. This gives a huge virality factor to the brand. Here are some of the best vending machines launched by Coca-cola:
● The One With The Hugs
As the name suggests, in this vending machine, you need to hug the machine to receive a can of Coke. The idea is to promote the importance of hugs and how small surprises can make people happy.
● The One Made of Ice
Against all odds, Coca-Cola made an entire vending machine out of ice to promote its latest product; Coca-Cola Clear. While this machine wasn’t created for everyday use, it was used as a marketing stunt in the launch event in Japan. Onlookers received a free sample of the product after they posted a photo of their experience on social media.
● The One With The Dancing
Another great marketing gimmick, Coca-Cola launched a vending machine in South Korea that would give out free drinks to people who danced. Powered by Xbox Kinect, it encourages consumers to dance along with the Korean boy band, 2 PM. Using AI, the machine was able to track the person’s movement and the better the performance, the more bottles of Coke they are rewarded with!
Vendekin: Bringing The Focus Back to Convenience
While we are still a young, but rapidly growing company, we have a lot left to contribute to the vending ecosystem. However, every day we focus our efforts on decreasing the gap between consumers and vending machine operators. With our team of experts, we have identified three main problems in the industry:
- Poor Consumer Experience
- Operational inefficiencies
- Lack of Data Leverage
While the vending industry has come a long way, we believe that overcoming these gaps in the market is the next step. Heading in that direction, we have built a platform for both consumers and machine operators. This platform not only enhances the vending experience but also brings the focus to the one thing that really matters; convenience!