The retail automation market is expanding globally at an unprecedented rate of 10.96 per cent annually. Yet, the vending machine market, which is often regarded as a pioneer of the retail automation concept, has gathered relatively lesser momentum. Vending machines arrived in the market exactly a century before the internet but these machines have been left behind in their own realm of invention. However, vending machines have not fallen out of the race and have the potential to emerge as a mainstream retail channel!
In order to pull off a successful comeback, the vending industry needs to solve five major issues that are plaguing the industry even today:
1. Lack of Superior Buying Experience
The average vending machine experience is at best purely transactional for the end consumer. While this may not have posed as much of a problem a couple of decades ago, today, despite advancements in technology such as multiple product dispensation, automated refunds, cashless mobile payment options, multilingual support, and offline transactions not being a norm in present-day vending machines can make the buying experience lacklustre.
2. Inability to Leverage Data for Improving Consumer Experience
Data leveraging is essentially non-existent in this domain as vending machine owners are often not in complete control of their business installations. With vending machines placed in different locations and operating as standalone systems as opposed to being linked to a central server, data leveraging becomes a real challenge. This results in an important aspect of consumer satisfaction being neglected as a result of not being able to gather and analyze data and feedback. For a vending channel to grow from a ‘handy’ to a ‘chosen’ point of retail, leveraging data analytics for identifying, solving, and pre-empting consumer issues is imperative.
3. Not In Sync with Individual Buyers’ Preferences
Consumers’ buying behaviour and preferences change at a rapid rate. A lack of operational efficiency across multiple vending points comes in the way of vending machine operators’ ability to develop domain expertise. As vending locations are often spread out, it becomes difficult for operators and business owners to understand consumer buying behaviour in real time. This, along with the absence of business overview vis-a-vis retail consumers’ interaction with these vending machines, has become a stumbling block for innovation and growth in this channel.
4. Omnichannel Experience for Brands
For every brand, the consistency of ‘Omnichannel’ performance is the key to drive a business forward on the path to success. A lack of integration of different vending machine outlets with each other results in an inconsistent brand experience for the consumer. This makes these machines more of a liability to businesses than an asset. An integrated network of vending machines can help businesses tap into the benefits of integrated data channels that can be used to deliver an Omnichannel buying experience.
5. Not a Key Component of the Retail Jigsaw
Even though vending channels have been around for nearly a century and have matured greatly over the decades, these are still largely viewed as a tiny part of the larger retail jigsaw and not an integral component that completes the retail chain. This is primarily because the vending machine industry has failed to keep pace with other technological advancements booming around them. There is, thus, a pressing need for the vending industry to shake off its unorganized approach to be able to fit in as a significant player in the retail ecosystem.
Embracing Technology is the Way Forward
Vending Machines have great potential in the coming years. In these times of technology revolution, the future lies in making vending machines Smarter! Adopting an integrated technology to create vending solutions that are more relevant today is the way forward for finding a fitting spot for these vending machines in the modern retail industry that thrives on automation.
Innovation, data leverage and focus are the three key pillars on which the future of the vending industry rests.