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Unmanned Retail: What lies ahead?

Updated: May 6, 2023

Not long ago, there was a time when the term ‘retail’ was associated with the physical store. But today, retail can mean everything, from brick-and-mortar and online to app-based vending machines and voice-based search.

But what brought about this change? It’s simple. Back then and even today, for consumers the motivating factor is the same. They want their goods at a reasonable price and as soon as possible. The most successful retailers realize this and are offering seamless services with the assistance of modern technology, to fulfil the consumers’ requirements.

There is now an exceeding need for instant gratification to satisfy consumers!

As consumers get more comfortable with digital shopping, there is no debate that in-store traffic is suffering. A study found that store traffic fell 11.4% last year. According to Dawn Burrows, Senior Program Manager at Adobe, one of the biggest challenges that retailers have today is that people like to stay at home and shop. He went on to say that the largest challenge they have is getting people back into stores. One of the ways they’re doing that is bringing the digital experience into the store, in forms of app checkouts, vending machines, etc. The idea basically is to bring unmanned retail to the forefront, to ensure the consumer can purchase their goods with limited wait time and interaction, much like their experience online.

A recent study conducted by Oracle, called “Retail 2025 Predictions on Innovation’, states that 54% of respondents who took the survey said the concept of linking their wearable or smartphone to their grocery store or pharmacy to gain easy and quick access to goods is favourable.

Here are some of the trends that have either been introduced or are in plans of being introduced, when it comes to unmanned retail:

Unmanned Retail Trends You Should Know About

Augmented & Virtual Reality

Retailers are beginning to experiment with virtual commerce, which leverages virtual and augmented reality devices to create entirely new conveniences for tomorrow’s consumers. Augmented reality (AR) is slightly different from virtual reality (VR) as it overlays holograms on top of the physical world around us. Experts have noted that by 2020, the retail industry is slated to be the top spending industry on AR and VR.

For instance: IKEA launched a new VR experience that places shoppers in the middle of a shoppable, 3D kitchen.

Multichannel Retail

Moving away from the tenants of the traditional retail market, multi-channel retailing has gained increasing popularity. The aim is always for the retailer to be available to the consumer on all devices and at the exact moment, the consumer realizes they want something! The most common device used by shoppers nowadays is their mobile phones.

With online shopping available at the click of a button and features like product details, size guide and free shipping, it is imperative for retailers to move their businesses online.

For instance: With Vendekin’s technology, consumers can make a purchase from their nearby vending machine and make the payment through their smartphone, making their retail experience quick, simple and cashless. Vendekin enabled cashless vending machines are available across more than 500 offices in India enabling our partners like HCCB and Marico to extend their brand presence.

Automated Retail

The retail industry is slowly working towards creating a human interaction-free experience for the consumer. Moving rapidly towards automation on all fronts, many retailers have already adopted the cashier-less model – be it small merchants or large ones.

Automated retail is now a broad area including everything from vending machines to unmanned kiosks to unattended grocery stores.

For instance: BigBasket has launched BB Instant, as part of a broader strategy to increase the volume and frequency of orders on its platform. Amazon Go has challenged the retail world by eliminating check out queues and elevating consumer experience by saving their time and effort in activities that don’t physically require the consumer to be at the store.

Vendekin has successfully partnered with Nestle Professional to increase their premium café footprint at office spaces and provide consumers with customized beverages of great variety without the discomfort of leaving their premises.

The Vendekin Take

At Vendekin, we believe that technology is the only way to bridge the gap between what users want and what retails stores have to offer. Unmanned retail is basically another rationalization measure adopted by the food retail sector, albeit one that gives consumers a time advantage. After all, it is all about providing services that ensure consumers can save their time.

Vending machines have been a cog in the wheel of the retail engine for a long time, but this cog has lost its spark due to lack of innovation. We at Vendekin are applying technology to create modern experiences for consumers that will enhance the vending business and the industry.

It is with this thought in mind that we have launched our consumer app, which acts as a single-point interface for users. It’s smooth, secure, cashless, touch-free dispensation is built to ensure consumer satisfaction.

Just like the pace of technological advancement is rapidly increasing, customer demands change more and more quickly, too. Companies need to stay dynamic and innovative and react swiftly to changing expectations if they wish to have a place at the forefront. To paraphrase Darwin, those who will survive are not the largest or the strongest, but the quickest to adapt.


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