Vending machines were invented at the end of the 19th century. In most people’s minds, a vending machine’s mental image is a box filled with water bottles, candy bars, and cookies that always takes your cash and sometimes dispenses goods.
That was in the past. Microchips, software, touchscreens, and the Internet made their way in these boxes and have transformed them into a new digital channel that can handle a wide variety of goods and provide a great customer experience. The vending machines are evolving, becoming bolder, more intelligent, and connected. They give merchants digital touchpoints to deliver goods and advertising content. Let’s explore how they fit into omnichannel commerce.
There is no limit on what you can sell with digital vending machines – from fresh salads to cold drinks, from electronics to sports goods. And in the B2B environment, industrial vending machines can be placed on the factory floor to give workers quick access to tools and components.
And here is another example, the RiceBot – a smart, digital rice vending machine, using bulk dispense/refill capabilities to carefully dispense perfectly measured rice quantities to consumers looking to reduce their plastic consumption. It is implemented by Aeguana, which has developed the eco-dispense concept based on its VendLive platform that provides for remote monitoring, stock, and content management.
Selling cars through giant vending machines seems a bit extreme, but that is exactly what Alibaba and Carvana are doing. In Guangzhou, China, car shoppers can now purchase or test-drive a car using a smartphone app and a car vending machine. The facility came out of a partnership between Ford and Alibaba. Called the Super Test-Drive Center, the center houses dozens of Ford vehicles in the multi-story building. Users select the car they want through the Tmall App and have the option of taking it on a three-day test ride.
Or head to www.carvana.com and search more than 10,000 cars from all over the country. The website will walk you through everything: finding and selecting the right vehicle for you, setting up financing, and selling or trading in your existing vehicle. Once you’ve gone through the process, you can choose to have the car delivered straight to your house or pick it up at a vending machine.
Vending Machines in Omnichannel Environment
To be a real digital channel, vending machines need to be seamlessly integrated with a headless Ecommerce, content management, and order management systems.
Vending machines channel is another “head” connected to headless systems that takes full advantage of their functionality. Business users should be able to define a subset of products to offer in machines, prices, promotions, cross/up-sell offers, and marketing content to display on built-in screens. The system should combine historical data with location-based intelligence and tailor promotional codes and rules for each machine or location.
Customers should have an easy way to authenticate themselves with a mobile app or wallet and use them as a payment method. With authentication in place, customers can receive personalized offers and discounts and earn loyalty points. And, orders placed through a vending machine will be linked to a customer account.
To meet these requirements, vending machines vendors develop systems that allow central control of connected machines with integrated digital commerce and marketing functionality.
Indonesian payment provider Ovo has released Ovo SmartCube – a vending machine connected to Ovo’s digital eco-system. It has data analyzing capabilities to adjust products and services based on users’ demand and habits. Whenever paying with the Ovo payment app, customers may receive a promotional offer to collect in a machine around the corner from their current location. Or a customer using the Ovo payment app to pay for a meal can receive an immediate offer to buy a dessert from the SmartCube only twenty meters from the restaurant.
US-based Digital Media Vending designs and manufactures custom vending machines and automated retail solutions. Its “Digital Commerce Network” (DCN) is a platform for Virtual Vending Machines that can control the vending machine remotely and display advertising and promotions. Machines support multiple languages, cashless payments, coupon validation, inventory management, and digital signage.
Digital Media Vending also has models that combine digital vending machines with lockers. Such setup brings together omnichannel buying with an omnichannel fulfillment experience.
Is it time to add digital vending machines to your omnichannel strategy?