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Embrace The Change… Welcome to Unattended Retailing!

Embrace the change! Suppliers all over the world are clamouring to get data on what consumers want to buy and with that information, they set out to create experiences designed to persuade us that we need to make a purchase. ‘We can’t afford to be left behind’, says this week’s guest blogger, SV 365 Technologies‘ Chairman, Walter Gill.


Walter Gill

The deadline for the delivery of this article was getting closer and closer and there I was, with my head in a bag. Why? ‘Because I was struggling to pair my iPhone with my new car.

Ironic, isn’t it? Here I am being asked to contribute to Planet Vending as one of the industry’s technological thought leaders, encouraging people to ’embrace the change’, and there I was, frustrated by something that’s been around for ages. There’s an app for this, an app for that… How did we drive from A to B before we had apps? I’ve been at it for so long now that I’m feeling physically tired, and – guess what? – yes, there’s even a nap for that!

In reality, when you weigh the features and benefits incumbent in these apps against the aggravation of making them work, they’re worth it. They can identify where the traffic’s snarled up and steer you away, they can make sure your new clothes arrive the day after you place your order; they can even purchase your favourite drink from a vending machine.

All good! But then, you notice that your email and social media platforms have started to suggest products you might want to buy and where you can buy them, and unnervingly, the suggestions are invariably right on the money.

How the hell?

Data – that’s how. Suppliers all over the world are clamouring to get data on what consumers – that’s you and me – want to buy. With that information, they set out to create experiences designed to persuade us that we need to make a purchase.

I can imagine the ‘wee frees’ where I grew up saying, ‘it’s the wark o’ the devil, right enough’, but of course it isn’t, it’s just ‘progress’.

Embrace the change, we are not immune…

Of course, our industry isn’t immune to change. We can’t afford to be left behind. We’re even moving away from the ‘v’ word, which is being replaced by terms that come without the linguistic baggage, such as ‘Convenience Services’ or – my favourite – ‘Unattended Retailing’. What’s in a name? In reality, we in the vending industry have always been the source of the most convenient way for customers to buy their refreshments. These days, however, those customers are demanding more. By that, I mean more choice, more in the way of healthier options; more ways to pay and more interaction before, during and after the purchasing process. So: how can we respond?

We have to become more retail minded in our thinking and in the services we provide. The key that unlocks these emerging opportunities is, of course, data. Are we stocking the products our customers want, the healthier choices they demand? Is the vending machine still the best way of delivering these services? How can we create customer loyalty and thereby sell more? Are we visiting the machine often enough, or too often? Data allows us to answer these questions and act accordingly.

Embrace the change
Data? It’s like having a mole on the inside that tips us the wink…

Data collection has been an integral part of Unattended Retailing for quite some time and using advancing technologies, it’s now possible to predict trends such as when people will shop and what those demographics will be.  For example, data might tell us that there’s an increase in sports drink sales around a particular time of the week, or that a certain vending machine sells more Diet drinks than the full sugar alternatives.

It’s like having a mole on the inside that tips us the wink…

Now we know what the shopping trends are, with the introduction of new payment systems like VALINA, (the first all-in-one Android-based payment terminal for PIN-secured transactions), we can create dynamic advertising to entice people to buy.  For example, a vending machine in a 24/7 environment, such as a hospital corridor, could advertise energy-boosting products at certain times of the day.

Embrace the change, cross promote

If a machine (or a bank of machines) allows people to group products into a single sale, data analysis can show which products were commonly bought together. Via the payment system, this data can then be used to cross promote items.  For example, if someone buys plasters from a vending machine, they could be prompted to add painkillers to their shopping cart.

embrace the change
Machine banks: data analysis can show which products were commonly bought together.

With the rise of IoT based devices, sales and transaction data can be managed in real time, allowing companies proactively to monitor and adjust their stock.  Alerts can be generated to refill machines when stocks are low; to generate promotions and advertisements for products whose ‘use by’ dates are closing in…

Embrace the change – the pace is accelerating.

Our industry is changing – and the pace of change is accelerating! The growth in convenience stores within the UK is proof that we consumers want more choice, more regular visits and more convenience.

I think NAMA CEO Carla Balakgie has hit the nail of the head. ‘We’re more than vending, and we’re more than coffee, tea and water’, she said, ‘we’re more than MicroMarkets. We deliver convenience, just like we always have, but in a more dynamic and varied way. We deliver convenience services.

Embrace the change… Welcome to Unattended Retailing!

Now, how do I get this damned phone paired to this damned car?





About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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