iPhone-Inspired Technologies Coming to Vending Machines

Discussion
May 17, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

At the recent National Automatic Merchandising Association show
in Chicago, both Kraft and Coca-Cola wowed the crowd by showcasing vending
machines with screens similar to those of iPhones.

Instead of viewing plastic-wrapped
foods behind plastic windows, Kraft’s Diji-Touch shows digital images of chips
or candy bars on a 46-inch Samsung-designed LCD screen. Tapping the screen
enlarges the images. Brushing the screen causes the item to swivel, allowing
shoppers to peek at ingredients or nutritional information as well as a 360degree
view of product. It also has the capacity to enable consumers to play games
to win prizes or additional snacks. Using Samsung’s UVending technology, the
vending machine is designed to deliver animated and interactive advertising
(both banner and full-screen), as well as video content and promotional offers
that can change dynamically, based on scheduling or on a machine-by-machine
basis.

"Traditional vending machines have been the
same way for about 30 years," remarked Paul Schindelar,
vice president Vending/OCS food service at Kraft Foods, to the Chinese news
agency Xinhua. "This is something that can really help the industry
move into a much more technologically advanced direction. In addition, all
the payment systems are cashless."

Coke’s machine works similarly but also
includes some animation flair. For instance, touching a Sprite symbol springs
forth a cascade of limes.

"It takes what used to be a very transactional experience into an interactive
experience, which includes sight, sound, motion and touch … after you touch
the screen to make a selection, you can actually interact with the bottle by
touching the screen to play a little, or check out its nutritional facts,"
Jeffery Busch, director of on-premise equipment innovation and operation from
Coca-Cola North America, told Xinhua. "It is all wireless. We just need
to call into the machines and download the latest content. We are trying to
bring people back to the experience of vending."

Kraft officials admitted
that the technology doesn’t behave exactly like an iPhone or iPod screen but
it’s close enough for at least younger consumers.

"It’s incredible how much Apple has influenced our basic actions." John
Turner, responsible for vending innovation for Coca-Cola, told the Chicago
Tribune
.

Both machines are expected to be rolled out this winter.

Discussion Questions:
What do you think of the potential of vending machines utilizing iPhone-like
touchscreen technologies? To what degree do you think such technologies could
revolutionize the vending machine industry?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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14 Comments on "iPhone-Inspired Technologies Coming to Vending Machines"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 11 months ago

Vending machines using iPhone-like touchscreen technologies would most likely convert them into a new user paradigm. The young consumers would revel in it, the older folks would possibly abandon vending machine use. But like most innovations, the iPhone touchscreen on vending machines would possibly have a life cycle of its own and be replaced in our lifetime with an even newer, more compelling “mousetrap.” That’s part of today’s rhythm, that’s part of today’s passing parade of expectancies.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

We have seen the future and it is now.

In the last few years we have seen a major increase in what is available from vending machines. Yes drinks and food, but also electronics, perfume and all kinds of other merchandise. This technology is only going to increase the usage of vending machines as a distribution channel.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
10 years 11 months ago

This provides shoppers a direct selling benefit. Let’s see if it increases sales.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 11 months ago
An interesting concept, but I am concerned about the amount of energy this type of vending machine uses and what impact it has on the environment. With everyone (in particular younger consumers) focused on being “green,” is this machine in line with social trends? Another approach could include a vending machine that can take incoming messages from an iPhone. Imagine a low energy vending machine with no lights or images. A user would go onto their iPhone vending app and search for the closest vending machine and what it offers. Once the person selects and finds that vending machine they would order and pay for the item on their iPhone. The iPhone would them give them a code that they would plug into the vending machine and out pops your snack. You could still have all the great features like rotating the package, but it would all be done on your iPhone. The approach I mention above is certainly not perfect, but I am confident it would use significantly less energy and create a lot… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Many of the experiments with vending machines in the past have not been exciting, e.g., using plastic bottles instead of cans, changing the look of the machines, adding power bars to candy machines. However, the last few years have seen more interesting experiments. Not all have been successful, e.g., the machine that changed the price of the products depending upon demand. This experiment is definitely an interesting experiment–making the machine interactive. Do consumers want to interact, linger, or receive additional information when choosing a beverage or buying a snack? We’ll find out. This is definitely an innovation to watch.

Kevin Graff
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Love it! Drags what has been an ‘old dinosaur’ sales tool into the new century. Now, if only it can prompt the customer with something like “did you want a Coke with those chips?”

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

I expect to see more and more use of the touchscreen technology in vending machines and think it is fantastic. I don’t think older folks will abandon, because even only a few user experiences will reveal bigger images that, coupled with the ability to see ingredient lists, etc, will increase satisfaction because they can actually SEE AND READ information easier.

Self-service retail made more fun and more experiential is a big win for shoppers and very differentiating for brands that work hard to get it right.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

If I want a Coke, all I really want is a Coke. I don’t want to play with it, study it, or experience it virtually–I just want to drink it and enjoy it. While all this is cool, I don’t see how it is going to sell more stuff than today’s machines.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

The real question ought to be, are we witnessing the birth of a new universal interface? The answer may be (at least for the current technological generation) a resounding yes. If so, are Coke and Kraft ahead of the game? Again, hard to see the downside.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

So is anyone really surprised? Why, yes, we are at the cusp of another industry trying to re-make itself and join in with the successes of others. More will be coming. Sigh; if only I could get my thumbs to work as well on the iPhones as they do on the BlackBerry!

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 11 months ago
It looks as if I’m the lone voice of dissent yet again. Although I do recognize the current susceptibility of consumers to all things digital and cute and clever and game-like, this strikes me as almost too silly for words. Or innovation gone bananas in spite of the one advantage in enabling people to read the small print on the pack. (And where is the social networking aspect, enabling people to find out what other users have bought and liked/hated?) Apart from all the other things I hate about these gimmicky machines, the fact that purchasers see digital images instead of the real, albeit “plastic-wrapped” products, means that they are simply not WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, for those not familiar with such a technical term). But hey, if you can play games instead of just thumbing in your cash and plucking out a plum, why argue? There is perhaps one recent development more ridiculous though. A story in North of 60 Mining News described GOLD to go, “a vending machine for… Read more »
Victor Willis
Guest
Victor Willis
10 years 11 months ago
To answer the question, yes I do feel these new technologies could have a dramatic impact on the vending industry. They will surely replace many of the antiquated models in existence. But I’m unsure if this will translate to more sales or increase customer traffic. As with the web, it’s increasingly about content and the relevancy and success of the new vending models will depend on the merchandise inside them. Coke or Kraft might get a slight bump but the bigger opportunity is to display higher value items that can generate a bigger ROI. Customers who visit machines want to pay, get product and leave quickly. Playing music, looking at gyrating, rotating, back flipping images of products that display their nutritional profiles is not going to make me want to hang out at a vending machine. Again as with retail, it’s about location and the siting of these machines (inside supermarkets, schools, offices) will determine their success. Multi product (clothes, food), multi temperature (chilled, frozen), vending machines, very popular in Japan a few years ago… Read more »
Roger Saunders
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

The vending shift engages the consumer at the point of purchase, so at least there is likely to be a short term bounce. The ‘contents of the box’ — a Coke, a bag of chips, etc., still has to perform its enticement to support repeat purchase.

Convenience, location and service are met with these iron horses. The exterior is offering something different and new; the contents have to find a way to add to the offering in order to march sales ahead in an appreciable manner.

Kathryn Van Den Heuvel
Guest
Kathryn Van Den Heuvel
10 years 10 months ago

Is there going to be a different product dropping out of the machine? It doesn’t matter what the machine looks like, it’s still going to dispense what is requested. Perhaps with some advertising, as if we don’t get enough, or some display to make young children think they are playing a video game–that might be better for the adults–at least there would be a product for the dollars stuck into the machine.

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