Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The lowly vending machine reaches newfound heights...

... at least that was the conclusion drawn in this Business Week article about "luxury" vending machines and new devices that can dispense everything from hot soup to iPods and charge your credit card for the privilege. The article notes:
"The new luxury machines in the U.S. use a robotic arm to retrieve the products and are much more slick, high-tech, and interactive than the machines peddling soda and snacks. The gold-and-silver Coty machine in Queens Center, for example, has larger-than-life pictures of J.Lo and Becks plastered all over it. Instead of pushing buttons, shoppers use touchscreens to make their selections and get instructions on how to return purchases. A flat-panel TV continually plays a demonstration video with music.

"Certain machines have additional high-tech bells and whistles such as a 'virtual beauty consultant' at the Elizabeth Arden kiosk, which suggests the best product for a given skin type. The Coty machine lets customers sample the perfumes by pushing a button that releases a scented puff of air through a quarter-sized hole below a picture of the fragrance."
While numerous shoppers have indicated a preference for buying certain types of articles from a machine rather than a person, the article suggests that we're in fact witnessing a fad whose novelty may wear off. While I'll be surprised if machines selling plasma TVs or exotic lingerie will ever become commonplace, there's a tremendous convenience in being able to shop, buy, and instantly receive your product after hours or without being bothered by a bunch of salespeople. The high-end machines that carry these items bring the best of the Internet (easy shopping and operation at all-hours) together with an important bricks-and-mortar advantage: instant gratification.

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2 comments:

DailyDOOH said...

Coca Cola and their local bottlers and distributors over here have not been keen on talking about their experiments but in Ireland and Germany they have been trialling a number of screen based vending machines. They have also been playing around with various 3rd party screen content on the machines themselves. We figure foing fwd that an 'intelligent' vending machine coupled with something like our WeAreON web 2.0 device mgmt offering would mean that students, office employees etc will have widgets to connect / see / poke vending machines from their own computing devices

Bill Gerba said...

I've actually seen a few "prototype" vending machines that let users check inventory, order and pay through their cell phones, so I suspect you're right about the future!