The pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the global markets, forcing many companies to rethink their operations in a short period. Many vendors have survived the last couple of pandemic years because they dared to be pioneers, invest in innovative solutions, and create trends. This post highlighted four trend groups that have marked the last couple of years and will continue to grow in 2022.

Tech Trends

The world is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which conceptualizes rapid change in technology, industries, and societal processes. A part of this industrial change is joining technologies like artificial intelligence and advanced robotics that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. This revolution has also affected the vending industry, causing innovations in how machines operate and serve consumers.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

With over two billion transactions a day on vending machines, the different types of data can be collected and analyzed to gain insights into the machine’s productivity and customer habits. However, that vast amount of data aggregated requires different analytic methods. This is where computers and robots enter the arena.

Machine learning (ML) is a method of data analysis that allows software applications to become more accurate at predicting outcomes. ML can be applied for automated fault detection and diagnosis based on the collected data type. Machine Learning and robust optimization techniques can significantly improve vending logistics operations and improve stock quantity and maintenance intervals.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that require human intelligence. The term refers to system developing projects equipped with “the intellectual processes, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.”

The pandemic caused disruptions in human resource management, with negative effects on the cost and availability of human labor. However, employing AI to automate human-based processes can be the solution.

“AI and algorithms eliminate forecasting future demand by rolling dice and remove human error. Understanding who, when, and how often they are using the product will lead to the creation of products that are more durable and profitable.”

Mario Jakus, Commercial Director – Industrial @ INTIS

Expanded Vending Machine Offering

Until recently, coffee and snacks were the first thought when someone mentioned vending machines. But, in the last couple of years, vending industry expanded its offering to virtually any retail product you can imagine. This trend has become even more popular with the pandemic, with expected growth in 2022.

Healthy Food

Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, a large portion of it from vending machines. However, America is becoming more health-conscious, and people demand healthy vending machine snacks more often. At the beginning of 2020, America’s National Automatic Merchandising Association, the trade group representing the $25 billion vending machine industry, announced it has committed to “substantially increasing the number of healthy offerings in the nation’s vending machines.”

Innovations in equipment have allowed coolers and cold systems to stock fresh foods in the machines. Because they take up a small amount of space, the machines are also a relatively easy solution to suit consumers’ food allergies and other preferences with a range of specialty products. Moreover, the versatility of vending machines allows them to be placed just about anywhere, including offices, hospitals, fitness facilities, airports, and schools.

Now, busy people can rely on the convenience and access of vending and micro-markets for quick, wholesome meals. Healthy product vending machines are primed to offer various options – from oatmeal breakfast, fresh fruits, and vegetables to sandwiches, salads, combo snack platters, and warm dinners such as rice, quinoa, and noodle dishes.

“With the rise of end consumers’ awareness, people demand healthy vending machine food more often. On top of it, the pandemic arose the population’s perception about the need for higher health protection levels, demanding higher availability of medical equipment.”

Maja Vuković, Product Manager @ INTIS

Medical and Pharma Products

According to The Business Research Company, there is an increasing trend of “pharmacies using medicine vending machines to service customers.” This is especially true for remote locations where pharma businesses cannot invest in opening an establishment and stationing pharmacists.

For instance, PharmaTrust, a Canadian company, has developed vending machines and installed them throughout the UK and the US. The medicine vending machine is equipped with a phone, internet connection, a prescription scanner, an in-built POS machine, and up to 2,000 packs of commonly used prescription drugs. The machine identifies drugs with a microchip attached to the packs.

Patients can go up to the PharmaTrust kiosk, insert their prescription, scan their health card, then pick up the phone and talk to a pharmacist via video call. The pharmacist determines if the medication is appropriate and then authorizes the transaction.

A company specialized in medical vending, UCaplt, developed a medical supply dispenser, helping struggling managers keep their supply room secure or having too many expired products. UCapIt’s machines dispense medical supplies, narcotics, and pharmaceuticals to authorized staff within an emergency organization.

Cashless Vending Trends

Contactless payment options gained popularity during recent years due to the pandemic, and their popularity will only continue to grow. People view contactless and cashless payments as a faster, more convenient, and cleaner way to pay, eliminating unnecessary touchpoints.

Bank Cards

According to Money’s research, some experts believe that most of the world’s economy will be cashless in less than five years, led by Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia. The numbers in the UK show that nine out of ten people own a debit card, while 67% of people own a credit card. According to some predictions, only 9% of transactions will be cash by 2028. This is a good indicator that, if not already, you should start accepting bank cards at your vending machines.

A bank card is any card issued against a depository account, such as an ATM card or a debit card. The phrase is also commonly used to refer to Visa and Mastercard since their cards are issued through a co-branded relationship with commercial banks and financial institutions.

“By far, there is a clear trend of investment in open-loop cashless and a rise of market need for cashless in vending across Europe.”

Mladen Damjanović, Project Manager @ INTIS

Mobile Payments

Cashless payment isn’t just limited to bank cards – there’s also a strong presence of mobile payment in the vending industry. According to the Research and Markets report, the global mobile payments market reached a value of US$ 1.43 Billion in 2020 with the estimates to “anticipate a strong growth during the forecasted 2021-2026 period.”

Since mobile POS systems do not save the user’s data on the merchant’s POS terminal, mobile payment offers enhanced safety to consumers. As a result, it is extensively utilized across numerous operation segments across the food service, retail, entertainment, and vending industry.

Digital Wallets

Besides the payment methods mentioned, vendors can also let their consumers use digital vending wallet apps. A digital wallet or e-wallet is a type of software that securely stores users’ payment information and passwords for numerous payment methods and websites. Digital wallets can be used in conjunction with mobile payment systems, allowing consumers to pay for vends with their smartphones.

Using these apps, consumers can pay for products and collect loyalty points, which they can redeem for discounts and free vends. Some digital wallets, such as Televend Wallet, offer completely contactless vending, enabling consumers not only to pay with their phones but to select their products via the app, too. This type of vending has been especially popular since the pandemic because it eliminates unnecessary touchpoints.

Vending Machines as a Part of Marketing Strategy

Brands are getting more and more creative with their promotional strategies, implementing unique tactics to connect with audiences and boost brand messaging. Vending machines are the branding and promotional medium that keeps getting more and more traction. Companies can use vending machines to raise brand awareness, push promotional messages, and encourage people to spend more.

Branding

One of the most popular branding tactics is the use of brand colors in machine design. For instance, Benefit Cosmetics has a global strategy of placing fun pink vending machines in airports. Their products stand out more than if hidden in an airport shop among the competitive clutter of other duty-free cosmetics. The trademark bright pink color, unusual in a vending machine, attracts attention. Another example is Coca-Cola’s machines with their typical bright red color and M&M’s vibrant yellow. If consumers are in the mood for a snack or soft drink, these brands catch their attention.

Promotional Activations

Vending brands successfully incorporate vending machines into traditional outdoor advertising, taking advantage of their relatively small size and versatility. They use vending machines to display promotional messages, guiding them to the next step in their customer journey. For example, vendors can encourage consumers to:

  • Learn more about products on their website,
  • Take advantage of a special offer,
  • Watch a video tutorial,
  • Get a customer support contact,
  • Give feedback,
  • Subscribe for a newsletter,
  • Follow them on social media,
  • Download the app, etc.

Download the comprehensive whitepaper with detailed insight into vending trends. If you’d like to have better insight into your machine sales, expand your payment options, or attract more purchases with incentives, schedule a demo with our sales team.

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