There is a digital revolution coming to the world of vending machines, with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and customer engagement at the forefront.
The first vending machines were rolled out in London back in 1883, where customers could slot in their coins to receive a postcard. In the many, many years that followed not much has changed…until now.
Today’s world has customers connected like never before, with powerful processors in their mobile phones, their tablet computers and even their wrist watches.
Cash is no longer king—technology is everything. So how are vending machines moving with the times to not only remain viable, but create a better way to connect and engage companies with potential clients in the future?
Vending machine apps powered by artificial intelligence
The latest Coca-Cola Amatil vending machines to be rolled out in Australia, New Zealand and the United States want to get to know their customers.
And through innovative, artificial intelligence-driven programs, these machines will break new ground by establishing a link with the average consumer’s smartphone, and getting to know their spending habits.
Through an innovative new app, users will now be able to order up to two drinks (one for them, one for their mate) remotely and then collect them from the vending machine at a later time.
This paves the way for two-way communication, with the machines able to collect information about behaviours and personalities—and use that to deliver marketing promotions at a later date.
It will also provide unique experiences depending on where the machine is located. Machines on university grounds may employ colourful, attractive music and video displays, for example, where machines on hospital grounds are likely to be kept more sedate.
It is AI in an embryonic format, but one Coca-Cola hopes to expand on to “create intelligence experiences”, global director of digital innovation Greg Chambers said.
“My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward,” he said. “AI is the foundation for everything we do.”
Personalised in-store advertising
The rise of technology means vending machines now include touch screens, which can display promotions, videos, games and TV commercials. This allows for greater connectivity and engagement with the consumer.
Now, Coca-Cola Amatil is aiming for the next evolution of advertising on the retail floor, through a partnership with Google that will deliver content that is custom made for each consumer.
Trials have already begun in an American shopping centre where in-store advertising screens connect to the smartphone of people walking by, and then screens targeted ads based on spending habits and preferences.
The system works as a fusion of DoubleClick’s preference and tracking data combined with Google’s Beacon Platform, and the early trials have been encouraging.
Should these trials continue to track along positively, it is expected they could be rolled out in other outlets like movie theatres and various retail venues.
Self-filling vending machines
Soft drink companies possess some of the largest truck fleets in the world to maintain stock levels, but still, vending machines can run out of product when consumers want them most.
This is not an issue in the modern world.
The new wave of vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing owners to communicate directly with Coca-Cola Amatil. Sales are automatically recorded as a product’s count gets low, with all data streamed dynamically.
This technology is not limited to just filling the fridge, either. Service issues can be automatically reported and technicians ordered, saving time and money.
Combating the death of cash
The decline of physical cash is no longer theoretical. Citibank has recently ceased cash-handling services at six branches in Australia. ANZ has opened a cashless sales-only branch in Bondi, and even their own CEO Fred Ohlsson has admitted to going cashless. Bad news for buskers and vending machines, right? Wrong.
The decline of cash has come largely due to the rise of ‘tap-and-go’ technology installed in bank cards, allowing consumers to tap for even the smallest of purchases.
And vending machines, using technology like Coca-Cola Swipe—which allows for cashless transactions—are able to distribute products quickly and safely without the need for loose change.
Globally, vending machines are taking this a step further by accommodating mobile wallet technologies. For example, Apple Pay for iPhone and Google Wallet for Android are becoming more and more mainstream, with already more than 100,000 vending machines in the US accepting iPhone-driven payments.
“Younger generations don’t carry cash, so we’re employing ways to meet their needs,” said Derek Myers, Coca-Cola Refreshments director of vending strategy. “By 2020, mobile is going to be a mainstream way of making payment transactions.”
These are just some of the innovations moving forward, but with the faster 5G mobile network coming soon to Australia, the increased development of AI and the spread of The Internet of Things, Coca-Cola Amatil will continue to work on new solutions for vending machines across the board.