PICTURED: Sean Hurley at Vendex North
What’s better? The machine that conceals its products, or the machine that shows them off… PV Editor, Ian Reynolds-Young, asked the question.
Vending professionals and consumers alike have been stunned by the sheer brilliance of the latest generation of machines that incorporate huge, interactive HD screens.
When Broderick’s released footage of their customised Samba snacks vendor, the clamour to take a look at the machine working in situ at Manchester Airport was phenomenal. Indeed, our link to the video is the most clicked in Planet Vending history.
If you haven’t seen it, take a look; if you have, maybe you, like me, thought ‘this is it, this is the ultimate vending machine.’ Passengers at Manchester – and now Stansted – have been voting for the new technology by spending more on vending than ever before and that’s hardly surprising: After all, we’re the iPhone generation, we use our fingertips to navigate around a world of apps that none of us could have envisaged five years ago; apps that can deliver everything from the location of the nearest coffee shop to a blind date. A vending machine that we control in the same way, that allows us to access nutrition and allergy information prior to purchase; which, as Johnny Broderick famously said, ‘can accept any sort of payment except iou’s’ – surely we’ve found vending’s Holy Grail.
Well, hold your horses. According to GVS’s Sean Hurley, these new machines deny consumers exposure to the theatre of vending. ‘The theatre of vending?’ Sounds hi-falutin’ to me, but Sean is insistent.
‘People want to see the products on offer’, he told me at Vendex North. ‘What’s more, they want to see the process. There’s something magical about the way a machine selects a product from its place, transports it to the dispensing bin and then gently places it in position, ready for the consumer to collect it.’
Hm. If a machine conceals its products, it also hides the sophisticated process of order picking and delivery, denying consumers that ‘how does it do that?’ moment of vending theatre. Might that be an own goal?’
Sean reckons the machine he’s guarding on the Nayax stand here at Vendex gives customers the best of both worlds: consumers can see, beautifully presented, a tempting array of products. However, the benefits of the HD screen are not eschewed; it’s just that the screen is rather smaller than the 42 inches on Broderick’s converted N&W Samba. ‘We can run HD video ads or promos’, Sean said, ‘but customers can still see the dispensing process.
‘I think there’s no doubt that sales are boosted when customers are enticed by an attractive display of products that are just waiting to be bought’, he continued, ‘and research has proved that they like to witness the vending process. Having said that. They do appreciate the opportunities incumbent in interacting with a machine. They are actively accessing product information, particularly in the gym.’
‘In the gym?’ Sean’s referring to a GVS customer, a chain of gymnasia that’s open 24/7 and, at night, is un-manned. Strange as it seems to me, evidently there’s no shortage of folks out there that welcome the chance to work out at the dead of night, and it’s their refreshment needs that have been the catalyst for some of the best brains in vending to deliver what Sean describes as ‘a unique offering’.
The list of credits behind the creation of the machine is Hollywood in magnitude. Sean counts them out: ‘the client was at the heart of the R&D’, Sean says. ‘Then there was the brand’, (the drinks machines exclusively vend Lucozade); ‘the brand owner GSK; the machine manufacturer, Crane and the payment system provider, Nayax and of course GVS, the operator. ‘ He’s run out of fingers…
‘We chose Crane because at the time they seemed to be way ahead of the competition’, Sean continued. ‘It’s called the Bev 4 Media. It has all the tried and tested reliability of the Bev Max 4, plus a modern electronics package. In our experience, it’s been very, very reliable.’
Interestingly, Sean said that card transactions are responsible for around 35% of the machines’ income. Not only that, the facility of cashless payment means that the average value of every purchase eclipses that normally associated with a vending machine.
The Nayax controller allows contactless ‘wave and pay’ purchases, plus swipe technology and chip (without the pin – the ‘shopping basket’, multi-purchase facility is capped at £19.99, remaining beneath the £20 barrier that would require a customer to input a pin number).
‘We’ve not just increased average order value, we’ve delivered incremental sales too,’ Sean said. ‘People no longer have to remember to bring cash with them to use the machine, and in the gym environment, there is demand, for example, for energy drinks costing between £2.50 and £5.00 each; and some specialist nutritional bars are retailing for similar money.’
The machines make it easy for consumers to spend more. As you’d expect, the technology allows customers to select multiple products in a single transaction, and the operator to incentivise multiple purchase by offering discount and promotions
The deal in question involves some 350 drinks and snack machines. No wonder Sean is excited: that’s a lot of Lucozade. As for the choice between hiding and displaying the product offer, the jury’s out: both options are breaking vending records. I guess, as Rob Little at Vendman would say, it’s up to you operators to ‘choose your weapons.’