Most people probably don’t think about the vending machine industry when they consider all of the businesses that are struggling as a result of the nation’s dismal economy. They have been as hard-hit by the recession—and subsequent high unemployment rate—as anyone.
The Millennial generation, perhaps better known as Generation Y, is comprised of individuals born throughout the 1980s and ’90s. According to research compiled by the National Automatic Merchandising Association, the trade group of the vending industry, over 85% the members of that generation—consumers aged from 18 to 29—indicated that they would prefer to engage in a transaction with a vending machine instead of using other retail options.
“They love playing around with new technology,” said Paul Schindelar, vice president of Kraft Foods’ vending division, as reported by cnbc.com. “That’s it in a nutshell.”
The vending industry hopes to increase its appeal to tech savvy young adults even more. They are equipping machines with new technology that makes them more interactive, in order to reap the reward of a much-needed boost in revenue. Some examples: machines with touch-screens that function like giant iPads; a machine that whips up fresh cotton candy; and even a machine filled up with healthy snack choices—with an embedded LCD screen that displays the nutritional information of its offerings.
NAMA (the National Automatic Merchandising Association) recently made a road trip to seven cities with several of the new high-tech machines on display, in order to showcase their abilities.
“We have never taken the technology out to the consumer,” said John Healy, of event organizer Healy & Schulte, NAMA’s marketing firm, according to cnbc.com. “We can’t wait for consumers to find them.”
Additionally, many vending machines are being outfitted with technology that allows consumers to make cashless purchases, since Gen Y members rely, in large part, on their credit and debit cards to make purchases. A study conducted by Apriva, a wireless solution provider, revealed that approximately 60% of vending operators indicated their intent to put into place payment systems that are credit-card based in the immediate future.
The time seems right for these changes, since they coincide with the advent of mobile payment systems that can turn someone’s smart phone into a virtual wallet.