Canadian Vending

Features Business Operations
Dispensing Strategies: Moving Pictures

Moving pictures

June 19, 2008
By Michelle Brisebois


They’re popping up everywhere:  in
the freezer of your local grocery store, on top of the ATM machine at
your bank and yes, even in vending machines.

They’re popping up everywhere: in the freezer of your local grocery store, on top of the ATM machine at your bank and yes, even in vending machines.

Digital signage is taking the interactivity of the web and marrying it with traditional posters – creating a dynamic message centre capable of communication strategies that boggle the mind.

For vending, digital media provides an especially appealing proposition because vending’s weakness has traditionally been the educational/sales angle. Vending machines couldn’t talk and up-sell the way real people could. Digital media levels the playing field in this area and in fact, may prove to be more effective.


Definitions of digital media range from very technical discussions about the virtues of bits and bytes to simplistic and hazy catchall phrases. If we look at how digital media interacts with the consumer then it can be defined as offering a user experience that engages many of the senses and cannot be realized with other technologies.

Digital media is defined as the distribution of digital entertainment as a whole category – not just digital music and is a growing channel for consumers to get their entertainment fix. Many consumers are now accessing their digital content outside of the home via mobile devices, which makes the marketing possibilities expand for service providers, content providers and manufacturers as well as advertisers.

The self-serve sector has embraced digital signage early with ATM machines, photo processing units and grocery checkout (self-serve) kiosks all boasting touch screens to facilitate the purchase. Unlike static poster signage, digital screens can morph from functional to promotional in the blink of an eye.

Automated Vending Technologies (AVT) reported in August 2007 that a test of 10 vending systems equipped with AVT’s custom personal computers loaded with proprietary digital signage software displaying flash advertisements, including advertisements for Otis Spunkmeyer, 5-Hour Energy and Tropicana, demonstrated that revenues sharply increased versus the 10 control machines without digital signage.

OK, so we have the techie-toys and we have the desire to embrace this bold new world. Crafting the message properly is an entirely different matter.

First, be clear about your intended goal with digital messaging. As with any other marketing strategy, you must make sure that the message clearly addresses the business objective.

If you want to intercept consumers to entice them into a store or to a vending machine then you need to engage all of the senses. Ask your webmaster to create a digital sequence that uses music in the background with bright, clear images and short messages.

Words like “new”, “best seller” and “limited time offer” are sure fire attention getters.

A group of influential advertising executives made a list of the best ads in history and dissected the copy to glean some best practices. They reported that good copy follows these rules:

1. Be five words in length
2. Don’t mention the brand name (the logo will say it all visually)
3. Be declarative
4. Be grammatically complete
5. Be otherwise standard
6. Contain alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme

If you want the digital messaging to increase your conversion (browser becomes buyer) then leverage messages that speak to product bundles of several items at a special price. Use moving pictures to entice the consumer.

Tim Hortons does a great job of making those doughnuts look extra sexy as the warm chocolate dances across the pastry while we’re standing in line. By the time we get to the counter to place our order – well, let’s just say the doughnuts “had me at hello.”

Digital signage can also link to your database and website. It’s possible to collect e-mail addresses with a touch screen option. Once you collect some permission-based e-mail addresses, you may want to send electronic coupons to subscribers to keep them coming to your locations.

It is possible for you to collect user statistics from those consumers who interact with a digital screen. This is where the rubber really hits the road because it’s now possible to see what information they’re interested in and how they navigate the screen. You will be able to promote upcoming new product launches and relay ingredient listings, nutritional analysis and any allergen issues.

Since vending usually prevents a consumer from picking up the package to read this information, digital messaging would sidestep this challenge nicely. Of course, the drawback to any new technology is that it will likely have its malfunctions so you’ll need to source a service provider who can repair it when needed and you’ll want to consider a system that transmits an alert if the screen is broken.

Digital messaging has many advantages over traditional print. You can switch up messages depending on day part, location and target audience. It’s environmentally friendly (compared to print) and can truly engage the consumer.

Take a deep breath, get some advice from good suppliers and test digital signs in one or two locations to work out the bugs. After all, a picture can speak a thousand words.

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