From the Editor: December 2005
By Stacy Bradshaw
At the 2005 NAMA Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia, I learned that a
vending operation is really embodied in its technology; that a business
can only change as fast as its technology.
At the 2005 NAMA Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia, I learned that a vending operation is really embodied in its technology; that a business can only change as fast as its technology.
A new and improved batch of advanced automatic merchandising technologies surfaced on this year’s show floor. I believe these technologies are a result of a significant shift in the habits and behaviours of North American consumers.
Consumers appear to be driven more by patterns of lifestyle (namely, convenience) than by absolute utility (basic needs). Using a credit or debit card for smaller ticket items – a parking spot or a hamburger – is slowly becoming the preferred norm. They want multiple payment options, but are particular about their purchases.
The health movement and the proliferation of things like children’s peanut allergies have shifted the paradigm of food safety and nutrition. Consumers are seeking out highly differentiated goods, yet convenience is still high on the priority list.
The good news is, vending is the ideal solution, as long as operators are willing to give way to a more pragmatic acceptance of the complexity of modern consumer behaviour.
How is one to go about understanding and, more importantly, responding to consumer buying habits? That’s where technology comes in.
Utilizing remote data port hardware to communicate transaction information from vending machine to computer means a vending operator can select product offerings based on systematic, fact-based information. Knowing how much was sold, what was sold and what is left, gives operators control over their business. What are essentially marketing decisions are made by the operator, not their drivers.
Many of the technologies launched at the NAMA exhibition are not currently available in Canada, but they provide us with a promising look into the future. Credit and debit card payment options and other cashless vending solutions are said to be revolutionizing the global vending industry (see “Cashless Conversion On The Horizon,” page 12 ).
According to Interact, Canada has the highest per capita use of debit cards of any country in the world.
Dr. Michael Kasanava, Michigan State University, who spoke at the NAMA convention, said, “sophisticated, unmanned distribution technology,” will continue to look more attractive to the ever-evolving consumer – one that is becoming increasingly comfortable paying with plastic.
Early adoption of these technologies and increased product variety will position the vending operator ready to not only survive in competition with other operators, but also to make a significant contribution to what could potentially be a resurgence of the vending industry.