In many areas of our lives, technology is evolving at an ever increasing speed. An improved iPhone is released every year, new social media platforms pop into relevance, and web-enabled “smart” devices like Alexa assist us in our homes. Keeping up with technology can be dizzying, but if we don’t embrace it, it can leave us behind. Just look back 15 years in vending. The notion of a connected vending model didn’t exist. Filled, clean and working was the only mantra we needed! Then in the early 2000’s a couple of college kids came up with the notion of putting a cell connection in a vending machine, and vending has not been the same since! The first ten years of this new era were still a period of trial and error – slowly building to the technology we have today. Thanks to a few pioneers who lived on the bleeding edge, we now have a system of connected machines that works. A system that is proven, reliable and has an immediate financial payback if done right. Vending management system can help operators collect twice the amount of money per machine service, decrease machine service time by 10-15 minutes, and increase machine sales by up to 15% among other gains.
Yet today, maybe 25 percent of machines are connected. Operators who have adopted the new model are generally more efficient and more profitable than their counterparts that were slow to move. Over the past couple of years some of the largest vending operators in the US have begun adopting and benefiting from the new model, but the market is still wide open. What’s stopping you from taking advantage? Of course there is a capital investment to get up and running with these systems, but the long-term financial benefits outweigh the short-term cost. Plus, with the consensus that most vending machines should accept cashless payments, a big chunk of the cost of running the new service model is already covered through adopting card readers. The stats show that adopting a cashless reader can increase machine sales at least 8%. So again, what are you waiting for? The cost of technology has decreased substantially with the increased scale of adoption. Operations of all shapes and sizes can cover the upfront investment needed to acquire the massive benefits associated with the technology. Today you have a better product at a lower cost than was available five to ten years ago.
Why now? Because tomorrow you will fall further behind than you are today and the gap will grow to a level that you can’t overcome. If you think that the technology is too difficult to understand and operate, think again. Today’s VMS, telemetry and cashless systems are intuitive, easy to deploy and can be operated by route drivers, warehouse personnel, and service technicians using their smartphones or tablets. No handhelds, no servers, and technology less complicated than social media! And if you can find a technology partner that can cover all of your technology needs, all your technology works in concert and provides you with actionable management information. Like how if you’re used to using an iPhone, you already have a head start on learning and benefiting from using an iPad or iMac.
Why now? Because over the next few years there will be an explosion of cashless vending and consumer engagement that you have to be a part of to survive. As part of my introduction at Vending Technology seminars I conducted over the past six years, I asked the question, how many machines do you operate today without bill acceptors? You know the answer, and for those who remember the 80’s, you remember the push back and the grudging adoption. Vending will continue to evolve because it has a valuable position in our away from home snacking and meal service. The industry is currently being re-invented as the “convenience services industry.” How convenient is it to not accept the predominant method of payment the consumers want to use, or to have empty spirals or improperly merchandised machines?
Why now? This is an exciting time in our industry as unemployment is low, business in general is good, and it is the perfect time to use technology to shape companies into profitable businesses that can be handed proudly to future generations.
About the Author
Chris has been a pioneer and advocate for vending technology for over twelve years. He got his start as the executive director of the Vend Marketing Institute, a nationwide coalition of operators who worked together on marketing and purchasing initiatives. Vend Marketing Institute was later absorbed by Unified Strategies Group (USG) where Chris was named vice president of technology and innovation. At USG, Chris successfully implemented numerous technological initiatives to help increase cost savings for a network of over 700 member companies with over 1,000,000 vending machines. He joined Parlevel as the Dir. of Business Development to help operators adopt technology to navigate the path to better operational efficiency, improved margins, and sustainable growth. You can reach Chris Stave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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