Gnibl Vending machine placed in a workplace break area with a small white table

Smart & AI-Powered Vending Machines: The Future

Modern internet of things (IoT) technology has allowed for vending machines to be networked, controlled and optimised with one another – regardless of location or quantity. The next generation of vending machines have become intelligent.

Vending Machine Advancements

Vending machines are becoming more advanced – they are smarter and can deliver a far more engaging customer experience. Through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, digital payments, transparent displays and a host of other feature upgrades, the vending machines of today offer not only purchase opportunities, but entertainment value as well.

In 2021, the worldwide vending machine market was estimated to be worth over $17 billion USD with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% in the decade ending in 2030, exceeding $28 billion USD. The global market for smart vending machines is forecast to grow at a faster rate, with approximately 12% CAGR expected over the same period.

Consumer trends have led to an increase in ready-made food based on busy lifestyles, mindsets around convenience and urbanisation. A growth in demand for vending machines in commercial places, offices and public areas can be attributed to these factors.

The Rise of Smart Vending Machines

Smart vending machines are designed to be far more efficient than their standard counterparts, incorporating innovative features to improve the vending experience. Features such as cashless payment systems are super convenient for consumers, whereas inventory management tools and remote monitoring capabilities reduce the workload of those managing the machines.

Collecting consumer data around purchasing habits can assist in making informed decisions around stocking, marketing of products and pricing. Smart vending machines offer more tools and opportunities to those who manage them, including dynamic pricing and screen advertising.

Smart vending strategies can be more advanced when compared to regular vending machines. For example, an office building could install a smart vending machine on each floor and tailor the available products based on data and purchasing behaviours. Machine learning and AI can be integrated to combine weather forecasts, important occasions and other open-source data to provide a personalised experience.

How Does Smart Vending Work?

Smart vending machines are equipped with advanced technology including internet connectivity capabilities and various software allowing them to perform advanced functions. Smart vending machines accept multiple forms of payment, provide real-time inventory updates and collect consumer data and purchasing behaviours. These features provide an improved customer experience and help to inform management’s decision making around performance and analysis.

Technology commonly found within smart vending machines include:

  • Internet connectivity: Internet connections allows the machine to communicate with remote servers to receive updates, accept payments and send data.
  • Software: Smart vending machines often incorporate software to manage inventory, track sales and perform other tasks. This can include a user interface allowing customers to interact with the machine and back-end systems for operators to manage and analyse the machine’s performance.
  • Sensors: Smart vending machines regularly include cameras, RFID readers and weight sensors which are used to detect when items are removed from the machine, while collecting data on customer behaviour.
  • Payment systems: Different forms of payment including cash, credit and debit cards, digital wallet payments and mobile payments are accepted on smart vending machines.
  • Artificial intelligence: The integration of artificial intelligence can be utilised to predict demand of products and advise restocking intervals.
  • Data analysis: Smart vending machines can collect and analyse consumer behaviour data, as well as data on the performance of the machine which is used to optimise the vending experience. This data can also inform the machine’s inventory and pricing.

Smart Vending Machine Features

The new age of vending machines are equipped with a range of features that increase their convenience and provide a more favourable experience for consumers.

Cashless Payments

Some people believe that plastic cards and cash may become obsolete in the not too distant future, thanks to the emergence of cashless payment options. Cashless and mobile payment technologies are becoming extremely common in contemporary society, as consumer trends shift towards convenience. A number of vending machines nowadays are equipped with cashless payment systems.

This technology has experienced mass adoption in a short timeframe, mainly thanks to technology giants such as Apple and Google. These industry leaders paired near-field communication (NFC) with innovative mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

AI-Powered Smartphone Integration

While a range of smart vending machines offer cashless payments, there are some vendors taking it a step further with artificial intelligence. AI-integrated vending machines have the capacity to interact with smartphones in real time. As a customer approaches the machine, an AI-powered mobile application determines which machine it is and pulls up a real-time inventory, presenting product options to consumers on their own device.

An example of this can be found with Coca-Cola, who announced plans to debut apps in the U.S.A, New Zealand and Australia allowing users to order drinks from vending machines ahead of time. The app utilises AI to gather data around personal preferences and tastes, which informs future marketing promotions personalised to the consumer.

Facial Recognition

Vending machines with facial recognition technology were first introduced in 2014 and a host of companies have been working to integrate this functionality for several years. The Luce X2 vending machine, developed in 2014, includes motion sensors and cameras that assist in recognising the consumer. The machine then offers a personalised menu based on the purchasing history of the customer, while also assisting in the prevention of restricted products being purchased – such as an underage consumer trying to buy cigarettes.

Intelligent vending machine manufacturers have embraced facial recognition technology and have launched vending machines with these advancements incorporated in the commercial vending market.

Touchscreen Interface

Touchscreen interfaces are common within modern day society, in a vending machine context they allow customers to browse products, make selections and complete transactions.

Touchscreen vending is more than a mere technological upgrade, it also makes the experience more interesting for consumers. A touchscreen vending machine enhances brand image and assists in engaging customer more effectively. The touchscreen also allows for digital advertising opportunities that are not possible with the interfaces used for traditional vending machines.

Real-Time Inventory Monitoring

Through the use of sensors and other monitoring technologies, smart vending machines track inventory levels in real-time. This ensures that popular products are always in stock and readily available for purchase.

The internet connectivity capabilities of smart vending machines allows for inventory data to be transmitted to a centralised, online management hub, which removes the need to physically check the stock levels at each machine’s location. This results in a far more consistent and effective inventory control system.

Traditional inventory management methods are often subject to human error, resulting in out-of-stock items or emergency spot buying – impacting the overall profitability of the vending machine.

Remote Management

Smart vending machines allow for their operators to manage the machines remotely, via an internet connection. This allows the management team to perform tasks such as pricing adjustments and software updates. Remote management capabilities are convenient for operators as they do not have to physically visit each machine to apply desired changes.

Complex software systems are put in place to manage multiple units and the maintenance of these machines from a single hub. Remote management allows for the collection of data and important information about machine health, purchasing data and a range of other relevant information. This helps management to make informed decisions regarding their smart vending strategy.

Benefits of Smart Vending Machines

Although a range of technological advancements are introduced with big promises, smart vending machines are already impacting business operations and enhancing the customer experience.

Creating A Seamless Customer Experience Through Integration

Vending machines have accepted a range of payment options for a while, but smart vending machines take it to the next level. Both consumers and machine operators can benefit from this advancement.

Newer payment technology allows for:

  • Integration with inventory management systems to ensure availability of products
  • Gathering detailed consumer data and transaction insights to inform decision making

Connectivity Providing Customers The Information They Want

Having to input a combination of letters and numbers to select a product, or peering through the glass to guess ingredients, expiration dates and package contents will no longer be needed with smart vending.

This is due to the connectivity of the new age of vending machines which allow customers to pre-pay and reserve products online or by phone, letting them pick up their items when they’re ready. The same connectivity functionality will allow for the viewing of detailed product data, such as nutrition or allergen information, via a phone app or touchscreen display.

Enhanced Personalisation of Products

The use of advanced software and cloud connectivity allows for the possibilities of an even more personalised customer experience. By enabling personal accounts, not only can payment information be connected to a device, but operators can use consumer data to:

  • Implement tailored marketing messaging
  • Personalise information to boost sales based on previous purchases
  • Provide product and item suggestions
  • Control available purchases based on a user’s characteristics

Real-Time Reporting of Device Health, Performance & Usage

For companies with a wide vending machine presence, smart vending machines will aid in increasing an organisation’s ability to remotely monitor, manage and maintain vending units efficiently. This can translate into reduced operational costs related to physical maintenance visits from service technicians. Real-time reporting also allows vending machine operators to fully leverage remote monitoring capabilities to ensure devices stay online and operational for longer.

Dynamic Pricing & E-Commerce Tactics

Smart vending machines often include promotional screens on top, which aids in catching the attention of people passing by. The remote management capabilities of smart vending machines also allows for dynamic pricing in relation to outside factors.

Dynamic pricing, when paired with demand volumes, is a tactic that is utilised regularly in e-commerce sites. With e-commerce, you can capture people’s attention with promotions, leading to direct sales – something that can be replicated with smart vending.

There are intelligent vending machines with manual and automated discount engines that allow for lunch offers or sales on expiring products. Peaks in consumer demand can also affect the pricing strategies utilised.

The modern vending machine should be used like traditional marketplaces, where consumers can view what’s available and purchase on the go. Similarly to other areas of commerce, consumers are often attracted by new products, discounts and promotions.

Innovative Vending Machine Applications

The days of vending machines being constricted to dispensing food and drinks exclusively are over, with technological innovation and consumer trends leading to unique applications.

Fresh Food

AI powered, fresh food vending machines are the brainchild of Canadian startup Daily Blends. Their vending machines – which offer a variety of fresh, local food options – leverage artificial intelligence to maintain optimal freshness and predict consumer behaviours.

Daily Blends’ machines provide consumers with fresh, healthy food options around the clock, utilising AI technology to ensure the food is fresh and high quality. The AI integrated machines also predict customer behaviours and adjust their inventory accordingly.

The proprietary technology enables Daily Blends to offer a wide range of fresh food options, that are all sourced from local food providers. Equipped with an advanced cooling system, the machines maintain an optimal temperature to ensure the products stay fresh.

Information Technology

Modern businesses, with workforces that are spread across cities, regions, countries and time zones, showcase the need for readily available information technology support when something goes wrong. The modern workforce expects workplace technology to evolve and support their working habits, paving the way for smart vending to deliver huge value.

Granting access to low-value, high-volume tech items such as keyboards, headsets, charging cables or other computer accessories can save businesses time and money, while improving efficiency between employees and the IT department.

Smart vending machines are delivering accessible solutions to the modern workforce by delivering replacement IT components quickly and efficiently. Smart vending allows for the optimisation of inventory control and the user experience.

Beauty and Cosmetics

Vending machines utilised in the beauty and cosmetics industries are a new concept that have proven popular amongst consumers. With skincare and cosmetic products readily available from vending machines in central locations around the country, the convenience offered to the consumer is driving their success.

Cosmetic products such as makeup brushes, foundation, lipstick, eyeshadow, perfumes and various other beauty accessories are all available through these smart vending innovations. The machines have proven to be quite popular in regional centres that don’t often have access to the large department stores and specialty makeup outlets.

By positioning these beauty and cosmetic vending machines in places that are high in traffic of the target demographics  – mainly women and teenagers – sales figures are boosted and return on investment enhanced.

Gnibl’s Vending Machines

Gnibl’s high tech refrigerated vending machines are extremely user friendly, accept a range of payment options, contain smart sensor systems to identify issues and are enabled with remote stock monitoring.

With a product range that is curated by qualified and experienced dieticians, Gnibl aims to provide you and your workforce with healthy food choices to reduce the guilt associated with snacking throughout the day! Our vending machines come in a range of sizes and we work with you to customise your machine to suit tastes and preferences of your team.

If you are thinking about acquiring a snacking solution for your workplace, our innovative vending machines are an ideal choice.