Vending machines have been around for quite some time in various forms, from the ubiquitous soda machines to the more modern personal electronics vending systems you’ll find at many airports. However, recent trends have shown a surge in demand for vending-style payment processing across a diverse range of industries and business sectors that have typically relied on in-store payment processing methods.
Vending machines are convenient, there’s no doubt about it. They’re accessible 24/7, easy to use, and can be placed virtually anywhere. It should come as no surprise that their popularity has surged as more businesses figure out ways to deliver an increasingly varied array of products through unattended vending systems. Of course, this isn’t the only factor driving innovation in unattended vending technology. Perhaps the most dramatic impact to the world of unattended payments and vending machines has come from the global COVID-19 pandemic that has completely disrupted how we work and how we live for the past two years and counting.
Businesses have had to rapidly adapt to public health regulations and alter their operations according to protective mandates and safety requirements. Some businesses shifted to increase their reliance on e-commerce platforms, for others it has meant providing outdoor curbside pickup services, while many others have had to pivot their business models dramatically in order to stay in the game. Regardless, all sectors are experiencing an evolution in consumer behaviour as the situation progresses, including how customers prefer to pay for products and services.
The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on In-Store Payments
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced payment technology adoption in profound ways. E-commerce solutions are now a critical element of many businesses’ success, cash payments have fallen off dramatically in favour of cashless alternatives like credit cards, debit cards, and digital e-wallets. Contactless NFC technology that allows customers to simply tap their cards to pay, instead of swipe-and-sign or chip-and-PIN, has become standard at retailers from coast to coast.
Furthermore, this quick advancement towards cashless payments and digital processing means that an increasing proportion of payments can be processed without the customer ever needing to set foot in a physical store. As more and more customers become accustomed to the added convenience and speed of paying with alternative methods, the demand for these methods to be offered in sectors that have traditionally relied on in-store payment processing will continue to grow.
What does this mean for the world of vending technology and unattended payment kiosks? Simple. It means that businesses selling products and services that have seldom or never been available for purchase using unattended methods have already started to incorporate them into their business models.
Increasing Demand for Unattended Payments in Untraditional Vending Segments
While vending used to be primarily focused on unattended sales of consumable non-perishable items, hot and cold beverages, and an expansive variety of snack foods, this has changed quite a bit over the years. Over time, machines were introduced where you could get personal electronics, fashion accessories, entertainment media, and a diverse range of other types of consumer products. As long as it was physically able to fit inside the kiosk, there were few limitations.
This diversity paved the way to even more different types of automated unattended sales kiosks. Now, you can get hot foods made fresh, like gourmet pizza and crispy French fries, made in moments at an unattended vending station. The legalization of cannabis in many countries that had previously criminalized it, has resulted in a surge in demand for medical marijuana vending machines. In Dubai, there’s a unique unattended vending machine that dispenses solid gold bars. And that’s just scratching the surface of the amazingly wide range of things that can now be obtained through unattended payment terminals.