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It’s peak summer season and vacationers are basking in the sun, soaking up rays by the pool and sandy beaches, with an ice cold drink in hand.  While many of us are enjoying carefree vacation mode, sipping a cold libation on a hot summer day, resort hotels, airports, sports venues, health clubs, public transit stations and entertainment centers are busy as ever, actively replenishing their supply of cold beverages and snacks, to meet the increasing consumer demand during high season.  With imminent summer heat waves hydration is critical and accessibility to thirst quenching cold beverages is an absolute must.  That’s where vending machines come to the rescue, often strategically placed in public spaces with high foot traffic, to attract consumers on the go, longing for a refreshingly cold drink or energy boosting snack.     


Vending machines have come a long way since their inception during the early 20th century, when the first coin-operated commercial vending machines were used to dispense postcards and stamps.  Smart vending now represents a new breed of vending machines connected to the internet.  These machines don’t just dispense beverages anymore, but can accommodate and sell almost any product, be it electronics, personal care and beauty or pharmaceutical supplies, moving far beyond the classic food vending focus.  Vending can now offer products in locations brick and mortar cannot reach, as well as a direct connection to the consumer.  By understanding consumer buying and product usage patterns through smart vending, enterprises can launch more targeted marketing campaigns, increase product usage and enhance sales.  Technology is driving this change and consumers are ready.

With emerging IoT technology, smart vending innovation is experiencing a technological shift for enterprises and consumers.  Consumer interaction data is captured via touchscreen, beacon technology, NFC readers and simple motion sensors that detect a customer’s physical presence, combined with mobile and enterprise back-end integration, which enables smart vending to offer real-time promotions, as well as upsell and cross-sell opportunities to personalize the user experience and promote brand loyalty. If a consumer’s beverage of choice is cola and that consumer typically drinks cola with a bag of chips, the smart vending machine recognizes and stores those personal preferences, so the next time that consumer uses a connected vending machine it already knows what that person likes and can recommend preferred options, along with other upselling options that might be of interest.  This type of consumer data is captured and stored in the back-end system, providing data-driven analytics with actionable insight for personalized marketing.  

In addition to consumer data, smart vending machines can also track and monitor product data and inventory.  In 2014, the European Vending Association reported over 295 million consumers use vending machines at least once per week and recent vendSmart statistics estimate people buy more than 5 million snacks and sodas from vending machines each year. With such staggering numbers, replenishment and re-stocking can be a huge supply chain challenge for both suppliers and distribution centers.  SAP is helping enterprises address this challenge, with a new cloud-based IoT solution, designed to maximize the value of connected assets, such as vending machines, coolers, coffee makers and more. Connecting these assets and relevant consumer data to SAP back-end systems, allows enterprises to monitor inventory levels and replenishment activity in real-time, triggering re-stock alerts to Distribution Managers or Suppliers to prevent stock outs, which can significantly influence lost sales and create potentially unhappy consumers.

Society has become dependent on vending machines to satisfy their immediate need for thirst and hunger.  Recent data suggests there is one vending machine for every 55 people, with more to come, expanding consumer reach and accessibility.  We live in a connected world and smart vending machines are connecting people, products, retailers, suppliers and distributers, to optimize the vending experience with innovative technology.  What are you waiting for?  Grab a cold drink and a snack from the nearest smart vending machine and experience the consumer interaction firsthand, to quench your thirst for innovation.