How many times have you thought about ways to generate more income from venders? Is it time for some “out-of-the-box” thinking? Are you taking advantage of the latest technology?
If you want to improve sales, you might need a little variety when it comes to your vend choices, says Vince Hansen, Vend-Rite Mfg. “Offer a wide variety of product choices. Chips and soft drinks do not appeal to everyone.”
Think about adding cashless payment options, suggests Dean Gilland, National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) — a national trade association of the food and refreshment vending, coffee service and food-service management industries. “Obviously, the easier it is for a consumer to make a purchase, the more likely they are to do so. Credit and debit cards mean that instead of fumbling around for change, you can make your purchase with a swipe of your card.”
Boost profits by remembering that customers like to accomplish multiple things at your store, says Angela Olson, Seaga. “Offer a clean, bright facility with comfortable features such as snacks, drinks, drop-off service and other amenities.”
According to NAMA’s State of the Industry Report (published in Automatic Merchandiser, a NAMA publication), the most popular snacks are Snickers®, M&M’S® Peanut, and Frito Lay Doritos Nacho Cheesier Big Grab®. “As for beverages, ... cold beverages are the most popular, followed by hot beverages, milk and bottled water,” Gilland adds.
Hansen urges operators to consider offering cookies, peanuts, raisins, trail mix, granola bars, sports drinks, juices and milk. “Coffee is a great item to offer to your customers. The profit margin on coffee can be better than any other product.”
“Healthier options are definitely something consumers are looking for,” Olson says. “Making customers aware of the new addition of healthy items is important. Include nutritional information as well.”
“You can do low salt, low fat, or even oatmeal. You can also vend apples and oranges,” Hansen says.
NAMA created its national health and wellness initiative, Balanced for Life, and, as part of that, a stand-along vending nutrition program, Fit Pick. Fit Pick is a nutritional rating system for venders that identifies products that meet strict nutritional requirements.
“Products that meet the requirement have a ‘Fit Pick’ label in front of them so that consumers can easily identify the better-for-you choices,” Gilland says. “Many of our operators have reported that sales have increased when [this] program is installed in the machine because consumers who had written off the vending machine are now returning because they know they can find a variety of better-for-you choices.”
Now that most computers are equipped with DVD players, a machine that vends movies that customers can watch while waiting for their laundry would surely be popular, Gilland believes.
Before offering “unusual” vending items, Olson stresses the importance of first knowing your location and customers. “If you don’t, take a survey, talk to people, etc. Then work with your vending machine supplier to make sure you can successfully vend these nontraditional items. Higher-ticket, nontraditional items are on the rise. Vending provides that instant gratification that today’s consumer, who is used to shopping online, is looking for.”
Hansen suggests offering computer-related merchandise if you are near a college. He also suggests offering magazines, used paperbacks, cell phone accessories, puzzle books and games. “You can even vend reading glasses.”
THE $1 COIN
“If the dollar coin becomes popular, the average person would carry a little over three dollars around in coins,” Hansen opines. “I believe people spend coins more readily than paper money, and that would have a positive effect on vending sales. Operationally, most snack and drink vending machines can accept the dollar coins. Some of the single-use soap vending equipment on the market would need an upgrade.”
“If the dollar coin ever becomes popular, it would be wonderful for [the vending] industry because it would virtually eliminate the problems associated with worn-out currency causing problems with bill acceptors,” Gilland says.
“The vending industry has always been a champion for use of the dollar coin,” says Olson. “You will find that many machines are equipped to handle this coin and can even give change for the dollar coin. I believe the trend is toward cashless, however.”
Touch screens, cashless payment systems, and remote monitoring are some of the standard vending-machine features, Olson notes. It appear that offering multiple payment options is paying off — in the right location, she says. “If the laundry currently offers such payment options, it would seem that sales could be increased by tying in the vending machines as well. Introducing such a payment option storewide not only provides a convenience for the customer, but also a security feature for the store owner. Cashless payment is a trend in the industry and is experiencing double-digit growth right now.”
“Venders have become more versatile,” Hansen adds. “We can vend items with different shapes and sizes without giving up much in the way of capacity. Shapes and sizes don’t matter as much now. Plus, venders can accept coins, bills, credit cards or debit cards. If you offer multiple payment options, you increase the ‘silent salesman’s’ potential.”
Probably the two biggest changes during the last few years involve technology, both within the machine itself and with the payment mechanisms, Gilland says. “Because most machines today accept debit and credit cards, an entirely new world of products that can be dispensed via vending machines has emerged.
“For example, when consumers need to pay for items strictly with cash, it was unrealistic to think they would buy expensive products. However, thanks to the machines that accept credit and debit cards, it isn’t unusual to see vending machines that dispense disposable cameras and iPods.”
In addition, food dispensed from a vending machine is better than ever, he claims. “Consumers, in some cases, don’t have to reheat dispensed frozen food since many of today’s machines actually cook the food before it is dispensed.”