Vend-O-Vations: How Vending Machines are Being Reimagined for the Next Generation

Mar 31 2014

Millennials have forever been known as the generation that wants what they want, when, where, and how they want it; so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the new innovations in the vending machine industry are hugely appealing to the generation. Now young Millennials and Plurals are growing up in a world where anything they want could, in theory, be available to them in the places they most need. Vending machines are being reimagined, and could be impacting the future of multiple markets.
 
The reimagining of vending machines has been underway for some time, though mostly focused on traveling consumers. Beauty vending machines from brands like Sephora and Body Shop, and tech vending machines from Best Buy have been in airports (and now rest stops) since at least 2008. Now airport-vending competition is heating up. Last year 3FLOZ set up vending machines that dispense travel-friendly sized products, and Benefit began introducing their own (adorable) vending stations, called “beauty kiosks.” The trend has spread into other transit hubs: This past December, L’Oreal Paris temporarily installed interactive makeup vending machines in a New York City subway station. The machines could suggest products to buy after scanning commuters’ faces. Over the last few years, some boutique hotels have begun to install vending machines that go beyond chips and soda and sell the things that guests actually need (like toothbrushes and phone chargers) and want (like souvenirs). But vending machine innovations are getting more and more out of the box, and new categories are being integrated into the vending world. Fresh foods, high end products, and unexpected essentials are now being provided to consumers when and where they need or want them, thanks to continued vending machine experimentation by new and established brands. In the past, vending was about mass sales of pre-packaged goods on the go. New vending is about customization, innovation, personal pick-me-ups, and even, (gasp!) fresh food.

Here are some of the new innovations in vending that could change the way Millennials and Plurals view food purchasing, acquire everyday tech, and interact with brands and luxury:
 
HIGH-END TO-GO
 
Sprinkles Cupcake ATMs
New Yorkers are celebrating the arrival of their very own Sprinkles Cupcake ATM. The bakery brand’s first ATM premiered two years ago in L.A., and they have since placed the 24-hour cupcake vending in Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago. Cupcake cravers can swipe their credit cards to receive a $4.25 cupcake in a variety of flavors, which are restocked throughout the day. After-hours cupcake access is a major appeal, and the machine has been an instant hit: weekend visitors reported lines and 30-minute waits to use the treat-dispensers.
 
Beverly Hills Caviar ATMs
Leave it to Beverly Hills to make caviar a to-go experience. Launched in 2012, after being inspired by the Sprinkles vending machines, these ATMs placed in high-end malls provide a taste of caviar to shoppers who can’t go a moment more without a bite of luxury. The ATMs not only dispense roe priced at up to $500 an ounce, they also provide mother-of-pearl spoons, truffle salt, and escargot.
 
All Access Moët 
In December, we reported that Moët & Chandon was providing a mini-champagne vending machine in the holiday gift section of Selfridges in the U.K. The high-end looking machine dispensed $29 mini-bottles of bubbly to shoppers, allowing for an entry-level consumer to partake. Visitors posted photos of the vending machine to social media, spreading the word and spiking the luxury brand’s presence on networks like Instagram and Twitter.
 
FRESH FOOD
 
Speedy Shop Village Vending 
Food deserts are a huge problem globally, and while some brands have attempted to call attention to the issue, a real solution has remained out of reach. But recently a vending machine innovation provided an oasis of fresh provisions for one small English town, and could make a difference elsewhere. When Clifton, Derbyshire lost their last small shop, the residents were left with few options for attaining food essentials like bread, milk, and eggs. Engineer Peter Fox took matters into his own hands and spent two years designing a giant vending machine called Speedy Shop to dispense fresh food and other provisions (like umbrellas and pet food) to customers. His company, Village Vendingnow hopes to introduce the machines to other villages.
 
Burritobox
Since our Essentials mention of Burritobox back in January, the vending machine that dispenses hot, organic, hormone-free, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef burritos has expanded its territory from gas stations around LA to the USC campus. Many are starting to document their experiences on social media, applauding the various burrito varieties that are proving the once considered anomaly of fresh and organic fast food to be a delicious reality.
 
Let’s Pizza
It only makes sense that the birthplace of pizza would dream up a vending machine that produces piping hot pies. For a steal at three euros, hungry travelers can find a pizza vending machine in Sorrento, Italy that mixes dough from scratch and adds sauce and cheese for only two-and-a-half minutes of baking time. Meat is an available add-on as well, and it is rumored that the personal pizza maker will be coming to America.
 
Robo French Fry Machine
After retrieving a cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM, one patron was asked what she would like to see from the next food vending machine. Her answer? Fries. One of the most ubiquitous fast food items is already being served up vending-style with the Robo French Fry Machine that delivers fries plus dipping sauce in just 95 seconds. A key ingredient for new franchisees, which are expanding from Iran to Chile, is cleanliness, giving customers piece of mind for their fast food cravings.
 
MARKETING MACHINES
 
Coca-Cola Couple Machine
Not many brands have managed to successfully tap into the vending machine trend in their marketing, but for years Coca-Cola has continuously created vending machine experiences that provide moments of happiness and surprise for consumers—and major buzz for the brand. They continued their vending machine campaign this Valentine’s Day with “The Invisible Coca-Cola Machine,” a great example of personalized marketing. The machine appeared only to couples passing by, gave them a light show, and dispensed two customized cans of Coke labeled with their names.
 
Oreo Cookie Printers
Oreo made headlines (and our post on SXSW marketing) with their Twitter-powered vending machines at this year’s fesitval.  Attendees lined up to print 3D Oreos in flavors based on trending Twitter topics, which took two minutes for the machine to assemble. The vending machines are reportedly going to tour the world now that SXSW is over, and will provide ongoing experiential marketing for the brand.
 
INSTANT TECH FIX
 
Bikestock
As Millennials gravitate towards urban centers, they’re also embracing alternate modes of transport that speak to city life, and new tools for travel are being created to help them get from point A to point B more seamlessly. Enter Bikestock, a vending machine for bike parts including locks, tools, patches, and a pump for DIY repairs on-the-go. The machine, which has debuted in Brooklyn, even includes small food items to charge up cyclists and is conveniently located on the street with toolkits designed to be placed in after hours businesses
 
Google and Facebook Custom Vending
The two largest companies in Millennials’ digital lives are bound to have some similarities, and both are serving up tech innovations with branded gadget vending machines. The machines are stocked with computer parts ranging from mice and keyboards to software, relieving employees of stressful wait times for computer repairs and parts replacements. The supply kiosk is said to have started at the Facebook campus, but an almost identical machine was seen at Google’s HQ, only stiffening the rivalry of employees luxuries between the two companies.
 
Dropbox Tech Vending Machine
While the details behind Google and Facebook’s tech machines are scarce, photo evidence from the Dropbox HQ shows us a copycat machine with tech parts offered gratis to employees in need of replacement parts. Tech start-ups are attracting Millennials with flexible work environments and the potential for high rising growth, so companies like Dropbox are smart to offer perks that are similar to big names in the industry.

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