Can Vending Machines Change The Way We Shop?

I was so excited in the DFW airport when I saw a Sephora® vending machine—how brilliant!!!—saving the ladies after they had to dump thier over-3-oz. skin creams. It’s cheaper retail space (vs. a permanent store) and also portable, so you could potentially move it to other locations, and it serves a specific traveler or woman’s need (kind of the “right place at the right time” scenario).

Of course Sephora isn’t the only retailer in the U.S. doing this type of merchandising; we all have seen the Apple®vending machines as well. The industry is calling these machines “automated retail stores”, which are cheaper than staffing an employee and, of course, don’t carry near the cost of putting up a permanent store.

Is there a new breed of vending machineson the horizon? And if so, how big of an impact will they have in the future on shopping?

Today consumers are slammed for time and changing their shopping behavior, trying to do more with less time. They already know what they want, and if retailers can provide it to them in the right context and place, then what’s to loose? It probably won’t take the place of brick and mortar, it just gives consumers another option. To me, it’s more about gaining incremental and repeat sales from a convenience-based shopper who knows exactly what they need and where and how to get it.

Contributed By Mary Katherine Woltz

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