Sony vending and airport convenience

This is neat. As seen at Dallas Fort Worth airport.

It is one of a series of vending machines that Sony has been testing (since 2006) that brings the different parts of it’s organization together in retail. Operating under the name “Sony Access” the vending machines showcase and sell multiple formats of Sony recordable media, batteries, headphones, Walkman MP3 players and CD players, Sony digital cameras, Sony Pictures DVDs and UMD videos, Sony Music CDs, Vaio PC accessories and PlayStation games and PSP players.

The vending machines are placed well. This machine pictured was in a high traffic area in the airport and very visible and there is no cannibalization from other Sony channels (at least not in Dallas airport).

While I was sitting there many people walking by stopped to have a look. It is an interesting concept, attractive concept and clearly great at raising awareness of, and generating interest in, the brand and its offerings – but I didn’t see anyone buy anything.

This got me wondering. Given the high end nature of some of the products available, would shoppers want to see and touch the product before they buy? Will consumers see vending of such products in a similar light as the Internet where holding the product before purchase is less important? Does this just bring another level of convenience to a captive audience with time to kill? Or appeal only to a specific, confident segment (likely to be in an airport)? Does the brand just accept the trade off between brand awareness and actual sales?

And on the theme of convenience, just around the corner was a neat consumer service. Here you can rent a laptop by the hour. Just in case you have forgotten yours! It is part of a charging station for phones, PDAs and laptops. So I guess you could charge your machine, rent another, work on that important document, then port it over to your machine. You can also print out what you create. Only thing is, surely if you have your own laptop you can use it while it is charging – or is that just a mac thing? Again, it wasn’t doing brisk business and all the available laptops were in the machine.

Just need to find out how the Sony Access concept is performing.