Vending: Fun, Functional or For Show?

Vending machines are nothing new in today’s marketplace—even at airports. But during a layover in Houston recently, I noticed some new vending machines that caught my eye. Similar to the Best Buy vending machines, these ones offered flyers valuable (and functional) travel items like medication (from Max Wellness) and high-end cosmetics (from Benefit) that airport kiosks and shops do not necessarily offer. In addition, they were very eye-catching and interactive with touch screen product selectors, videos and even a blood pressure station. So eye-catching in fact that we had to wait our turn to check them out.

These are just a couple examples of vending today. Vending machines continue to be a popular shopper marketing trend for brands of all kinds. But like all trends, some people can carry it off and others cannot. Moet & Chandon recently placed a vending machine in Selfridge’s “Destination Christmas” section. Some are skeptical if a humble vending machine will be compelling enough to get entry-level shoppers to buy into the brand and pay $29 for a 200ml bottle. Meanwhile, Australia loves vending machine French fries so much that there are actually competing machines: Foodcube and Hot Fresh Fries. And did not you know there live crab vending machines in China and lettuce machines in Japan?

In the end, I think vending machines are a lot like QR codes. They are functional and fun but if you use them incorrectly, they can hurt you more than help you. What do you think of “alternative” vending machines?