How the IoT Transformed the Vending Machine

The earliest example of how the Internet of Things (IoT) changed the vending machine was when students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) came up with an idea to put microswitches inside the Coca-Cola vending machine to track how many bottles were available at any given time. At that time, the students and faculty of CMU were consuming around 120 bottles of Coca-Cola products each day, which resulted in times when thirsty students and faculty would find themselves standing in front of an empty Coke machine after a troublesome walk up or down a flight of stairs.

In addition to the microswitches, they also created a software for the departmental computer to track how recently the bottles were loaded, so students and faculty could ping the computer for information about the availability of soft drinks.

Today, the functionality of IoT in the vending machine has evolved beyond just tracking stock availability. Here are five examples how the IoT has transformed the vending machine to be capable of enhancing economic returns and delivering a better user experience:

1. Smart Payments

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, most consumers have adopted cashless modes of payment and are now used to it. Being able to pay for vending machine items using credit/debit card or e-wallet apps also makes it easier for consumers as they don’t have to fumble for the exact change. By providing consumers with a better user experience, you can in turn increase usage and customer loyalty for your vending machines.

2. Smart Inventory Management

Aside from being able to monitor stock in individual machines, you can also collect data via sensors and built-in analytics. With the data, you can see which products sell better so that you can optimize resupply, identify contributing sales factors (festive occasions, strategic locations, etc.), prioritize restock to more profitable machines, and track resupply shipments.

3. Point-of-Sale Content Marketing

IoT enables vending machines to act as billboards, providing custom content, such as promotions, videos, games, and TV commercials on the touch screen. By placing these machines at high-traffic sites such as stadiums and theaters, brands can reach unique audiences in a timely manner and remotely manage messages in real-time and deliver customised content. This also helps generate new sources of advertising revenues that could be distributed between the brands, the machine operators, and any entity that controls the facility where the machines are stationed.

4. Personalised Commerce

Statistics have shown that over 90% of customers prefer to shop with brands that personalise their experiences. With IoT technology, companies can offer personalised experiences to consumers through the vending machines, allowing them to create user accounts, save individual preferences, and receive promotions and announcements. It also becomes possible for users to send gifts to their friends. All they need to do is sign into their social media accounts and choose a recipient. The machine then sends a notification message to the friend, along with a code that allows the recipient to pick up the gift at a participating vending machine.

5. Energy Saving and Ease of Maintenance

Intelligent vending machines can help reduce costs by using less power to cool products, without negatively impacting customer experience. This can be done with occupancy sensors, which turn off the display and active cooling for a machine in a climate-controlled building when no one is around. The sensors will turn the machine back on when someone enters the room, or at predetermined intervals, to keep the products cool. Device management applications also allow vendors to remotely identify, diagnose, and repair machines when they break down, without having to check on each individual machine in person. 

Now that you have learned how IoT can transform the vending machine, it is time to get started. EKTECH can help add IoT technology to your vending machines, and it is possible even if you are a small vendor. Contact us today to learn how to take your vending services to the next level at a cost you can afford.