Consumers have been accustomed to vending machines in Canada for decades. Pop, candy, and bubble gum machines are ubiquitious – seen at the front of stores across the country. If you are old enough, you may even remember cigarette machines in Canada – banned long ago with the age verification problems associated with them.
Self service in the form of ATMs, airline check-in kiosks and self-checkouts also have a strong presence across the country. While the technology of vending machines seems relatively rudimentary and mechanical compared to their upscale counterparts, vending machines and self service are quietly converging. Mark’s Work Wearhouse, for example, is experimenting with smart vending machines that sell clothing. (Yes, that’s me in the video clip)
While it seems a bit strange to conservative Canadians to extend a brand with vending, considering the incredible number of vending machines in places like Japan, it’s an interesting idea to try to expand one’s reach without building a whole store, or fitting into an environment where a store wouldn’t work. Why not expand the brand beyond the traditional idea of a store?
Examples of technologies and business models that can make this work:
PharmaTrust – Build an entire (well, most used perscriptions, anyway) pharmacy and then provide access to licenced pharmacists via video link. What a great opportunity to provide access to pharmacy services in small hospitals, clinics, places of business – wherever.
ZoomSystems – Provide an entire store as a vending machine. Best Buy and Rosetta Stone have used these, among others.
Vigix – This solution is a smart vending platform that sees all items for a vending machine sent in one secure container via courier, replaced by the courier with a smart RFID tag in the machine that opens it when the new cassette is near the machine. This removes cost, effort, and shrink involved in stocking a traditional vending machine, while providing the intelligence of a processing unit that can provide interconnectivity to systems like a traditional kiosk platform. It is now possible for higher value items to be dispensed in a much smaller platform in locations potentially useless for other uses.