The Timelessness of Vending Machines

October 31, 2017

Vending machines at points of convenience have been making a comeback across multiple sectors because they all have something in common: they appeal to consumers’ whims, giving them what they want when they want, with added degrees of nostalgia and novelty. According to Kirin Holdings Company, vending machines drive 23% of the sales for beverages in Japan, almost the same figure as convenience store earnings. However, how can vending machines challenge the status quo in countries where they aren’t so common?



Scarfi pop-up

Vending machines are often seen as a novelty and augmented reality app Scarfi adopted this angle at a recent pop-up event. The brand allowed users to virtually try on scarves before purchasing, then directed them to dedicated vending machines to collect their items. Pairing the newer concept of augmented reality with something as simply nostalgic as a vending machine helps to make new technology seem accessible and relatable. After all, 69% of consumers globally like to be reminded of things from their childhood.

Books Actually in Singapore

Singapore-based bookseller Books Actually introduced a in-store vending machine that dispensed “mystery books”. For $19, the machine dispenses a novel with no cover, removing the need to invest time scouring the shelves for a new book and adding an element of serendipity to the discovery process. The machine only dispenses local works, helping to boost the reach of less well-known writers.

We predict that by 2025, 65% of consumers will be interested, very interested or using surprise product recommendations. Here we see another innovation that uses novelty to stir excitement by encouraging customers to try a blind date with a book.

Alibaba car vending machine

Not strictly a vending machine, but mimicking the appearance of one, Alibaba’s car showroom concept sells cars from a glass tower. The vehicles are ordered via smartphone and monthly instalments and down payments are made through Alibaba’s own platform Alipay. Credit scores are performed with an in-house system, Sesame Credit with the data collected from past Alipay purchases. This integrated cashless procedure takes advantage of the 54% of consumers in China that pay via their mobile because of convenient innovations like Alipay and WeChat.



Uniqlo t-shirts

The Japanese retailer plans to locate vending machines in ten airports around the US, conveniently providing travellers with an emergency change of clothes or practical, functional items that may have slipped their mind. Uniqlo keeps to the affordable prices that they’re known for at $15 for a basic top to $53 for a lightweight jacket.

Positioning itself as the on-the-go, go-to for clothes that everyone needs – regardless of fashion trends or weather – reinforces their concept of being at the forefront of global, minimal and functional fashion.

Oyster and meat vending machine

Craving oysters at midnight? On the French holiday island of Ile de Re, a local oyster farmer has installed an automatic dispenser of live oysters, offering a range of quantities, types and sizes – open 24 hours a day. Rather than fast food, the machine offers fresh food served fast. Similarly, there’s also a meat vending machine located in Paris that was opened by a local butcher. Reportedly, locals there have expressed concerns that such innovations may decrease customer service interactions, while others welcome the convenience and flexibility. In both cases however, the vending machines serve as an extra point of sale – a self-service checkout if you like – and does not act as a replacement for shopkeepers. With 70% of French consumers keen to buy locally produced foods, making it easy to get hold of them will likely be warmly received. It’s a figure that is at 60% globally – perhaps vending machines are the perfect answer for marrying local produce with immediacy.

Cargo snack dispenser

As the Internet of Things grows with more and more appliances and devices capable of networking and the constant touchpoints of personal data collection, we see opportunity for smart and data-led vending machines. Consider the 35% of consumers globally that expressed real interest in an auto-replenishing food cupboard and cue the startup Cargo that received $1.75 million in seed funding this year. Their aim is to kit out all car-sharing vehicles with mini vending machines. Selling the likes of what you’d find in a convenience shop, i.e chocolate bars, painkillers and energy drinks, these items can be ordered through a digital menu. If you are wondering just how a ‘smart’ yet basic vending machine could be so valuable, the data collected from transactions can be incredibly lucrative to the brands stocked inside.


The future of the humble vending machine

Vending machines have proven to be beacons in our Cult of Immediacy trend while remaining trophies of the past… but could they also be staples for our future, when nearly 50% of consumers feel pressed for time daily? With the ability to capture data and become incorporated into the IoT, it’s not just about novelty. Vending machines are coming back and they’ll be here to stay.


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Written by Emily Cullen

As Trends Manager at Foresight Factory my role revolves around spotting and quantifying new consumer trends, with a particular focus on Health, Beauty and Food innovation. I am also responsible for managing our team of Trends Strategists, and through this helping to ensure the smooth and high quality delivery of content to clients.