Vending machines are rapidly becoming an integral part of almost every business. There was a time when they were primarily used by leisure companies and the occasional educational establishment, but now hotels, supermarkets, and local Chicago shopping malls are providing them as a cheap, automated way to provide basic products. Even airports have them, and not just to provide food and drink, either. Electronics vendors are selling bigger ticket items through vending machines, catching travelers looking to conveniently pick up a tablet PC, set of headphones, e-reader or other electronics for a little extra comfort while they fly.
But technology allows us to do so much more than that. Why not, for example, market the machines by taking advantage of mobile apps, geotargeting, and Bluetooth?
Bluetooth marketing is something that a lot of higher end clothing stores have used to some success, and it’s becoming more and more popular with other niches as well. When a customer who has Bluetooth enabled on their mobile device walks past a vending machine, the vending machine can send a message informing the user of the products that it stocks, and that it’s nearby. This could backfire if it’s not set up properly and used sparingly, but it is an effective form of marketing.
Another option is to use mobile apps as a form of ‘loyalty’ for the vending machine. This could work if it’s a machine installed in a workplace. The user can pay for products with their credit or debit card or a swipe card set up specifically for that venue, and the app can help them to track their usage – and perhaps give them access to rewards.
Apps can be used to help people find other vending machines on the property, to check stock, or just to send people reminders and information.
So far, vending machine marketing has always amounted to the old “if you build it, they will come” model, and that’s a mistake. Today, there are so many local Chicago stores, kiosks, machines and mail order options; it’s hard to justify going to a vending machine and paying a little more for a product that you could otherwise buy for a much lower price in a newsagent or a dedicated store. You have to give people a compelling reason to come to the vending machine, and you have to remind them that the machine is even there – hidden away in the corner. That’s exactly what these high-tech marketing techniques are designed to do for you.