Fascinating article in New York Times about the New Touch Face of Vending Machines.
No longer the domain of candy bars and potato chips, vending machines are gaining popularity around the world as purveyor’s of higher ticket items like beauty products and small electronics from Apple.
The machines themselves have also gone hi-tech with touch pad screens that blunt vending machine rage through sensors that ensure that a customer’s credit card is not charged unless the chosen item has dropped.
They even have eye scans that can tell by looking at skin and wrinkles if customers are old enough to buy tobacco.
The economics of these new “automated retail stores” are quite compelling. No overhead, ability to quickly change out merchandise, and even to relocate the machine (for example, to another part of the airport) after analysis of foot traffic.
Sound like the perfect retail solution. So what’s missing?
In a word…People.
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
The machines are designed to light up when they sense a customer approaching. The article mentions that unfortunately this is more than many customers get from human retailers.
Personally, I am intrigued by the idea but I think there is a limit to what I might buy from these new vending machines.
In the example of skincare, I might pick up my usual base or mascara. But that’s more like re-ordering than purchasing.
But it definitely wouldn’t replace my trips to Sephora or the Clinique counter where I rely on knowledgeable (and for the most part friendly) salespeople to guide me in my purchases and make suggestions for new products.
Sometimes it’s seeing a certain color eyeshadow or admiring the skin tone on one of the salesgirls that leads me to inquire about (and ultimately purchase) something I didn’t originally intend to buy.
I suppose a machine could be programmed somehow to instigate that kind of impulse purchase and advice…
Maybe the same sensors that read the wrinkles and skin in the tobacco age verification could be re-programmed to also use this information to suggest a new eye cream.
Bottom line I am intrigued by the idea of automated high end retail…but I don’t think I’m running out to find the nearest machine just yet.
That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
What do you think about these new machines?