This includes soft drinks, chocolates and confectionary, news paper and caffeine beverages, cigarettes and short pastries, soups and cosmetics and list is endless. Mostly these machines could be found in factory premises, offices, retail shops, fuel pumping sheds, hotels and restaurants offering customers the advantage of quick 24 hour service and the most striking feature is these machines could be operated with no human interference.
In practice even in Sri Lanka, we have seen many caffeine and tea dispensers, but these machines do not fall into the category of vending machines as they are not responsive towards the money/ card / coin inserts and vendor handles the machine all by himself. The actual vending machines that are been discussed here is responsive to coin , money note or a credit card and the goods are dispensed in the meantime without a sales person. Most importantly vending machines enable round the clock sales of products, which aids in achieving the most lucrative sales volume with minimal operating cost. In improving the productivity and customer relations, a lot of new innovations are being incorporated in to vending machines
2. History and the Evolution of Vending Machines.
The very first point of reference to a vending machine could be found in the works of Great Alexandra, who was claimed to be an engineer and a mathematician during the first century, he created a machine which accepts a coin to dispense Holy Water. When coin was entered into the machine it will land on a pan attached to the lever, and it opened a valve letting the water to flow out. Pan will tilt as per the weight of the coin and at one point counter weight will snap the lever up and adjust the valve back to normal.
In industrial Sense , the first coin operated was introduced in UK London in early 1880 to dispense post cards , followed by that first vending machine in USA was built in New York City train platform dispensing gum and later on more sophisticated add on s were introduced. Vending machine idea was considered as a trade simulator and around the clock sales rep. In the beginning of the times, Vending machines producers were supplying soft drinks, short snacks and caffeine through these machines.
This spreads a real awareness of drinks vending significantly. One of the biggest success areas at the time was in the manufacture of disposable cups. Even today in most western and Europe countries coffee vending machine is a widespread sight in the majority locations where there are a great number of persons. Whether you are in an airport, a hospital or an office building, the probabilities of being able to grab a cup of coffee, a snack or soft drinks from a vending machine is extremely good.
In its earlier days buyers were hesitant to grab food products from vending machines, as they suppose these machines do not necessarily offer healthy or fresh things. Consumers had shown a desire to read nutritional value labels before to purchase. That is precisely why they never trusted the freshness of vending machine items. With evolving time simple vending machines turns into fresh vending machines to offer the fresh and healthy food stuff for consumers.
Fresh Vending meets the consumer demand for healthy and fresh easy access food options. This is the reason for the presence of these fresh healthy vending at most of the places such as gyms, schools, shopping places, colleges and offices. With the recent explosion of vending services, along with the upcoming arrival of near field communication, which has close linkages with phones to bank accounts much more swiftly than credit card readers, its clear that anything that can be sold will eventually be sold by a vending machine. Especially when most of the vending machines are light weighted and portable the task is simpler.
3. Vending Machine Mechanism Vendor machines are operated on the basis of a collaborative set of new technologies. i. Wireless Communication With the use of wireless communication method , vendor receive up to the minute overview on inventory and sales trends. When inventory is running low below the buffer stock, ware house and closest outlet / office is updated and within an average response time period of 2 to 4 hours inventory is restocked. Minute to minute sales trend analysis will enable the sales force to make prior predictions on day end sales units there by the production will also be adopted to suit the excess demand where necessary. It is noticeable that wireless communication renders 40% less carbon emissions than the usual PC usage for sales and it helps in reducing the overheads and reduce the power consumption. ii. Use of Debit Cards / Credit Cards for Payments
The main criticism that vendor machines in west faced was that the coin / money note that is inserted could be a counterfeited one, but the new technology has enabled to use the credit card or may be a debit card , where customers find it difficult to cheat .Certain vending machines provide the facility on stored value system and point of sale systems depending on customers requirement. iii. Immediate and Exclusive Local Reports
Vending machines provide immediate reports on latest sale trends, inventory level and required buffer stock. In that sense a perfect stock control could be carried out. Especially if vending machines are used in a chain of restaurant, the technology will link each vendor for different supplies ( Eg: reports on cola / pizza / deserts etc ) iv. GPS : Global Positioning System
All distribution vehicles are equipped with GPS which enable a smooth tracking and all vending machines are connected with the main office on sales. All employees carry a wireless phones and dispatched calls where the team communication is enhanced. Use of mobile devices and emails also enhances a smooth supply of end products.
4. Vending Machine Technology Adaptation in Sri Lanka When discussing vending machine operations in Sri Lanka , it has not been installed and operated properly in local context at all, however we have already experienced on Nescafe/ Tea / Ice cream , but their functionality has never been to any closer as for a vending machine. Considering the local market, these vending machines could be extended to those of detergent / soap / pharmaceuticals for non prescribed light medicine etc. Sri Lankas market is far smaller than a state population when comparing with US, thus practicality of implementing this technology should be much easier. Following provide a justice in reasoning the applicability of vending machine technology in Sri Lanka Unbeatable product visibility:
Vending Machines not only display the products but also sell them, this is more appropriate when there are many brands to choose in between , as through vending machines encourage brand exclusivity .
Vending machines enables the products to be visible to the customer enabling common marketing principle ; the more you see more you buy , to be practiced, and this generates impulse purchase
Vending machines are secured and a perfect way to store goods with a towering hygiene where the customer is mutually is guaranteed with a clean and uncontaminated product. This could typically be used to promote products that influence consumers buying behavior and choices with various methods , thus automated vending machines could be the ideal way in testing the change in customer response.
Enhanced Brand Image
Vending machine is undoubtedly a new generation sophisticated method of merchandising and should be most applicable to fast moving consumer goods , where it positions the company and its brand/s as sophisticated and forward minding
Vending machines work quietly and generate sales around the clock for 365 days a year. Especially Sri Lanka for being a country which has declared holidays excessively than the west, vending machines provide the perfect solution for sales generation keeping the sales force away . This will further be accommodated with arguments as, labor strikes and extensive leave problems. Even though the employees go on strike, sales will not be dropped until some later time.
Avoid of Adulteration
Vending machines provide a solid solution for adulteration of products from the original content, especially in terms of pharmaceuticals and detergents, chocolates and confectionary .This situation is most probable which contaminate the brand image and eventually leads to a heavy loss in revenue . Also It is important to notice that there can be a lot of first time customers, where the companies need to ensure to last the first impression on them, where the adulteration and duplicates can make it the other way around.
Deeper Market Penetration
Vending machine allows firms to tap on newer markets making the own share grow further yet keeping one step always closer to the customer. These machines subtly perform point of sale advertising and promotion of the product, lessening the burden on overheads and post distribution promotions. And further it offer the customer with redeemable coupon , sweep takes , price off and free offers .