Automated Retail & Vending

20th May 2020 by Jason Vincent

Is the future of vending & automated retail touch-less?

Retail stores closed. Grocery delivery slots exhausted. Airlines grounded.

In what has felt like a mere heartbeat our world has changed overnight, and to some it is now barely recognisable. As I write this, retail stores in the UK remain closed in what for many is now the third month. With minimal human contact, there’s no surprise that vending and automated retail has been considered by many to be one of the possible solutions in a CV-19 world.

But this has presented its own challenges. At Aeguana we’ve spent the past few months working on what we believe could be the future of automated retail and ‘vending machines’ (we try to avoid that term). We’ve looked at elements such as automated product delivery, integrated UV-C sterilisation and anti-microbial touch displays – essentially looking to address every touch point in the customer experience.

Perhaps our most demanded innovation however has been none of the above. It is the ability for a touch-free vending checkout experience. And we took a unique approach to solving this.

For anyone who currently drives around London (or the UK for that matter) you’ll be familiar with the all too common “which app do I need to install this time” debate when attempting to park anywhere. Personally, I currently have 8 apps installed at the time of writing. Each of them has it’s own credentials, payment methods that may (or may not) be accepted, and number of vehicles that can be stored. It’s an incredibly inefficient system that often leads to a 20 minute period of frustration where you stumble with payment cards and slow internet connections trying to update the latest app to pay for your parking.

Well… if vending machine operators and manufacturers continue down the route of mobile apps for ‘touch free’ experiences, this is only going to get worse. Much worse. Because we have a *lot* more vending machines than we do parking companies. From snack and drink units, hot food, electronics, travel convenience or even the everyday staple: coffee. And we haven’t even discussed how each app actually works in vastly different ways from each other.

Some require credit to be pre-loaded. Others require bluetooth turned on. Some even go a step further and simply add credit to a machine whilst requiring the user to touch it regardless (slightly defeating the point, really).

We need a system that can be used in a simple, straightforward way. A system that doesn’t create a barrier to the customer transacting, and that can be deployed globally. We needed a solution that could be ubiquitous in the world of vending.

Aeguana’s approach was an app-free one. Using the power of our VendLive cloud, we can enable customers to seamlessly point their camera at a QR code on-screen and be taken to a dedicated page for them to interact with the machine. From viewing products, exploring nutritional information, adding them to their basket, and even benefitting from promotions and coupon discounts (eg: meal deals, 3-for-2 offers etc) in exactly the same way as they would on the machine itself. Once the customer is ready to checkout, they simply checkout on their phone, enabling them to either make payment at the machine with a contactless card, or through the website using Google or Apple Pay.

The key bits:

  1. Throughout all of this no app had to be installed;
  2. No debit/credit card details had to be entered;
  3. No account had to be created or login was required;

The experience the customer had with the machine, and with the brand, was exactly the same as it would have been using the touch screen itself. From the layout to the brand elements to the underlying functionality.

This enables us to deliver a seamless checkout experience to any machine, anywhere in the world. We think this is the future of vending. The future of touch-less retail. And it’s not just limited to vending – think of self-service checkout kiosks in stores. Why not simply scan products and then checkout with your phone? Do we really need to be touching “pay” or entering our PIN on an antiquated POS device? We think there’s a better way…

For more information on Aeguana’s touch-free experience and other CV-19 targeted technology, visit our dedicated page here:

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