When people think of vending machines, they often envision an outdated device that offers nothing but a few snacks and only accepts basic payment methods.
This might have been the case a couple years ago, but now vending kiosks are starting to expand beyond just snacks to serve a variety of additional market segments. These new kiosks are offering products that range from cars to cannabis.
One example of a new format is the pharmaceutical kiosk. Several companies are beginning to experiment with the idea of deploying kiosks that dispense medicines. For example, Pharmabox has been attempting to expand its solution to colleges, where it will offer products such as Plan B One-Step, Tampax and Pepcid. Other kiosks allow users to order special medications and have them delivered to the kiosk. This can be a major boon for remote areas without easy access to a pharmacy.
"I still believe that someone will crack the nut on vending pharmaceuticals in doctor’s offices and in pharmacy stores after they close their full-service pharmacy in the evening," said Ben Wheeler, director of marketing at RedyRef Interactive Kiosks.
One trend in vending kiosks, according to Wheeler, is to keep the same system but "find the gap in goods or services provided and fill it." For example, with new FDA regulations that require vending machines to display nutritional information, some vending kiosks manufacturers are looking to provide kiosks that offer nutritional information and healthy foods.
For example, AVT Inc. has released several new vending machines that display nutritional information on the screen. Also, a company called HealthYou Vending has launched a kiosk that offers a variety of healthy snacks and meals. It is specifically designed for businesses that offer employee wellness programs.
One major service gap that kiosks are filling is marijuana dispensing and payment. Although marijuana is legal for recreational use in four states and for medical use in 20 states, no major bank currently allows users to pay for marijuana with a debit or credit card. Kiosks are in a unique position to fill this need.
Marijuana kiosks come in two types. The first simply acts as a bill payment device, where users can pay for their purchase with cash and then receive their product from a counter. The second doubles as a vending machine that both accepts payment and dispenses the marijuana.
Some marijuana kiosks handle the payments problem by offering a secure safe for cash. Others allow users to buy vouchers or to purchase marijuana with bitcoin, a virtual currency that is not controlled by any centralized entity.
As marijuana legalization moves forward, vending kiosks can provide the ideal solution for retailers who wish to offer the service to customers without handling payments or storing product.
As vending kiosks continue to push into new markets, it's important for manufacturers to have a fully developed solution, regardless of the segment they plan to enter.
"The secret sauce to kiosk is having software solutions and specialized hardware as a known feature of being a solution," Wheeler said "People with solutions in place sell more solutions than people who sell it and then figure out how to build it later."
Examples of this mistake might be creating a vending kiosk without testing its touchscreen for accuracy, or failing to include an EMV-capable card reader for credit and debit payments.
One thing is certain: As time goes on, vending kiosk-makers will continue to broaden their range of designs and technologies to serve emerging market segments. Put simply, if you can dispense it, you can make a kiosk for it.