smart vending machines

Smart Vending Machines

Vending machines have been a part of our lives for generations. The first automatic vending machine, which dispensed stamps, appeared in the 1860s. While your machines might not date back that far, they may still have a significant number of years in service. With the vending industry presenting a robust business opportunity and seeing increased demand in various markets, it may be the perfect time to upgrade your vending solutions to harness this growing potential.

Vending Machines’ Potential
A 2024 Gitnux Marketdata report highlights that the average profit from a single vending machine is $75 per week, with a full-line vending installation generating more than $500 profit per month. As of 2020, the annual profit of the U.S. vending machine industry was $7 billion. According to Vending Locator, the most profitable vending machines include snack and drink machines, which often have a markup of 300-400%. Placing these machines in high-traffic locations like airports, hotels, office buildings, and shopping centers can significantly boost revenue. However, capturing this profit requires configuring vending solutions to deliver top-notch customer experiences along with the right products.


Optimizing Vending Customer Experience
To maximize profits, it’s essential to regularly clean and stock machines and ensure they’re operating correctly with minimal downtime. Updating older machines can also make them more appealing to consumers. For example, integrating more energy-efficient cooling technology can enhance your business’s sustainability.

One of the most impactful upgrades for a vending solution is broadening payment options. Consumers often decide where to make purchases based on payment convenience, and offering digital payment options can increase customer loyalty. Upgrading the payment terminal is a key option, as many vending machines are only set up to accept credit or debit cards. With the rise in mobile wallet usage, vending businesses might lose sales if consumers only have their smartphones for payment. Thus, adding NFC and tap-to-pay functionalities is crucial.

Ensuring Payment Security and Compliance
Unattended payment terminals integrated with vending machines must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI continually updates standards for point of interaction (POI) security, and older machines may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. While merchants can still use PIN Transaction Security (PTS) v3.x devices, 4.x- and 5.x-compliant devices offer stronger payment data security.

Vending business owners should also be aware that accepting payment card swipes makes them liable for fraudulent charges and potential fines. All payment terminals should comply with the EMV standard to safeguard payment data and protect the business. Additionally, upgrading the modem that transmits payment data for approval can significantly improve data transfer rates, speeding up transactions and enhancing customer interactions. While 3G is no longer available in the U.S., transitioning from 4G to 5G can offer benefits such as enhanced advertising and pricing file updates.

Is it Time to Upgrade to Smart Vending?
Instead of upgrading existing machines, vending businesses have the option to deploy new machines with advanced capabilities. Internet of Things (IoT) technology enables the creation of internet-connected vending machines. These machines include computing power that manages various functions, such as real-time inventory data collection and maintenance alerts.

Smart vending machines also offer expanded payment options, using network connections to communicate with payment gateways or processors, allowing them to accept a wide range of payments, including QR codes and other alternative methods.

Partnering to Modernize Vending Solutions
Whether upgrading your existing vending machines or investing in new smart vending solutions, an experienced partner can help you achieve your goals. The global vending machine market, valued at $51.91 billion in 2021, is growing at a robust 10.7% CAGR, projected to reach $129.40 billion by 2030. This presents a significant opportunity for independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VARs) in the industry. Consumers expect smooth transactions and payment choices, and operators seek solutions that boost efficiency and profits. Smart vending solutions elevate customer experiences to new heights.

What is Smart Vending?
A smart vending solution includes a single-board computer with a broadband connection, managing the vending machine’s user interface and connection to the payment gateway or processor. Traditional vending machines lack computing power; if they accept payment cards, they use a low-level vending protocol (MDB) and a wireless modem for payment data transmission. Smart vending typically uses a broadband connection from the PC to the payment processor, utilizing Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or 4G modems. The primary differences between intelligent and traditional vending lie in the payment architecture and the value-added business services.

With onboard computing power, a smart vending solution can automate many tasks, such as real-time inventory updates, remote machine health checks, software updates, and data collection on customer preferences. This can help maximize revenues by ensuring popular products are available when needed and can even include dynamic pricing. These “smart” features enhance customer experiences and improve operational efficiency for vending businesses.


Building a Smart Vending Solution
Launching smart vending solutions requires strong partnerships. ISVs and VARs need hardware partners to supply touchscreens, enclosures, product shelves, sensors, power, and heating or cooling systems. Depending on the use case, vending machines may also need printers for receipts or tickets.

Partnering with a payment technology company is also critical. The unattended payment terminal must be user-friendly and durable, withstanding outdoor conditions and vandalism. The chosen payment technology should accept various payments, from cash and cards to contactless and mobile wallet payments. Partnering with a payment technology company that supports alternative payments, such as QR codes, can add value.

Smart vending solutions require multiple components to deliver optimal performance. Therefore, it’s essential to partner with companies committed to developing these solutions. Collaboration during the certification process for partner devices can streamline development and expedite market readiness.

Smart Vending Trends

Hardware, software, and VAR partners working on smart vending solutions must consider trends from design to execution. First, branding is crucial. Vending machines are often placed in external locations like malls, airports, supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, and corporate break rooms. Solutions providers must design machines that effectively communicate and highlight the retailer’s brand.

Branding a smart vending machine involves more than the right colors and logos; it includes providing consistent experiences across all channels. Enabling loyalty reward redemption and gift card acceptance can attract retailers interested in personalizing customer experiences at vending machines.

Another trend is the shift toward self-service across retail sectors. Vending machines now sell high-value items, including healthy food, beauty products, electronics, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. With 78% of consumers prioritizing sustainability, offering recycling options and building energy-efficient machines can influence retailer choices.