Consider the humble vending machines. They are virtually everywhere, and we do mean everywhere. We see them in stores, hallways, offices, subway stations, laundry mats, gas stations, and more. Not only are the vending machines everywhere, but they are easy to use, can take cash or cards, and consumers do not have to interact with a cashier or sales person. Easy. Fast. Convenient.
Now, how does something that is so ubiquitous become something unique? It starts with the application of the machine and the market it serves. What is needed? Who needs it? Where and when do they need the products?
Even established brick-and-mortar stores contain vending machines. Recently, CVS Pharmacy began installing vending machines in various locations containing convenient necessities, healthy snacks, and personal care products. The vending machines are customized with offerings to fit each location, including products such as over-the-counter remedies, beauty and personal care products, vitamins, supplements, snacks, beverages, and more. The machines will be located in airports, public transit stations, office parks, and college campuses.
San Francisco-based company Bodega places small, automated machines in offices, apartments, college campuses, and more. Using an app makes it easy to reach inside the vending machine, take what is needed, and then be automatically billed.
But perhaps no location has as many vending machines as Japan, with an estimated total of 5 million machines nationwide (out of 17 million machines worldwide). They carry something for everyone – from bananas to flying fish soup!
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Poll students: Where are vending machines? What do they buy form vending machines? Why buy from vending machines?
- Show Bodega’s Web site and video: https://www.bodega.ai/
- There are many videos of vending machines on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ZZmUuRG87sU
- Divide students into teams. Have each team select a market and design a vending machine to meet that market’s needs.
- Have each team present their concept and let the class vote on the most realistic idea.
Source: New York Times, Fast Company, Business Insider, Retail Customer Experience