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Issue Date: Vol. 47, No. 6, June 2007, Posted On: 6/13/2007

D/FW, QualiData Team Up For Vending Patron Study

Tim Sanford

GOSHEN, NY — Vending industry veteran Paul Schlossberg, D/FW Consulting, is partnering with QualiData Research (New York City) in a study of the behavior of shoppers at vending machines. Titled “EthnoVend,” the project’s methodology is the “retail ethnography” developed by QualiData founder and managing director Hy Mariampolski, Ph.D.

Schlossberg explained that the purpose of the study is to determine what vending customers really do when shopping at machines; observe and learn from customer successes, frustrations and problems; and understand exactly how these patrons interact with the machines: why they decide to buy (or not to buy), how they choose a machine to patronize and how they react to (or ignore) merchandising.

Ethnography is the study of people through actual field work. Dr. Mariampolski, who was pursuing an academic career in sociology, recognized that the discipline could be applied to market research. He turned his analytical skills to the task of improving consumer products and authored Ethnography for Marketers: A Guide to Consumer Immersion.

Better understanding the customer experience is a necessary first step in transforming traditional vending into a modern retailing enterprise, Schlossberg noted. The industry benefits by better understanding the customer experience and the motivations underlying the decision to make a purchase or to go elsewhere. There is much to be learned about the actual availability of specific products in machines – is the planogram really being executed? – and the real-world behavior of people looking for a favorite item. The question of how people really “shop” a glassfront vender has been debated for three decades; it now is possible to find out.

Finally, he said, the researchers hope to place the vending purchase in a wider context, considering issues such as ease of shopping (including payment systems), price-value tradeoffs, consumer concerns with diet and reaction to “better-for-you” products, and patrons’ reasons for using the vending machine or choosing to go to a convenience store instead.

The study will be syndicated. D/FW and QualiData Research will offer exclusive strategic guidance to a select group of companies enrolling as “Platinum-level” sponsors of the study. Joining the study at the Platinum level will enable vending and contract foodservice operators, product suppliers and equipment manufacturers to add customized questions and issue to the study design, and to receive proprietary results.

Information on subscribing to the study, and on becoming a Platinum-level sponsor, may be had from Paul Schlossberg by emailing paul@dfwconsulting.net, tel. (972) 877-2972, and from Hy Mariampolski, Ph.D., email  hy@qualidataresearch.com.

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