I'll bet that headline got your attention.
I am writing this article because I recently discovered something that might help the industry tremendously. We all know that vending is an impulse purchase, and that it is affected by visibility in the location. Following recent tests that my company [MB Media Brokers] has conducted, we have developed a method that any operator can use to increase sales in vending or amusement locations. It doesn't cost any money, and while adding digital signage will enhance the results, using this method on its own is a relatively simple way to boost sales in appropriate locations -- sometimes by as much as double digits.
We conducted our test with a major crane machine operator, using control locations so that economic factors were eliminated as much as possible. The original purpose of the test was to determine the extent to which installing digital signage in a merchandise crane can spur sales. However, when the test results came back, we had to do some research to figure out exactly what had happened. Some of the locations showed no lift, while others were doing extremely well. So we had to figure out why.
What we discovered was that the crane, or vending machine, or any point of sale can be thought of as a static (non-moving) sign. Generally speaking, signage is visible within a 70° cone. What this means is that if you are standing with your back to the front of the vending machine and you look straight ahead -- your line of sight pointing to 12 o'clock -- then the field extending from about 11 o'clock (left) to one o'clock (right) approximates the cone of visibility for that machine. Anyone you see within that field can see you, and the machine behind you.
Once we discovered this pattern, it became apparent why sales in some locations were not affected by the signage while others were. The signage served to intensify the visibility of machines that already were visible within the cone. Machines that had poor visibility were unaffected by the signage, and machines that were moved even slightly outside the cone of visibility were severely impacted by the move.
This test demonstrates that it is very important to "walk" a location before the equipment is placed, and to look at existing locations for possible improvements. By standing in front of each machine and performing this visibility test, you can determine which position within the location -- and even within the bank -- is best. This may suggest repositioning your highest grossing vender (typically the soda machine) to the most visible position in the bank. It may also mean that, if possible, you should turn the front of the machine to a more visible angle.
The most powerful angle for any sign is 0°, the straight-on view. Ideally, you want traffic to flow directly to the front of the machine. You want to look for obstructions at the 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock angles as well. So if you can see people milling around in front of your machines at these angles, the machine is well positioned. However, if people pass your machines to the right or left (for example if your machine is in an aisle), the machine is not as visible to the people in the location.
In the event that your company is looking at certain types of signage for your locations, you should perform these tests beforehand. Properly placed digital signage will enhance the results of a well-placed, highly visible bank of machines. For example, in our crane game test, we achieved a sales lift of 10% to 30% over the control locations.
That said, even without a digital sign, you should pay close attention to where you put your machines and how they are positioned, because it can make a huge difference in your sales.
DAVID LEVINE is a former financial advisor and vending company owner. He now runs MB Media Brokers (Phoenix), which specializes in low-cost wireless retrofittable signage for vending machines. Founded in 2005, MB Media Brokers was born out of Levine's conclusion that the vending industry's potential is impaired by the current perception of vending. He believes that this problem can be addressed while providing additional revenue to operators. His solution is to use digital signage to convert the existing machine base into a massive network of digital billboards, capable of both broadcasting and advertising.