Now that the OneShow is over, operators have a huge opportunity to facilitate change in the vending industry. New technologies, food products and competitive machines were introduced at the show. But how do you know what to purchase?
Every exhibitor knows that the actual purchasing power is completely in your hands. Equipment manufacturers strive to anticipate where market trends will go, but it is the buyers who will decide whether the intuition is accurate. Similarly, in the great world of retailing, companies will try to anticipate your buying habits by asking questions about you as an individual. They will research your daily routine and determine how the product will fit into your life. But then you will decide whether they have gotten it right.
When purchasing a product there is a simple process that most people follow, sometimes without even realizing it. The chances are that you will use it to sort out the things that interested you at the show.
As you probably saw at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's OneShow, video screens are ever-present in today's society, and they have found their way into the vending industry to serve multiple purposes, from simple digital signage to user interfaces on vending machines and micromarket kiosks. Touchscreen interfaces may be small enough to fit over the payment-system entry on a vending machine or as large as a full-size machine door. This technology was so prominent at this year's national vending exhibit that I am going to use screens in this example of the process most often used to make a purchase decision.
1. Identify the need. Evaluate your business and look for the gaps that are currently present in your business model. For instance, you are confronted by looming rules about providing calorie and nutrition information about products in vending machines. You might identify a need for a way to present this information, and if you do, you will have seen a number of solutions at vending trade. Among these were several small aftermarket screens that adapt directly to a vending machine. These screens would comply with the legislation, because they show the products and their nutritional information to your customers.
2. Review product information. The second step is to evaluate the product information. It is important when there are several product companies offering similar products to review the features and benefits that each of their units can provide you. Start by going to the product manufacturer's websites, YouTube, or social media channels to learn what people are saying about a specific product. One of the best ways to filter out products (or zero in on them) is by asking colleagues or friends in the industry. They may have recommendations about the products and their features.
3. Product evaluation. This part of the process might be different for every individual. For example, some people might purchase one of each competing item and try it out. You may want to buy all the screens, test how they would work on your units and then place a substantial order for the model that you've found to be best. Others will determine what price and features are most important to them, and evaluate the competition based on those criteria. Once you narrow down your specific requirements, you may find that only certain products meet them.
You can ask the manufacturer to answer your questions. A good test of the customer service experience would be calling to see whether the company is willing and able to answer your questions.
4. Product choice. After you review all the competition and evaluate what you are looking for in a screen, you make the decision to purchase a product. During the purchase process, you will evaluate the number of pieces you need, how you will pay and the delivery timeline.
5. Use of the product. The final stage in purchasing a new product is tweaking your routine to find out how it will work best for you. For most items that are purchased, some degree of personalization is available. On the screens I've been discussing, you can display personal messages about your company or add vending products that your location has requested. After purchasing and installing the unit, it will take time to work on configuring the product to work best for you.
Following these simple steps will allow you to vet each product before you purchase. Some companies might add a step of approval in their outlined process. For example, bring the items to purchasing or have your leader sign off before making a decision. Each individual is unique and items that are important to you or your business might be different from someone else's. No matter what your process is, I recommend taking time to figure out what your true needs are.
STEPHANIE BEGLEY is product-marketing manager of Vendors Exchange International Inc. (Cleveland). Begley describes herself as a passionate sales and marketing professional who enjoys pushing the envelope on new media. Her experience stretches from hospitality to manufacturing. At Vendors Exchange, Begley is involved in industry research, and regularly connects with experts and businesses in the automatic retailing world, which she endeavors to help shape. Stephanie.Begley@veii.com