PORTLAND, OR -- VendScreen Inc., based here and founded by Dr. Paresh Patel, a vending operator, has introduced a touchscreen user interface for new and existing vending machines.
The user interface is also called VendScreen. It's an Android-based smart device that displays user-specific promotions and advertising, real-time product updates, cashless payment options and refunds, and nutrition information to comply with new federal nutrition information disclosure requirements. Retrofitted to an operator's existing machines, it can deliver real-time analytical information and DEX data uploads for third-party dynamic route scheduling and prekitting applications.
The device, coupled with cloud-based service, can bring retail-type promotions to vending, which could add value for users, operators and advertisers simultaneously, according to the manufacturer.
VendScreen offers users an intuitive interface resembling a smartphone's. It presents "Jen," a helpful onscreen avatar who stands ready to assist customers with every step of the purchasing process. Jen aids in product selection to satisfy specific dietary needs, providing nutrition facts prior to purchase and offering special promotions and advertisements geared toward the individual customer's tastes. The novel interface also allows customers to make cashless payments through their credit, loyalty or online accounts, and provides instant problem reporting.
Earlier this year, the federal government had estimated that the vending industry will require about 14 million staff hours annually to label machines and otherwise comply with new rules mandating calorie disclosure. The Portland, OR, company said its VendScreen will let operators comply effortlessly, virtually eliminating the time and expense.
Once installed, VendScreen seamlessly synchronizes with backend databases to maintain up-to-date nutrition facts, which frees drivers, technicians and office employees from the need to keep machine information current. VendScreen automatically keeps track of new products added, updating each machine with the necessary new nutritional information and other product details.
VendScreen can replace several single-purpose devices, eliminating the need for separate card readers or DEX upload devices. It integrates with such vending management software as MEI's Easitrax and Crane's Streamware. Using industry-standard MDB protocol, VendScreen may be installed in virtually any vending machine. It fits into existing card-reader cutouts, using the same bolt pattern and antenna connector, so installation takes only a few minutes.
"These features, in conjunction with its simple, intuitive interface and targeted advertising, give VendScreen the ability to increase the number of transactions per user, frequency of use, and vends per transaction," the manufacturer said.
Every day, 78 million people use approximately five million vending machines in the United States, taking 30 to 45 seconds to make their selection, the company estimates. VendScreen displays advertisements directly on the machine during those few seconds, engaging consumers at the very moment they are ready to purchase a product. By use of a small, motion-sensing camera, VendScreen tracks ad impressions and conversions; it also can deliver coupons as customer incentives.
Because it supports cashless transactions through fees sponsored by advertisers, it is a streamlined advertising medium, the company observed. With VendScreen, ads can be changed and statistics can be viewed in real time, providing quantifiable results by tracking which ads are displayed and the purchase actions they generate, so advertisers know which ads are working and why. VendScreen brings the flexibility of retail advertising programs to the vending industry, the manufacturer noted.
VendScreen Inc.'s founder is a lifelong entrepreneur known for applying breakthrough technologies to established business models. At age 17, he founded Courtesy Vending in Portland, OR, to help pay for college, then led the company through growth to 20 times its original size in five years, making it the largest independent vending operation in the city.
Patel said VendScreen is a game-changing product for advancing vending's position in the retail channel.