Ever since the pandemic-induced digitization gained momentum, technology rules our lives. New-age technologies such as AI and ML have revolutionized various sectors ranging from healthcare and events, to finance, education, etc. just to mention a few. The food & beverage industry was largely untouched but over the course of time, digitization has entered this domain as well.
Vending machines: An important part of the Indian F&B industry
Earlier technology’s impact on the F&B sector was indirect through supply chain management and logistics. However, AI and ML are now foraying into an important market in the food and beverage segment, the vending machine industry. As a result, we now have custom vending machines gaining popularity with advanced features that not only make operations seamless but even drive sales.
In India, the government implemented vending machines in the transportation and hospitality sectors to allow customers to obtain essential items when stores are closed. Today, they dominate the retail sector and the majority of them are seen installed at airports, railway stations, offices, petrol stations, malls, supermarkets, etc. While they are present across sectors, the snacks and beverage category rules the vending machine market sales. Today, even fresh foods, ready-to-eat items, and healthy homemade meals are also provided by vending machines.
The growing prominence of smart vending machines
Smart vending machines have automated the retail sector and are reshaping the F&B market. In fact, due to technological advancements, food vending machines have upgraded to an extent that now we have new-age features such as cashless payments. Gone are the days when we had to insert coins or notes to access items from vending machines. With the cashless payment modes taking the limelight, even vending machines have adopted this tech. With a simple QR scan, payment is made instantly and your snack immediately pops out of the machine!
Just like the stores have evolved to offer customers rather than just be a location for the physical purchase of goods; vending machines have helped move products from a store into an environment where the consumers live, work or undertake leisurely activities. IoT-enabled phygital vending machines seamlessly combine physical presence and online-level convenience. This is how they have enabled consumers’ transition from physical store purchasing to quick, convenient shopping.
The progressive future
The Indian vending market is projected to grow at an 8.7% CAGR from 2020 to 2026. The rising population, growing digitization, increasing prominence of mobile-based cashless payment options, and accelerating consumers’ purchasing power are the key drivers of the market’s growth. Furthermore, the growth of organized retailing across malls and multiplexes and corporates especially BPOs, IT and ITes sectors will further contribute to the market’s growth. It is anticipated that advanced vending machines will interact with customers’ smartphones through an AI-based app in the future. Consumers will simply have to select the product, pay through the connected app and their desired item will be given by the vending machine. Whereas facial recognition technology with its motion sensor will detect the customers approaching and recognize them with a camera. It will then offer them customized menus based on their purchase history.
The bottom line
Consumers want tailored retail experiences especially when it comes to shopping. They want to fasten the traditional sales process and automated retail shopping experiences. Smart vending machines catering to this demand are bringing the tech revolution to the F&B sector.
Going by the rapid digitization of the market, vending machines will not only provide water bottles and snacks in the future but even advanced experiences. The day is not far when customers’ needs will be forecasted and fulfilled even before they reach the vending machine. With smart vending machines, even the food and beverage sector will go contactless.
While they have already adopted the cashless route; smart inventory capabilities, automotive features enabling vendors to detect, diagnose and repair machines remotely, and energy-saving technologies that would help reduce energy bills are some of the other transformations that vending machines are expected to witness in the times ahead.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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