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Important Vending Machine Lessons from Japan

Important Vending Machine Lessons from Japan

We are happy to report that the UK offers a very robust market for vending machines. Strong sales that continue to grow are more than supporting our business. But the vending market here, as with most other European markets, pales in comparison to Japan. We can learn some things from our Japanese counterparts.

Vending is as prolific in Japan as fish and chips are in England. Perhaps even more so. According to the Gulf Times, there is one vending machine for every 25 people in Japan. That equates to 5 million machines dispensing everything from beverages to snacks to mobile phone accessories. Some of their machines even dispense critical items for free during times of national emergencies.

So, what can we learn from Japan? Here are three important lessons:

1. Vending Is Constantly Evolving

At its peak in the mid-1990s, Japanese vending brought in some ¥3 trillion (£20 billion). Revenues are now down to just over £17 billion. Why the drop? Because enterprising business owners have figured out how to offer many of the same products at a cheaper price, but with human interaction. Coffee is a great example.

For years people have been purchasing their coffee from vending machines. But coffee shops have begun appearing in Japan's major cities, offering better tasting coffee at a lower price. Customers are buying their coffee from human vendors instead of vending machines. Vending machine operators are having a come up with new items to replace dwindling coffee sales.

2. Nothing Is out of Bounds

The second lesson is that nothing is out of bounds for vending machines. If you can sell it over the counter, you can put it in the vending machine. Japanese machines don't sell just snack foods and beverages. Machines in major cities are filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, batteries, stockings, fully prepared meals, and the previously mentioned mobile phone accessories.

The fact that nothing is out of bounds is what allows fitness vending to prosper. In the right setting, customers are more than happy to get their sports drinks or nutrition bars directly from a vending machine.

3. Technology Is Important

The third and final lesson is that technology is important. Between mobile phones and the myriad of electronic devices we use to manage our lives, people expect technology to be part of nearly everything they do. In Japan, vending machine manufacturers are incorporating all sorts of technology. They are building machines that talk to their customers; they are incorporating facial recognition technologies to recognise regular customers and predict what they will purchase; they are using predictive analysis to help customers make appropriate choices.

Vending machines play a significant role in worldwide commerce. In Japan, they encapsulate all things retail. They aren't as prolific here in the UK, but they could be. If we could learn to follow some of the examples set by vendors in Japan, we could see our own explosion of vending machine sales. It's something to aim for, anyway.


Gulf Times –

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