Vending machines come in a variety of sizes and levels of functionality. Furthermore, using vending machines can help to boost profits.

Here, Ian Johnson, Managing Director at Johnsons Vending shares some examples of how businesses can use vending machines to grow their income. 

Run a mini-store 

This is probably the most obvious use for vending machines and for good reason. Vending machines are often used to catch sales in medium- to low-traffic locations. These places don’t generate enough sales to justify a sales point with permanent staff. They do, however, generate more than enough traffic to justify period visits to restock a vending machine. 

Vending machines can also be used to take the pressure off human staff. For example, many shops use vending machines to sell their most popular items. At peak times, the vending machines run alongside staffed checkouts. The rest of the time, the vending machines work largely on their own. This frees up human staff for value-add tasks. 

Another, growing use for vending machines is to provide a service outside core hours. This can do a lot to help businesses reduce operating costs. For example, businesses can choose to keep staff for customer service at peak times plus general store work. They can use vending machines to keep popular items available for purchase outside these times. 

Making the most of mini-stores 

Some businesses will run mini-stores on a non-profit basis, essentially as an employee benefit. In general, however, if you’re going to install a vending machine it makes sense to get the most out of it. With that in mind, here are some strategies you can use to maximise your vending machine’s income and profits. 

Stock your vending machine effectively 

This is really the golden rule to getting the most out of any vending machine. At a basic level, take your cue from supermarkets. In other words, think about what goods you place in the most visible locations. Generally, these should be the items that are most likely to attract customers. This is not always the same as your highest value items. 

Ideally, what your customers see immediately will prompt them to make other purchases. For example, if you have dry foods like crisps easily visible, this may prompt customers to buy a drink as well. You can encourage this by having promotions clearly visible. For example, if a customer buys crisps, you could offer them a discount on a drink. 

You can increase your profits further (and make your life easier) by using technology to manage your inventory. For example, an inventory-management system will give you a clear overview of exactly what items are being sold and when. A telemetric system will allow you to adjust prices remotely. 

Make sure your vending machine looks appealing 

At a minimum, ensure that your vending machine is clean and well-lit. This means both outside and inside. You might even want to switch out the default lighting for a higher-grade option. This can actually save money over the long term if you go for energy-efficient LEDs. 

Ideally, you should be investing in modern vending machines with the sort of features modern customers want. In particular, you should aim to have contactless payment and touchless collection. This has, understandably, become a major issue for consumers due to COVID19. 

You can also use straightforward merchandising strategies such as placing visually-attractive merchandise in highly visible places. With that said, this will generally only work if you have the basics covered. In other words, attractive merchandising will probably not compensate for a poorly lit, dirty or overly-basic vending machine. 

Use promotions strategically 

This is one of the basics of retail and it holds true for vending machines too. Use promotions strategically to influence customer behaviour without devaluing your brand. As previously mentioned, this is easiest if you can adjust pricing remotely. That gives you the maximum level of flexibility in setting your promotions. In particular, it allows you to run very short-term special offers. 

Provide on-site food and beverages 

Vending machines have long been used to provide on-site snacks and drinks. Now, however, their use is expanding to supplement, or even replace, on-site canteens. This change is largely being driven by post-COVID19 working practices. 

Now, fewer and fewer workplaces have all staff on-site all of the time. Some businesses are now fully remote or at least remote-first. Many are hybrid. Even businesses that are on-site only may have highly variable staffing levels. For example, they may only have a small number of permanent employees but take on extra staff at peak times. 

This means that it’s becoming increasingly less practical for companies to run on-site canteens. At the same time, staff are likely to have fewer off-site options (also due to COVID19). One solution to this is to have staff kitchens. These can, however, create more issues than they solve. For example, friction over staff fridges is notoriously commonplace. 

Using vending machines is a highly convenient and cost-effective solution. Vending machines take up minimal floor space. They do not create health-and-safety issues or attract vermin. Possibly most importantly of all, they minimise or even eliminate the issues associated with staff kitchens. 

Even when businesses can run staff canteens, vending machines can be a useful complement to them. For example, they can be used to feed staff working outside standard hours. This can really help to boost staff morale and increase employee engagement. 

Dispense high-value items securely 

This is still a niche use for vending machines. It can, however, definitely be worth considering. You can program vending machines to accept staff passes instead of payment cards and/or cash. This means that staff can still access what they need (and/or want) easily and conveniently. They will, however, be aware that their usage is being monitored. 

The benefit to staff is that this approach ensures that key items are always kept in stock. Your vending machine can alert you when supplies are running low. You can then organise a prompt refill. The benefit to you is that this approach discourages theft and encourages responsible usage.

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