From Biometrics To Bitcoin, Vending Machines Look Beyond Cash

Candy and soft drinks don’t rule the vending machine anymore. In fact, vending machines are increasingly being used to sell products such as cars, caviar and even high-end jewelry.

With that shift has come the need for acceptance of wide-ranging payment methods. According to PYMNTS and Diebold Nixdorf’s July 2018 Self-Service Retail Study, 45 percent of American self-service customers pay with debit cards, while 29 percent pay with credit cards and just 19 percent of the 2,170 respondents reported using cash.

Some retailers believe that even card acceptance doesn’t go far enough. Operators, like the robotic froyo vending machine makers Reis & Irvy’s, are seeking to get ahead of the curve by offering a variety of payment options, such as gift cards and mobile wallets, and are even considering accepting cryptocurrencies.

Outside the U.S., vending machine operators are also finding it important to enable non-cash payments.

In Vietnam, for instance, high reliance on the use of cash has kept the vending machine industry hamstrung. Limited coin circulation, combined with the fact that many low-denomination paper bills are damaged by wear and tear, has made it challenging to use cash at vending machines — until recently. As a solution, the self-service industry in Vietnam is turning to mobile payments. Nearly 3,000 vending machines are in Vietnam, and new abilities to pay with mobile is projected to double that number within the next year.

China, meanwhile, is seeing increased demand for biometric-based payments at vending machines. Deepblue Technologies recently received orders for 20,000 of its pay-by-palm-scanner vending machines, which work to identify customers based on the veins in their palms and automatically bill their Alipay account.

Across a variety of countries and industries, consumers are showing interest in engaging with unattended retail to get their goods, whether that’s out of a desire to get in and out of the grocery store faster, to prevent corrupt staff from cheating them or to infuse an extra sense of fun into their buying experience.

With that, a growing number of retailers are turning to vending machines, especially those that accept non-cash payments, in an effort to appeal to a wider customer base.