Automation fascination

With the addiction to speed and convenience (these days even next-day shipping is not fast enough), it’s no wonder the fascination over automated retail not only makes for great convo but a newfound level of consumer appeal. 

Although 95% of U.S. vending machine revenue (around US$42 billion) still comes from traditional products like candy bars, snacks and sodas, nowadays everything from lingerie and underwear, french fries with multiple toppings, champagne, cosmetics, pizza, burritos, flower seeds, nail polish, beach supplies, shoes, art, cupcakes, social media, meds (for pharmacists), vintage books and gold bars (seen in the lobby of The Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dubai) are dropping out of machines. Even recycling campaigns are tapping into the use of modern vending!

The following are a few examples that recently caught my eye, as each goes above and beyond the type of products being merchandised.

Old Navy flip-flops

Now that we’re in the midst of flip-flop season, retailer Old Navy has introduced 36 “Tweet For Your Feet” shoe machines throughout New York and Los Angeles, making it easier to grab a pair for a mere dollar while on the run.

The unique twist on these machines is as the name suggests — takers are able to get a pair of colorful flip-flops in exchange for a tweet rather than a dollar, and considering the summer season Old Navy flip-flop sale is its biggest event after Black Friday, these machines are sure to empty out fast.

A feel-good machine for panda-loving tweeters

Canadian telecommunication company Telus and WWF Canada partnered by developing a machine that released a free panda toy whenever users tweeted the hash tag “HomeTweetHome.” For each tweet, the Vancouver-based vending machine received, a dollar donation was made to WWF Canada.

Considering it takes almost no effort to get a free cute panda plush toy, it won’t come as a surprise the vending machine dispensed more than 3,000 plush toys over the course of six days in a Vancouver mall location.

Automated farmers’ market

Grab-n-go never looked or felt so good! How about a hassle-free farmers’ market minus the headache of managing vendors and shoppers in your parking lot?

Every morning, made-from-scratch salads from Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge are delivered to rustic-looking refrigerated machines featuring mason jars loaded with farm-fresh fruits and veggies. For those concerned about energy efficiency, for less than US$10 worth of electricity per month, the machines are equipped with touchscreens, barcode scanners for coupon incentives and will even email receipts. Plus, at the end of the day all unsold items are donated to local charities.

Beautify while traveling

With 10 U.S. airports installed with the brand’s most popular products (a total of 25 are slated in the near future), the Benefit Cosmetics Co. is again changing traditional behavior within the cosmetics industry.

Cleverly shaped like a glam vintage pink bus with a touchscreen for beautifiers to browse products and receive a few beauty tips, travelers can kill time with pre- and post-flight touch-ups.

I knew I forgot something …

Next time you’re running thru Montreal’s airport and realize you forgot to you’re your skivvies, ask someone to point you in the direction of the Undz’s machine! The colorful new male underwear brand has entered automated retail, selling underwear from vending machines.

Luxe vending at hotels

Popular hipster hotels such as the Hudson and Mondrian have recognized the fascination with automation by displaying oversized vending machines stocking all things unique and luxe 24/7. Travel accessories, sunglasses, jewelry, PlayStation Atari classics, gold handcuffs and even a chance to rent a Ferrari 599, Rolls Royce Silver Shadow or Bentley convertible are offered within the machine, which is managed by the hotel chains’ “creative director.”

What are your thoughts on the vending trend as a hotel feature or amenity? Have any uniquely themed machines recently caught your eye? If so, where was the machine located, and what was being dispensed?