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8 brands deploying vending machines as smart retail solutions

Artificial intelligence, social media buzz and customer acquisition tools are just a few of the strategies behind vending machines being used as a key part of today’s retail experience.

Intelligent vending machines, which are expected to grow 17% globally over the next five years, come with technology that can provide invaluable customer data – making what was once an anonymous purchase into a visible opportunity for targeting and acquisition.

And so, brands and retailers have begun investing in activations where the machine is central to the experience, and dispense anything from beauty items to full-sized cars. Here we look at the most innovative vending machine experiences and technologies that are helping shape the future of retail.

Adidas: Live interaction
Adidas's World Series activation
Adidas’s World Series activation

To promote its new Splash Pack line, Adidas installed vending machines in two sports bars in LA and Boston during the baseball World Series. Customers were able to win a variety of limited edition products, from cleats to autographs and gear from Adidas athletes. The vending machine had built-in digital printing capabilities that would unlock different items based on the on-field action. For example, when player Chris Sale hit a homerun, it unlocked a chance to get his graphic tees. That created an ongoing buzz that kept fans coming back to check which new prizes were up for grabs next.

Lululemon: Data capturing
Lululemon's Run Stop Shop
Lululemon’s Run Stop Shop

Lululemon tapped into one of its core demographics, runners, by setting up a machine at one of its Run Stop Shops in New York, and another one in Chicago. Prizes included essential running supplies, such as Honey Stinger energy chews and Lululemon socks and hats. To win free goodies, customers had to answer a quick questionnaire on their workout habits, register with their emails and post a picture with the caption #thesweatlifeNYC or #thesweatlifeCHI.

Revlon: Social media shoutout
Revlon's gifting machine at Ulta Beauty
Revlon’s gifting machine at Ulta Beauty

In a similar vein, Cosmetics brand Revlon teamed up with beauty retailer Ulta to create a vending machine that toured the US to dish out free gifts with purchase for users also willing to engage on social media. After purchasing a product, clients would be encouraged to post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LiveBoldly – the title of Revlon’s latest campaign – in order to win a free gift. Different gifts were available depending on how much the client spent in-store.

Mulberry: Gamification
Mulberry's smart vending machine with TheCurrent Global
Mulberry’s smart vending machine with TheCurrent Global

Mulberry launched an in-store vending machine in partnership with TheCurrent Global, where visitors played a game of roulette in order to win prizes, from leather goods to vouchers to spend. The activity aimed to capture data on existing or new customers of the brand – in order to play, users had to input their social media handles and had the option to add their email address for further prizes. The machine was part of a larger #MulberryLights campaign for the holidays whereby it also toured stores in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and New York.

Caravana: Retail theater
Carvana's vending machine
Carvana’s vending machine

When magnified, vending machines can provide customers with an automated retail theatre that only adds to the retail experience. US-based online car dealership Caravana has created a physical location that features a seven-story vending machine that quite literally, dispenses cars. While most of the purchase process happens online (buying, selling and financing), when the buyer wants to test drive, they can schedule to pick up their desired car at the vending machine, located in Indianapolis.  Adding even more to the experience, a Carvana employee will then hand out a giant coin that customers have to slot into the machine in order to retrieve the car. Alibaba has also launched something similar in partnership with Ford in China.

Dirty Lemon: Text-to-buy
Dirty Lemon's unmanned store
The Drug Store

NYC-based The Drug Store, which sells healthy beverage brand Dirty Lemon, looks like a walk-in vending machine for its entirely unmanned experience. Customers simply walk into the store and open the fridge to take any beverage, and walk out – there is no staff, cashier or even security in place. To pay, customers must text a number and say exactly what they are purchasing. The company has also deployed RFID tech in the refrigerators to track inventory sold, while a heat map tracker monitors customer flow.

Yves Saint Laurent: Customization
YSL's customizing vending machine
YSL’s customizing vending machine

To promote its beauty collection in Hong Kong, Yves Saint Laurent created a vending machine that added a level of customization to the consumer’s purchased. Called “Lipstick Engraving ATM 2.0”, the experience allowed guests to purchase lipsticks and have their name lazered on the product on the spot. “The concept behind the #YSLBeautyClub vending machine is all about fun and engaging way to interact with the brand. It’s about beauty on the go,” said Marie Laure Claisse, YSL Beauty’s marketing manager, at the time.

Hung Fook Tong: Personalization through AI
Hung Fook Tong vending machine
Hung Fook Tong vending machine

In Hong Kong, herbal tea chain Hung Fook Tong (HFT) is rolling out vending machines that use a combination of visual recognition technology and artificial intelligence to better understand and serve their customer. Machines will have cameras that photograph the customers, and create an individual profile that also includes past purchases. After analyzing data such as the climate at the point of sale, age and gender, the machine will know which drink or product a particular customer is most likely to buy and provide a recommendation.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.


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Campaigns Events Retail social media Uncategorized

Customers chase confetti in Topshop’s snow globe activation

Topshop has installed a larger-than-life snow globe in its Oxford Circus, London, flagship and it is encouraging shoppers to enter and play for the chance win prizes. 

Any customer who feels up to the challenge can enter the installation, which will then be filled with a whirlwind of flying confetti. The more confetti the customer collects, the better prize they win. 

The installation is also meant to be a shareable experience: a camera by the entrance of the globe will be capturing the chase in a boomerang-like effect.

Everyone who takes part in the experience is a winner, says the brand, with prizes ranging from discounts to a £1,000 shopping spree in-store.

Topshop often uses its Oxford Street windows, arguably the brand’s most visible retail spot in the world, to promote launches and interactive experiences. In the summer of 2017, it introduced a virtual reality water-slide experience. In October of the same year, it celebrated the release of the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things and a dedicated merchandise collection by transforming the entire store into scenes from the series. This time, the window became the show’s Hawkins lab where customers could test whether they also had telekinetic powers, much like the show’s protagonist, Eleven.

The Snow Globe activation will remain in-store until this Thursday (December 20).

How are you thinking about interactive retail experiences? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce

Cath Kidston, Bauble Bar driving traffic with Christmas treasure hunt campaigns

CathKidston_SantaBanner

UK home furnishings brand, Cath Kidston, is running a cute campaign on its website in the run up to Christmas that invites shoppers to hunt through its pages to try and find Santa.

Every time they spot him they could be in with the chance of winning the products found on that page.

Based on the idea that Santa’s gone into hiding due to having too many wish lists to read through from the retailer’s main Christmas competition, the initiative sends fans on a hunt around its day bags, zip wallets, baby sleep suits and Christmas stocking fillers.

It is of course a clever move to get shoppers searching through the whole site, not to mention popping back on a regular basis, at a time when present inspiration doesn’t go amiss.

US online jewellery retailer, Bauble Bar, is running something similar for the festive season too. Email subscribers are being sent clues to “Buried Baubles” each day – items with serious markdowns hidden somewhere on the site. Meanwhile, its “30-days of Sparkle” campaign – as below – also sees daily discounts and offers being unveiled in the run up to Christmas.

BaubleBar_30daysofsparkle