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Vending machines may be an old technology, but as they continue to evolve by adding cashless ways to pay, their appeal remains strong.

New research conducted by the National Automatic Merchandising Association revealed that more than 80 percent of consumers view vending favorably, despite the industry’s increasingly prevalent belief otherwise.

In particular, Generation Y (consumers ages 18-27) showed the highest opinion of vending, and they even prefer it over convenience, drug or grocery stores.

“We were thrilled to learn this, but it wasn’t surprising when you consider that consumer research indicates young people today dislike waiting in line for anything, and are more comfortable interacting with machines than with people,” says NAMA Chairman Craig A. Hesch, NCE5, who revealed an Industry Growth Strategy (IGS) at NAMA’s annual meeting during OneShow at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Because Generation Y favors debit and credit transactions, NAMA is strongly encouraging operators to adopt cashless payment systems and other new technologies by purchasing new machines or retrofitting older equipment.

In fact, the industry continues to implement technology that enables debit- and credit-card transactions in record numbers.

A study conducted by Apriva revealed that nearly 60 percent of vending operators surveyed plan to implement card-based payment systems within the next several months.

Such a move will further strengthen the vending proposition for Generation Y, which uses debit cards the way most people use cash.

Generation Y also has an affinity for new technologies, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in the industry.

In addition, they typically set trends that others follow, which means the initiative will also reach Generation X and Baby Boomer users and non-users of vending.

To reach the younger demographic, NAMA has a number of initiatives in the works, such as:

  • A “Vendialogue”, a Facebook contest that invites consumers to post photos, videos or descriptions of their favorite vending machines, locations or products.
  • A Gratitude Tour, which takes vending machines on the road to cities with heavy Generation Y populations and major universities.
  • A mobile nutrition iPhone app, which will allow vending users to instantly access a database of nutrition and calorie information on vended snacks, candy and beverages before making a purchase.
NAMA, based in Chicago, is the national trade association of the food and refreshment vending, coffee service and foodservice management industries including on-site, commissary, catering and mobile. Its membership is comprised of service companies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers of products and services to operating service companies.
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