The world is your oyster when you own and operate your own vending machine business. Really, you can put any number of diverse products in a vending machine.
But placing products in your vending machine without first carefully thinking about the customer and your goals will almost certainly lead to disappointing sales. Here are some tips for selecting a product mix that will help drive profitability and satisfaction in the vending industry.
Tailor the Product Mix to Each Vending Machine Location
Can you imagine how well gummy bears would sell in a gym? How about greasy potato chips? We suggest those unhealthy choices wouldn’t look too attractive in a setting where people are trying to feel their best. But healthy beef jerky or trail mix? Yeah, that’s better.
Customizing the products for each location is all part of the fun of owning and operating a vending machine business. But that’s often easier said than done. Need some pro tips to help you choose the right products?
Consider the BIG Picture
It’s truly important to know who is visiting your machines. If it’s in a gym, you’re likely selling to health-conscious consumers looking for a quick snack. Machines placed in office buildings may attract busy nine-to-fivers looking for a convenient meal replacement. However, this is all the “small picture.”
Considering the “big picture” means thinking about the demographics of the city or state in which you’re doing business. What’s considered healthy in one state may differ completely from that of another state. For instance, Oregon is a stronghold of healthy lifestyles. While beef jerky may be considered healthy in one state, it may be frowned upon in Oregon—where organic plant-based jerky is preferred instead.
Restock Machines During Business Hours
Part of the appeal of owning a vending machine business lies in its flexibility; to restock and manage your machines when it’s convenient for you. After all, it’s your business. But being there at the same time as your customers can be an indispensable source of information. Who’s better to ask what your customers want more than . . . your customers?
In fact, restocking your machines while potential customers are around can help you secure more buyers. Let’s say you’re restocking your machine and someone approaches you to ask if you’d stock some gluten-free snacks. They have celiac disease and can’t have gluten, they explain. The fact is, some vending operators develop close-knit relationships with their customers through these very interactions. These mutually beneficial relationships mean you offer the snacks or foods your customers need and they, in turn, help support your business.
Offer Healthy Options
The days of unhealthy vending machines is (gracefully) coming to a rapid end. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and demanding healthy, convenient choices. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established its Smart Snacks in School national nutrition standards. These standards limit the amount of fat, sugar, sodium and calorie content of any foods or drinks sold in vending machines at schools. But these standards were just the beginning of the healthy choices movement.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association’s (NAMA) members recently agreed to increase the number of healthy options in their machines from 24% to 33%. In reality, USDA’s Smart Snacks in School standards and NAMA’s recent agreement are simply a reflection of changing dietary preferences, rather than an attempt at reform. Simply put, consumers are requesting healthful foods.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Healthy YOU Vending machines come with, among many other technologies, our proprietary eManage™ Vending Management Software. Our eManage™ software allows you to monitor how much of each product sold in your vending machines over a given period. It also lets you track your daily gross sales, net profit and understand your customers’ preferred payment methods.
So, when the CLIF Bars are flying out of that machine in a gym, you’re ready to restock it with more. Likewise, you’ll be able to easily see the products that aren’t selling as well and replace those slots with different items. Oh, and it’s all from the comfort of wherever you choose to manage your company, be that on your kitchen table, couch or . . . bed!
Take Your Goals and Objectives into Account
Now that you know how to pick a razor-focused, customized product mix that’s sure to please your consumer base, it’s time to reflect on the goals and objectives you set out to achieve with your business. Yes, you can put anything you want in your snack vending machines (well, not anything), but what products will help you ultimately meet your goal? Establishing your goals will both help drive profitability and your satisfaction as an owner—knowing you’re contributing to your community in a meaningful way, for example.
If you want to help improve your community, consider offering healthy snacks, drinks and entrées—instead of the junk food found in traditional vending machines. Provide your customers with all the wholesome choices they desire with our SmartMart Side Vendor. Want to help protect your community? Offer personal hygiene essentials, over-the-counter medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE) in our Wellness Center Side Vendor.
In addition to your personal business goals and objectives, take the goals and objectives of each individual vending machine location into consideration. Many employers understand the value of employee wellness programs: increased employee productivity and lower health-related costs. With the goal of their employees’ wellness in mind, employers are increasingly looking for ways to help their personnel make healthier dietary choices. Healthy vending is answering this call by providing wholesome, convenient options in workplaces around the country.
As another example, the goal of a hotel is to help ensure their guests have a comfortable stay. But what happens when one of their guests forgets something essential, such as a toothbrush, deodorant or shaving kit? Instead of sending their guest trudging down the road to the nearest convenience store, they prefer having those products available near the lobby. Vending machines can be just the solution to these common situations.
The point is to carefully consider not just your own goals and objectives, but those of each location you serve.
What Do You Put in a Vending Machine?
Ultimately, what you choose to offer in your vending machines is up to you. And that’s all part of the fun and freedom of owning and operating a vending business. But to truly be profitable and have high satisfaction in your business pursuit, it’s important to carefully consider your personal goals and objectives, the needs of your customers and the benefits you provide to each location. If you’re interested in joining the world of healthy vending, contact Healthy YOU Vending today.