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February 22 2012
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PDD

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When was the last time you used a vending machine for something other than a KitKat?

If you type “world vending machines” into Google, I guarantee that the weird and wonderful specimens that greet you are predominantly provided by Asia. Their cutting-edge machines make Britain’s offerings appear somewhat meagre in comparison , which makes me wonder, could we as a nation be doing more to help unleash the full consumer experience potential?

In my 6 months with PDD, I have noticed that a considerable amount of vending machine related web links have been pinged around the studio. Honestly, I have never given much thought to these goodie dispensers so I was forced to scratch my head and wonder why my inbox receives so many articles about what I consider to be an overlooked device.

As you might expect China and Japan are at the forefront of this phenomenon. As nations who are passionate about technology and convenience it makes perfect sense to combine the two making it possible to purchase  live  crabs, make-up, rhinoceros beetles, or Smart Cars at any given moment.

Not only have they taken the merchandise to an extreme, they have also put much thought into the user experience. Taking the lead from countries that still hold dear the desire for a rich, interactive retail experience they have ingeniously breathed new life what could be classed as a fairly stale concept. How? By remembering that engaging the user is equally important as giving them the freedom to buy when they want to, not when opening hours dictates. The latest example features a touch screen, anonymous face recognition, animated graphics to pass the time and even a safety mode that gives the public necessary information in times of emergency. (Click here for YouTube Video)

This begs the question, why is Great Britain being left so far behind? Typically in England when we think of a vending machine we think confectionary, perhaps personal care products in public loo’s, or if you are of a partying nature you might have encountered a machine which will rescue tired feet by selling flat ballet pumps in exchange for a few pounds. You’d be forgiven for believing that is the extent of Britain’s vending machine offerings, but in reality we now find ourselves with Perspex fronted  access  to best-selling novels or cooked to order pizza. Furthermore, thanks to a bright idea from a German company, you can even eradicate the worry of an unstable financial future by swapping cash for gold using the ‘Gold to Go’ machine at London’s Westfield Centre.

Image by eyewave at iStock.

Over in continental Europe they also seem to be cottoning on to new concepts and have gone further still using machines to  sell  items of clothing such as jeans and umbrella’s. Savvy local entrepreneurs in France and Spain have started using vending machines to extend their trading hours and as such are providing 24 hours access to warm freshly baked bread and fresh fish, both are proving to be hugely successful.

Image by Tracy Hunter at flickr.

The increasing popularity of these machines can not only be put down to the convenience of 24 hour access and the infinite possibilities, by the fact that essentially they are handing back some of the control to us, the little guys. Shopping is, after all, about what we want and when we want it, therefore we should have a say in how we access ‘it’.

So what’s next for the world of UK Vending? Would you be content handing over £100’s to a machine for your Chanel à la Rachel Zoe or do you take great pleasure in the luxury experience that comes with browsing the shelves in Bond Street’s designer stores? As somebody who likes her cosmetics minus the sales advice I for one am looking forward to finding out.

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Posted by PDD
@pddinnovation

Languages spoken: Global.
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
My dream project: A project that makes a difference in the world.
My obsession: Develop successful, award-winning and world-first products and experiences.

Image credit Featured image by Li Song at flickr.

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