Voice AI-Powered Vending Machines
Jan 18, 2022
7 MIN READ

How Voice Assistants are Transforming Vending Machines

The technology behind vending machines has remained mostly stagnant during their 140 years of existence, relying on a basic system of inserting money and punching in a letter and number combination. These functionalities have resulted in vending machines becoming a constant parody in movies and tv shows, with characters accidentally pressing the wrong number, the desired item becoming stuck, or other technology malfunctions. 

Vending machines saw a bit of an evolution with the acceptance of credit card payments, but the method of obtaining items, ranging from beverages and snacks to phone chargers and face masks, mostly remained the same. Recently, AI technology launched vending machines into a new, booming era of smart devices. 

study by Global Market Insights revealed that intelligent vending machines’ market revenue is anticipated to reach $15 billion by 2027. Companies across industries, from food to retail, are realizing the benefits of vending machines with built-in intelligence. The new era of vending machines will also see the implementation of voice interfaces. 

Here are 5 ways voice assistants transform vending machines into the future of touchless devices:

  • Increased hygiene and safety
  • Quicker and easier service 
  • The addition of helpful information
  • More efficient tracking and recording of data
  • Improved payment options

Increased hygiene and safety with voice AI

Like most high-touch surfaces, vending machines are riddled with bacteria, some of which can even spread the cold, flu, and other viruses. According to WebMD, 1 in 5 vending machines passes illness-causing germs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people were already cautious about contact with highly-trafficked buttons and screens. Now, touching surfaces is directly correlated with health and safety. 

1 in 5 vending machines passes illness-causing germs.

WebMD

Voice-enabling these devices allows customers to complete their purchase from vending machines hands-free and free from worry about contact with illness-causing bacteria. Using voice AI, customers can simply walk up to a vending machine and ask for what they want, conversationally and naturally, without having to press a single button, creating an improved, seamless experience. 

Voice assistants provide faster, more convenient service

Vending machines make the simple act of selecting a snack, beverage, or other items unnecessarily complicated by having to punch in a letter-number combination or select several options on a touchscreen. With a voice assistant, customers can simply ask for what they want naturally and conversationally, even if they don’t know what it is called or where it is located in the machine, reducing frustration. Voice assistants also solve the challenges associated with entering the wrong information and receiving the wrong item. 

Customers can simply ask for what they want naturally and conversationally, even if they don’t know exactly what it is called or where it is located in the machine.

Instead of scanning rows of products, customers using a voice interface could simply ask questions like:

  • “Do you have any teas that are not caffeinated?” 
  • Do you have any USB charging cables that are for iPhones?” 

For freestyle vending machines that allow customers to choose custom options from dozens or hundreds of combinations, instead of pushing several buttons, customers could simply say: 

  • “Please give me a sugar-free soda with strawberry and vanilla flavoring and no ice.”
  • “Decaf coffee, two sugars, with milk, extra hot.”

These advanced voice AI filtering capabilities allow customers to ask questions about and search for exactly what they want without getting lost in a sea of buttons, scrolling, and options. The voice assistant will make the whole transaction faster and more efficient while having their needs met with quick, efficient responses. 

Provides helpful information

In addition to filtering capabilities and the ability to navigate choices easily, voice assistants can provide product and nutritional information on specific products. Without voice AI, the nutritional information remains inaccessible as it resides on the packaging of the product out of view and behind the case that separates customers from products. Unlike browsing in-store and online, vending machine customers can’t pick up a product to read the back or scroll down on the page for the description. Food allergies can be especially difficult to navigate when using a vending machine, and customers may end up selecting a snack that they can’t eat once they purchase it and read the label—resulting in great frustration. 

Voice assistants can answer questions about ingredients, whether something is sugar-free, caffeinated, or gluten-free, to ensure each customer can make an informed purchasing decision. When browsing a vending machine for technology or retail items, the voice assistant can let customers know vital information about the product that might not be visible from a front-only view. If the customer is unsure what to get, the voice assistant can also make personalized recommendations based on their needs or what’s popular. 

According to a study by Salesforce, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. However, current vending machines lack the most basic elements of customer service. A voice assistant will elevate the experience and provide an entirely new dimension to interacting with a vending machine. 

89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.

Salesforce

Voice AI allows vendors to efficiently track and record data

Data is an essential element of excellent customer service. By examining what customers do or do not like and where they’re getting frustrated, companies can better modify and update their offerings to meet customers’ wants and needs. For most vending machines, companies usually receive data when the supplier restocks the vending machine and takes inventory once a month, causing a long delay on potential adjustments. 

By examining what customers do or don’t like and where they’re getting frustrated, companies can better modify and update their offerings to meet their customers’ wants and needs.

With voice AI technology, brands can receive valuable sales data in real-time, such as what’s selling well and what isn’t. In addition to the information they can receive through simple restocking, voice technology can provide more advanced details, like if customers are asking for something that’s not currently offered or would like more options of a specific kind. The voice assistant can also have a conversation with customers about out-of-stock items, letting them know when something is expected to be back in stock, keeping them in the know with added transparency, and reducing frustration with knowledge about availability. 

For store owners, voice AI-powered vending machines can give them re-ordering capabilities. They can simply walk up to the vending machine and ask, “Is the machine low on anything?” or “Do I need to reorder anything?” and receive fast, accurate answers without having to open the vending machine and take inventory. With data, companies can improve their service, which will increase customer satisfaction and revenue. 

More payment options with voice technology

Cash has quickly become an outdated form of payment, especially during the pandemic, with fewer and fewer adults making payments with cash in favor of credit card or mobile payments. According to a survey by Deloitte, over 50% of respondents have either reduced payments with cash or are forgoing cash altogether. The survey also revealed that mobile payments are on the rise, with only 41% of respondents saying that they never used this method compared with 83% in 2017. 

Over 50% of respondents either have reduced payments with cash or are forgoing cash altogether. 

Deloitte

Voice-enabled vending machines can accept a wide variety of payment options, including mobile payments and, potentially, voice payments. In other industries, we’ve seen brands create voice profiles for customers that store their payment information for future use—a potential technology that could make its way to vending machines soon as well. By offering additional payment options, brands will reach a wider range of customers and meet their needs by allowing them to use their preferred method of payment. 

Voice assistants are transforming vending machines by improving hygiene and safety, offering quicker and easier service, providing helpful information, efficiently tracking and recording data, and providing additional payment options. As voice assistant adoption continues to grow and expand into more industries and devices, companies will need to consider the benefits of voice AI technology and its superior customer service capabilities before their technology becomes outdated and their customers turn to voice-enabled competitors instead.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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