Vending Machines in Japan: The Next Marketing Tool?
You are rushing to get your train but want to grab a drink before getting on. Next thing you will probably do is heading to the “kiosk” or the vending machines. In the Netherlands, for a small amount we can easily get a drink or a candy bar from the vending machines at the stations. However, in Japan, the vending machine is much more than that.
Vending Machines in Japan
At first glance, the vending machines are not that different than the ones we are used to. You put coins in the machines and you will get the product that you have selected. However, what makes them remarkable is that there are a bunch of them in Japan. It is estimated that there is about 5.52 million vending machines in Japan, which is even more than the total population of New Zealand (Jnto, 2015).
The vending machines in Japan also include bizarre contents which makes it unique: hot meals, fresh lettuce, cup noodles, flowers, umbrellas and even used underwear. You name it, they have it!
Next-generation vending machines
Vending machines has been already for over 50 years in Japan. However, technology is the key behind that keeps it evolving. For instance, there are vending machines with solar panels and touch panels that can sense the demographic of the customer. This allows the machine to suggest a drink on the display (Ryall, 2010). This is just a small example as there are tons of new features that could be added by companies to make a better user experience.
Recently, the company Kirin even implemented a selfie feature in their vending machine. The vending machine is fitted with a large LCD display and camera. The idea is that you can take a free selfie and share it with your friends through Line, a popular smartphone-messaging app in Japan. The service will be only offered free for those who buy a drink (Ashcraft, 2015). This is definitely a fun and exciting experience for customers. However, in my opinion there are lots of implications and potential in this Selfie Vending Machine. There could be branded backgrounds and localized digital content right there in images with you. Or when the Vending machine is not in use, the display can also show advertisements for products.
Japan is famous for its vending machines. However, it is not just the sheer number that exists in the country what makes it fascinating, but how they make these machines their own in a unique way. In combination of Technology, they keep improving their vending machines and create a better user experience for customers. There is huge potential in these vending machines and seems to unlock new ways of branding. So what do you think? Would we be able to improve our vending machines like the ones in Japan?
Ashcraft, B. (2015) ‘Japanese Vending Machines Now Taking Selfies’, http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/10/japanese-vending-machines-now-taking-selfies/, October 8, 2015.
JNTO(2015) ‘Vending Machines’ , http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/cultural/hj/vendingmachines.html, 2015.
Ryall, J. (2010) ‘Japanese vending machine tells you what you should drink’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8136743/Japanese-vending-machine-tells-you-what-you-should-drink.html, November 16, 2010.