Michael Kasavana, a former professor at Michigan State and a researcher on automated merchandising systems, told The New York Times, “Americans have shown that they’re not afraid to do self-service, whether it be at the gas pump, replacing banking or online purchases.”
Perhaps thats why two former Google employees are hoping to reinvent convenience retailing with plans to roll out thousands of automated vending machines near apartments, offices, dorms, gyms and other consumer centers.
The concept, named Bodega, makes use of unmanned, five-foot-wide pantries each filled with about 100 nonperishable items tailored to local needs. A Bodega box inside an apartment complex, for instance, may feature laundry detergent, toilet paper and pasta, but machine learning promises to constantly reassess the most-needed 100 items.
Customers unlock the box using the company’s app, linked to their credit card. Cameras track what’s taken and the customer is charged. When an item is bought, a signal is sent for it to be restocked.
Retailer-specific vending machines are also a possibility, such as a Home Depot box near a construction site or a Staples box inside an office building.
None of this is really new, though. Self-service automated retailing, customized vending, and kiosks have been around for many years, with new technological developments made by companies like Alps Kiosks that improve various functions, such as real-time sales reporting via wi-fi communications, touchscreen interfaces, cashless systems, and inventory control sensors.
The future in automated retailing is how entrepreneurs and businesses implement these systems, to help them sell more products in areas that a typical brick and mortar store is impractical or too expensive.