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A Complete Guide to Smart Vending Machines

Learn everything about smart vending machines: explore features, find smart vending machines for sale, and discover pricing.


Technological advancements have enabled several industries to deploy smart tech at scale. At home, you can now convert your living space into an integrated ecosystem controlled by one central device. At the store, you can shop and check yourself out without interacting with an attendant.

One of the industries that continue to benefit from advances in smart tech is the vending machine sector. Cutting-edge technology now enables customers to interact with the devices in several interesting ways and is becoming increasingly popular as time goes on, even including artificial intelligence technology to keep up with recent advancements. A smart vending machine benefits both you as an owner, as well as your customer, as they can monitor stock levels and keep abreast of their vending business remotely.

What Is a Smart Vending Machine?

A smart vending machine is a standard vending machines with advanced technology and software to enhance the vending experience for users and assist owners with additional quality of life features and services not found in older style vending machines. These machines offer multiple digital payment methods, have touchscreens or employ contactless ordering, display product nutritional information, and make automated refunds in case of a failed or canceled order.

The suite of features in modern smart vending will prove incredibly useful to you as a vendor for the future - especially if you utilize custom vending machines within your portfolio. Because smart vending machines can connect to a network and share information with remote devices, you can monitor your vending business from anywhere there is an internet connection. This real-time monitoring on product purchases and revenue drivers can help you optimize your vending business to maximize cash flow in innovative ways.

Main Features of Smart Vending Machines

There are a lot of additional features smart vending machines provide that separate them drastically from traditional vending machines, offering greater flexibility than standard machines. Lets explore some of the additional functionality that can help differentiate your machines from your competing companies.

Internet Connectivity and Remote Monitoring

These machines are a part of cloud-connected systems and enable you, your customers, and employees to get more utility out of the machines. With your cloud-connected systems, you get real-time operational information including sales and inventory data analytics to actively manage inventory in real time, as well as even set item pricing remotely from your management software.

Such data is incredibly valuable across various industries, especially if you want an edge in an industry with as few opportunities for differentiation as vending. With real-time monitoring, you will have the information you need to remotely manage, properly route your vending machines and service them as soon as required. When you have an accurate picture of your inventory management and customer behavior, you can better design your planogram to increase purchases, improve customer experience and reduce costs associated with spoilage. 

Smart vending machines with an internet connection send timely alerts for technical vending machine maintenance. You will be able to respond to jams and breakdowns faster. 

More valuable than anything as a vendor running several routes is your time. When you have up-to-date information on your vending business, you will save time as you'll remotely manage and won’t be making trips just to check the state of your estate. You'll pay fewer visits and collect more revenue.

A comprehensive real-time picture of your inventory levels will also reduce your bringbacks. When running several traditional vending machines, you can expect to bring back 30% of the products every time you do a restocking run. You can eliminate this problem by having smart vending machines so that you only carry the products that need to be restocked and in the required quantities.

Temperature Regulation

Smart machines have software to keep internal temperatures at pre-set ranges even when the external temperatures fluctuate widely. In some cases, you can control the temperatures remotely if the vending machine is connected to the internet. This is why smart machines are usually sustainable vending machines.

Temperature regulation capabilities vary by manufacturer. There are innovative machines that can dispense multiple products - both cold and hot ones. The customer can set the desired temperature on the touch screen.

Robotic vending machines that can prepare foods and drinks such as ice cream, smoothies, and coffee benefit from such features. Some smart machines can prepare coffee and dispense it at a specific temperature requested by the customer, say, 47 degrees.

Smart machines make it possible to vend fresh products that are highly perishable. With automatic temperature regulation and remote monitoring capability, you can stock a wider variety of perishable products without worrying about spoilage losses.

Interactive User Interface via Touchpads and Screens

Smart vending machines come with interactive, user-friendly touch pads and screens similar to a retailers displays that can help advertise your brand, as well as provide a modern display of options for customers. A screen sensitive to hand gestures makes buying products intuitive for customers already familiar with similar interfaces on other smart devices such as smartphones.

Contactless payment is one of the trends that picked up in the vending market because of the pandemic. Plus,it's super good for the customer experience. Interactive interfaces make such payments possible. With consumer experience trends leaning heavily towards cashless transactions, your vending customers will soon expect such features as standard in vending solutions.

A Better Buying Experience

Smart machines allow vendors to sell to every customer in a highly user-friendly and personalized manner. By giving customers the option to pay for products using their preferred payment method - e-wallet or cash - and offering automated refunds for canceled or failed transactions, vendors can build trust with their customers and encourage repeat purchases.

Some smart machines allow e-wallet payment and their customers to identify themselves and build profiles to enable tailored deals and promotions. These smart vending machines can also facilitate gifting by allowing customers to connect their social profiles and send notifications to their friends to pick up their gifts from the said vending machine.

Energy-Saving Features

Vending machine management applications available in the market today provide many opportunities to reduce operating costs and maximize profitability. For instance, some smart dispensers can now be scheduled to cool products at night only. During the day, they maintain the same temperature ranges without using power for cooling because the machines are vacuum-insulated.

By eliminating daytime energy consumption, the vendor cuts their power bill in half. Given the fact that a smart automated retail machine can also help you reduce other operating costs or losses associated with stockouts, maintenance, service visits, and spoilage, the savings add up quickly. 

Ability to Dispense A Greater Range of Products

Automated retail has traditionally been used to dispense snacks and drinks. Smart vending options now enables vendors to expand their offerings beyond this narrow product range and sell goods of varied styles, shapes, and sizes, including fragile products for safety, making them more accessible to a larger customer base.

Whether you sell electronic gadgets or custom jewelry from vending kiosks, you can now find smart  that can be customized to suit your specific needs. 

Ability to Dispense Multiple Items in One Transaction

Smart machines allow customers to select multiple items and pay for them in one transaction. Besides the obvious benefit to the customer, this is beneficial to you as a business owner as it increases the average transaction value and makes your vending machines more appealing than standard retailers. 

This feature also makes it possible to recommend a related product whenever a customer is making a purchase. You can easily make more money from your existing customers by upselling or cross-selling products.

Display Product Information to Consumers

In the United States, the law now requires vending machine operators running 20 or more machines to display nutritional information about the products they have for sale. Such support helps customers make informed decisions about the foods and drinks they consume.

Given the range of products that a typical vending machine sells and the number of dispensers involved, putting up this information and keeping it up to date is a lot of work. 

Fortunately for you, with smart retail vending machines, you can just scan the labels or QR code once and sync them for all machines in the network. 

Why Should I Buy A Smart Vending Machine?

The vending business is highly competitive and has very few barriers to entry. You are competing for the same pool of customers with other vending machines, convenience stores, and big retail outlets. Having a great product selection is not enough - you must build on every possible competitive advantage to stay ahead of the curve.

Your competition is already adopting smart retail vending machine technology. If you've not jumped the bandwagon yet, you are falling behind and may even lose your location to a new shiny smart vending machine. Below are some of the reasons why you should join the transition to smart automated retail.

Greater Visibility of Your Operations

The more information you have when making strategic business decisions, the better. Using smart vending machines will give you a clearer view of your operations to make informed decisions on the best routes, products, product combinations, and opportunities for cost savings.

Smart vending machines, with an internet connection, can give you real-time data on what customers are buying and the products they are combining in one purchase. With customer behavior data in hand, you will be better positioned to optimize your product offering and give your customers exactly what they want.

Further, greater visibility of your operations will reduce service visits to a minimum and so help you save time and money. Also, when you have a good picture of your inventory at all times, you will eliminate losses associated with spoilage and stockouts.

Makes It Easy to Land New Locations

Some of the best locations in your city already have vending machines, but they are old traditional machines without the modern features vending customers currently want. Most of the managers of such locations already recognize the value a smart vending machine would bring to their property. It won’t take much convincing for the property managers to replace their old machines with your new smart vending machine.

As more vendors transition to smart dispensers, buying traditional equipment now puts you at a disadvantage. Holding your existing premium locations will become harder as more advanced vending machine technology hits the scene. It is better to get ahead of the curve now and benefit from the first-mover advantages.

You can find locations in need of smart vending machines by getting out there and visiting the premises of local businesses. Alternatively, use our Vending Locator services to get a list of potential vending locations in your area and their contact information. After 30 days of reaching out to the potential locations we suggest, our customers, on average, secure three or more locations.

Meet Customer Expectations

Today’s shoppers want a personalized experience. With time, customers will expect interactive user interfaces, mobile payment options, and connected digital experiences to be standard. As a vendor, the best way to profit from these changing customer preferences is to operate intelligent vending machines.

In a report published by Salesforce, 80% of buyers now consider the buying experience just as important as the products offered. A smart vendor will take advantage of this reality by leveraging vending machine technology to provide a superior experience.

Price Ranges of Smart Vending Machines

Prices of smart vending equipment vary widely based on features. When comparing smart vending machines already in the country and ones being sold on sites such as Alibaba from China, factor in the cost of shipping and the fact that you may have to wait a few weeks before the machines arrive in the country.

Local suppliers are the better option if you need financing. Instead of paying for the machines up front, you can use the funds to stock up the vending machines with in-demand products and invest in other areas of your vending business to drive revenue.

The price ranges are as follows:

  • Automatic age-verification and facial recognition smart vending machines selling restricted substances such as vapes, cigarettes, and CBD cost $700 to $2,000.
  • Smart soda, food, or combo vending machines cost $2,000 to $8,500 depending on capacity, features, and whether they are indoor or outdoor vending machines with outdoor vending machines being the priciest.
  • Automatic hot food vending machines for selling pizza, burgers, and similar foods cost $5,000 to $9,000.

Intelligent vending machines are more expensive than traditional vending machines but they are still a good investment. If short of capital, you can take advantage of the in-house financing incentives provided by some of the local vending machine sellers. Some offer full financing with plans of up to 48 months.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, smart vending machines create a significant competitive advantage over other vendors, both in convenient options for customers as well as quality of life features for vendors. There are two groups of people you have to persuade to have a successful vending business: customers and location owners. Both love smart vending machines.

It is much easier to land new locations with smart vending machines. Some location owners will be open to replacing their old traditional machines with your new modern vending machines. For suggestions on locations in your area that may benefit from a smart vending machine, check out our Vending Locator services.

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