Olga Menissez, the Global Offer Marketing Manager Vending & Parking at Ingenico Enterprise Retail, writes for Payment Expert on how vending can advance unattended retail and evolve the payment journey. 

Technology today is moving faster than ever before to keep pace with changing consumer behaviours; shoppers expect to be able to pay how they want, when they want and as quick as possible. Therefore, advancements in digital technology have also accelerated payment innovations, changing the way shoppers pay. 

As retailers across the board strive to deliver a seamless customer journey, the payment industry is innovating at pace to ensure that payments processes seamlessly fit into the overall shopping experience. With that said, cashless and especially contactless payments are the preferred payment method when it comes to making quick purchases as they are seen as a time-saver and a more seamless way to pay. However, for the unattended retail market it doesn’t stop there. Shoppers are now more self-reliant and empowered than ever before mainly because of their dependency on technologies that help them deal efficiently with day-to-day life.  

As a result, 86% of customers are saying that they are willing to pay more for a positive experience and almost 50% of shoppers use unattended channels because they are faster. Thus, for vending operators it is essential to enhance operational efficiency by implementing an evolutive strategy; accelerate digitalisation and technology adoption could also optimise human intervention. So, how can vending operators make use of self service and cashless technologies to gain in flexibility?

Vending technology for the new world

The new self-service checkout options and interactive machines available on the market today have completely changed the game. These innovations offer the all-important seamless payments and next level customer experience. 

What’s more, in the digital retail world, there are new technologies coming out every year to delight even the most demanding customer. With the increasing usage of digital wallet, wearable devices, QR-based solutions, biometrics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), unattended retail is ready to serve the next-generation customer that is highly adaptable and comfortable with technology.  

Nevertheless, it’s not just how customers are able to pay that makes unattended retail so attractive to shoppers, but what they can do to simplify their shopping experience and broaden the possibilities of making their purchase. Merchants can engage and delight customers by providing endless personalised options capable of improving the overall customer journey.

How vending operators can provide advanced unattended retailing

Vending machines take many transactions that only take a matter of seconds to complete, but behind the scenes there are many technologies working to ensure the payment is made quickly, correctly, and securely. Ultimately, vending operators must be sure that not only has the payment been processed, but the money has been sent to their bank account. In such cases where the vending operator deals with a multitude of different providers at each stage, they can be prone to errors or additional time added to the transaction. This can leave the customer with a poor experience and added frustration for the vending operator about the difficulties in data analysing and implementing changes.

As such, consolidating all this information in a single, comprehensive view will be a key asset for vending operators, providing them with full visibility over their processes. It also ensures all payments are completed through a seamless, effective and easy to monitor settlement process. What vending operators should opt for is to partner with a full-service end-to-end payments provider. This will offer them enhanced profitability, security control and transparency, as well as improved service for their customers which will avoid abandoned baskets. 

What’s more, with a centralised payment gateway technology that handles all payment transactions from the unattended point of sale to the transaction acquirer, this managed service will significantly optimise costs for the vending operator by the scaling-up process, simplifying installations, maintenance and international updates. Along with a state-of-the-art Smart Acquiring Solution, it results in an end-to-end seamless payment solution with simplified integration and certification processing, along with eased reconciliation, and fast settlement for vending operators. As the entire payment solution is provided, all vending operator payment needs can be served, offering one expert point of contact, and making the process as seamless as possible. The platform scales automatically, enabling vending operators to deal with large card volumes at any given time. 

How unattended retail is shaping new shopping experiences

It is more important than ever for vending operators to look to flexible and reliable technology to take their business to the next level and to boost revenue. This is because the evolving digital landscape, as well as the ongoing pandemic, are changing consumer behaviours at pace. 

Now shoppers are more cautious of face-to-face interaction, preferring to make purchases in a touchless way. What’s more, revenues have been squeezed significantly following strict lockdown protocol, with many having been forced to shut their doors for months on end. However, it has also opened the door to new possibilities and has accelerated emerging trends. The pandemic has shown that the vending industry will need to address many technological challenges in the short-term, while reinventing business models and exploring new possibilities in the ‘new normal’. 

Adapting to a new way of operating is a big ask of many businesses, but they can do a lot to learn from the Vending market that has taken these technological trends on board to not only survive but thrive.