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Vending yet? Welcome to the New Era of Automation.

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Netflix put the Video Rental Retail stores in their coffins, there was still a
sizable segment of people who missed the convenience, were suspect of a
mail-order or streaming subscription service, or simply didn't have the
connectivity to enjoy it.

 Enter, RedBox. A new smart-automated
adaptation of the Blockbuster model, scaled down to be easy-to-manage,
easy-to-implement, and easy to turn a profit.
         By taking advantage of the heroic rise
in vending technology, RedBox stands tall and noticeably at locations with high
traffic. RedBox is not the only company or other industry taking advantage of
the new era of automation.
         Vending machines have evolved beyond
the pull a level and get a product
transaction. Sophisticated interfaces now offer everything from custom-baked
pizzas to stake boards to smartphones to premium cosmetics that mix up to 48
shades of nail polish on demand. A mix of smart preservation, temperature
control, cashless payments, and touch-screen interfaces transform what was a
drab exchange into a delightful and rewarding experience.
         Two million next generation units will
be deployed globally by 2016. Two drivers fuel this growth.
as noted, offers a palpable brand experience, often better than an actual
retail store. Take Nike's vending machine for example; members of the Nike
tribe can redeem FuelBand points for athletic gear. 
data and the dream of intelligent analytics serve as the other key motive
force. While these smart machines delight consumers, perhaps its greatest
strength resides the B-2-B, public service, and industrial sectors. One of the
fastest growing uses of this megatrend is reinventing inventory control and the
distribution of supplies in warehouses, advanced machinery facilities, and
construction. Grainger claims that vending is the their fastest growth trend in
their Annual Report, and the lead area of perceived growth for the company.
of machines line the halls of the blue-collar world that creates and supports
the infrastructure of our era. In these rows of machines you can find every a
worker needs to handle a job: tools, safety vests, boots, sun protection'and
every single item is accessed by a code that is tied to a job number that helps
account for costs down to the penny. This wave of automation revolutionizes the
concept of the company store or canteen into one of the most pragmatic, even
savvy, uses of big data.
         Then, there is Best Buy, Sephoria, and
even a local farmer's market where you can dispense only certified organic
produce. Not to mention a pharmacy in Canada where you can get your refills.
Don't worry if you need help, just hit a button and video conferencing connects
you to the right person to get the answers you need quickly. These examples
stand as just a few of the ways branded experiences are made crafted as premium
         This wave of innovation creates usable,
human-centered, brand-bolstering experiences that make sense for everyone in
the value chain: the consumer or customer, the products that fill the machines,
the brands that sponsor them, and also breathes new life into the concept of
Michael Graber is the
managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic
growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit
www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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