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The Most Unusual Products Found in Vending Machines Around the World

The Internet is full of lists of unusual products found in vending machines.

Buzzfeed, of course, have a list of 24 vending machines that “you won’t believe exist”. Their list includes a live crab vending machine, a caviar vending machine, a mashed potato vending machine and, my favourite, a pizza vending machine.

Similarly, Entrepreneur have a list of “9 Things You Never Thought You Would Buy From A Vending Machine”. Their list is stranger than Buzzfeed’s. Whereas the machines in Buzzfeed’s list all dispense edible products, Entrepreneur have found machines that vend shoes, flowers, prescription drugs, and even tiny works of art.

Truly, it seems that it’s now possible to buy almost anything from a vending machine. And whilst most sites seem to treat this phenomenon as a mere   curiosity, we wonder if it’s something more.

Whilst all businesses who specialise in food and drink might have considered vending machines as a means of distributing their products, now it seems that vending machines could provide a valuable distribution method for businesses from a huge range of sectors.

As we see it, businesses who choose vending machines might expect the following benefits:

Brand Exposure – If you make the sort of product that’s not traditionally found in vending machines, you can more or less rest assured that, if you start to vend your products, sites like Buzzfeed will report on your efforts.

At the very least, the local press may express an interest.

In any case, this is the sort of free advertising that portrays your brand as a daring forward-thinker.

New Markets & New Customers – Vending machines essentially allow you to cut out the middle man. Before, it was your job to manufacture your products and deliver them to stores. It was then up to the sales assistants to ensure that your products were sold.

Vending machines, though, would allow for your products to speak for themselves. If your product fulfils a certain customer need, a strategically-placed vending machine might boost sales in a way that was simply not possible using more conventional techniques.

For example, say you make umbrellas. Your umbrellas are good. They do the job, but they’re nothing special. On store shelves, there’s nothing to make them stand out among all the other umbrellas on the market.

But an umbrella vending machine on the streets of a rainy city could see a surge in sales among your most valuable customer – people caught unawares by a sudden downpour.

It’s supply and demand in its purest form!

There are risks, though. We’re certainly not suggesting that all businesses should suddenly start selling their products in vending machines.

The main risk is that, for the vast majority of products, this is an untested avenue. There may be certain products that some people aren’t prepared to buy from vending machines.

Historically, vending machines have sold disposable products – food and drink, essentially. For many, vending machines may be synonymous with low quality, ephemeral goods. Think long and hard about whether that’s the sort of association you want people to make with your product.

But fortune favours the bold, and there may be huge rewards in store for any business that dares to test these waters.

And who knows? Retail might ultimately become the exception, not the rule. Ten years from now, we might be doing all of our shopping from vending machines.