PURCHASE, NY -- New from PepsiCo is the Social Vending System, a networked vending machine with large "full-touch" screen designed to enable consumers to connect with Pepsi brands (and one another) at the point of purchase. It made its debut in prototype at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's 2011 OneShow in Chicago
Novel features of the system include provisions for a patron to "gift" a friend by selecting a beverage, then entering the recipient's name, mobile phone number and a personal text message – and, if desired, a short video recorded at the machine. Standard text message rates apply for the "gifting" function.
The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions for redeeming it at any PepsiCo social vender. The recipient may thank the original sender by dispatching a gift in return, or "pay it forward" by presenting a beverage to someone else.
The machines are equipped for remote monitoring, giving operators the ability to manage inventory levels and schedule deliveries remotely. Digital content also can be updated online, allowing easy changing of messages and media content.
"Our vision is to use innovative technology to empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands, their social networks and each other at the point of purchase," said Mikel Durham, chief innovation officer at PepsiCo Foodservice. "Social vending extends our consumers' social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun and exciting they'll want to return to, again and again."
Social vending also makes it possible to perform a "Random Act of Refreshment" by purchasing a drink for a stranger through any other Social Vending System. For example, a consumer could send a message of encouragement to someone in a city smitten by challenging weather, or a congratulatory beverage to a student whose college or university has just won a championship.
The Social Vending System was conceived by PepsiCo's newly formed Equipment Innovation group, whose task is to apply emerging technologies to the delivery of relevant brand experiences for consumers through equipment. The design and user interface were created in collaboration with Milwaukee, WI-based DCI Marketing and Protagonist of Venice, CA.
"Our approach to technology innovation is driven by what we know consumers want," explained PepsiCo vice-president of equipment innovation Christine Sisler. "We're working with some of the best minds in the business to develop equipment that provides customization, personalization and choice."
PepsiCo explained that it sees large, prestigious accounts like colleges, universities and malls as offering a good fit for social vending. Further development of the platform is ongoing; a limited consumer test is underway now, and PepsiCo plans to test the concept with key strategic partners later this year.
The company reports that it respects its customers' privacy: email addresses and phone numbers are not stored unless expressly permitted by a user. PepsiCo does not share contact information with any other partners.