Consumers Are Big on ‘Unattended Retail’

It’s a fast, convenient and a zero-contact way to shop.

August 20, 2021

Teenager Using Touchless Vending Machine

NEW ORLEANSNinety percent of people used unattended retail as much as they had prior to the pandemic or more during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Cantaloupe Inc., a digital payments and software services company for the unattended retail market.

Unattended retail includes everything from vending machines and smart cabinets (redesigned, high-tech vending machines) to grab-and-go checkout technology like that used in Amazon Go stores.

The survey found that younger consumers were a good market for unattended retail. Twenty-three percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and34 said that the pandemic caused them to increase use of unattended retail, compared to 18% of 35 to 54 year-olds, and only 4% of respondents over 55 years of age.

Nearly half of consumers who increased usage during the pandemic cited speed (49%), social distancing (49%) and convenience (47%) as the reasons. Sixty-eight percent of those respondents noted that it’s important to have a touchless option post-pandemic, and 41% of respondents who purchased an item through an unattended channel in the three months prior to the survey said unattended options make them more likely to shop in a retailer’s other channels in the future.

Eighty-two percent of consumers surveyed indicated some interest in purchasing non-traditional items from vending machines, and the increase has grown significantly since 2019, the time of the last survey. Clothing showed the greatest two-year increase (70% versus 55% in 2019). Health and beauty showed a significant increase (71% versus 64% in 2019).

“We learned a great deal from the pandemic, particularly the resiliency of unattended retail, which was tested to its core,” said Sean Feeney, chief executive officer, Cantaloupe. “As we look ahead, it’s clear that consumers like unattended retail. Having diverse payment options, being able to buy nontraditional items and ensuring the data security of payments should be top of mind for every operator now.”

The survey targeted more than 2,000 census-based U.S. adults each balanced by gender, geography and age group, fielded from June 1-8, 2021.

Unattended retail such as vending machines have long been a popular source of products in Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea, offering many modern conveniences, ranging from traditional options such as coffee and sodas to more unique items like flowers, ties and groceries. For example, Ministop Korea recently introduced 24/7 meat vending machines.

Register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8, at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on technology, including the sessions Meeting Consumers Where They Are—Everywhere on October 5 and Moving Forward in the Post-Pandemic Economy and Drive-Thru and Curbside: Is This the Future for C-Stores? on October 6, and Creating an Integrated Mobile Experience on October 7.

For more insight on touchless and cashierless technology, read “Faster Checkout with Fewer Staff” in NACS Magazine.