SINGAPORE: Smart vending technology is a rapidly growing retail trend currently dominated by providers in North America, but a new report has forecast that China will become the primary market for intelligent vending machines within five years.

Also by 2023, it is expected that the wider Asia-Pacific region will be home to more than one million automated retail units as well as over 4.5 million smart vending machines.

That is according to ABI Research, a market insights firm, which said demand for technology-driven frictionless retail experiences, coupled with cheap production costs and limited data privacy barriers, is already driving rapid adoption – especially in China, Japan and South Korea.

“The initial growth rate of automated retail units in the Asia-Pacific market, driven primarily by China, has already been astonishing and will continue to grow exponentially over the next five years,” said Nick Finill, senior analyst at ABI Research.

“This will create a vast regional disparity in adoption figures, largely a result of technological and societal factors. Ultimately it signals a strong future for smart retail in East Asia,” he added.

The great advantage of smart vending machines is that they enable operators to keep immediate track of stock, sales and customer preferences in addition to allowing contactless payments.

Quite apart from all that useful data, it means, for example, that consumers no longer have to go through the frustration of finding that a vending machine has run out of their favourite snack or drink.

However, the ABI Research study goes further by predicting that further innovation is “around the corner”, such as autonomous vehicles acting as mobile vending machines, which needn’t limit themselves just to the sale of snacks.

Ultimately, the report stated, smart vending machines and automated retail units “offer immediate convenience to the customer while enabling additional revenue streams to be exploited by operators and partners”.

Sourced from ABI Research; additional content by WARC staff