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Beyond the Storefront

When we speak or write about retail environments, we usually envision places like Macy’s or Target, Home Depot or CVS, Kroger or Staples, Circle K or – moment of silence, please – Toys’R’Us, right?

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In reality, retail environments cover a much wider range of shopping experiences. How about optical stores? Doctors’ offices? Auto dealers? Restaurants? The break room at work?

Vending machines in the US sell about $7 billion in goods annually. Kiosks in quick-service restaurants (QSR) impact your lunch purchases as McDonald’s rolls out order kiosks at a pace of 1000 US stores per quarter. Subway and Panera employ order kiosks to speed order entry and increase the timely delivery of food. And Carvana is rolling out nine-story “vending machines” that dispense up to 34 cars in places like Arizona and Florida.

These machines will continue to grow in importance and value to consumers. They will employ artificial intelligence, facial recognition technologies, recall how you like your burger, and perhaps even engage in conversation with you.

The points of purchase for goods and services are not shrinking to only Amazon. In fact, they keep multiplying. The tools deployed in those places become more sophisticated, useful and economical. Of course, Amazon commands only about 5% of total US retail purchases. The other 95% still matters.