Aug 13

Replaced by a Box: Which Stores Will be Disrupted by Vending Machines

KeyMe Kiosk

I’ve been thinking about vending machines a good bit after seeing the KeyMe demo given at NYTM. You simply scan your key using an app, and then their system stores it for free. If you ever need a copy, you just go to one of the KeyMe locations and it is made by the machine. This works 24/7 and requires no poor sap to do the grinding. Clearly this, or something like it, will replace key making at hardware stores.

Certainly key duplication isn’t the first business to get upended by vending machines; Redbox put a huge dent in Blockbuster after they started stocking DVD’s instead of Happy Meals. Big box stores like Best Buy have even begun to put vending machines in airports and malls as a way to reach more customers.

There have been some predictions that haven’t panned out though: back in the late 90’s people envisioned that books would be printed on demand, but the Kindle leap frogged that.

So what other types of vending machines will we see, and what will 3D printing allow?  I’m going to limit this list to physical goods, so no media and no services. Below are my guesses with my reason on why they would work.

  1. Glasses:  A vending machine might 3D print the frames. This is a good candidate since there are very few sizing issues and high margins. You can even imagine a world where you go into a small booth, get your eyes checked, and walk out with glasses without ever talking to an optometrist.

  2. Pharmaceuticals:  Again, high margins and tiny form factor. Why bother going to a pharmacist?

  3. Cosmetics: This has already been done in some places. Their is no sizing issue and the margins are good.
  4. Hipster T-Shirts:  Okay, just T-Shirts.  Limited number of standard sizes and you can print the shirt in a matter of minutes.

  5. Phone cases:  Easy to 3d print and, judging by the stores in Chinatown, there is plenty of demand.

  6. Shoes:  There has been a lot of work on 3d printed shoes.  Nike and New Balance have already started this on a bespoke basis.

  7. High end coffee or juice:  One would need to get past the stigma of hospital waiting room coffee machines, but I’m sure it is possible.  People often get drinks to go so the convenience would be high.

So those are the kiosk ideas I have, but if you have an innovative kiosk idea let me know in the comments.