April 2019 was a big month for Civic. We announced 12 new automated retail partners, who collectively represent over 1 million vending machines, and we officially introduced Civic Pay, our new app that enables both identity verification and payment at point-of-sale. We’re thrilled that our new partners, who are leaders in the automated retail industry, will be integrating Civic Pay in new and existing vending machine platforms and rolling it out in 2019.
When we showcased at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2019, we received overwhelming interest in our beer vending machines using Civic Pay for both identity and payment. One month later, we attended the NAMA Show, a conference all about emerging trends and technology in automated retail. We came to showcase the same technology that had been a hit at SXSW and to learn more about innovation, products, and possibilities in the industry.
It was our first time at the NAMA Show, and it offered us an opportunity to network and showcase how Civic Pay can integrate into automated solutions that offer convenience and a heap of benefits to end customers. As a digital identity company, we choose to focus on automated retail for a reason. It’s a market that is growing and ripe for innovations that improve the user experience. Here are a few things that we learned at our first NAMA Show.
The idea of age-gated products is not new. Scalable execution is. Civic is not the first company to dream up beer vending machines. Alcohol vending machines are an idea that has simply been waiting for the technology to take them from conception to reality. Age-gated products and automated retail make sense. Building age verification into the payment process makes beer vending machines a real possibility, and we’re excited to bring that game-changing technology to an industry that has been searching for a solution for years. Vending machines aren’t just for cupcakes anymore.
The payment experience is paramount. The vending machine industry has historically been based on volume, prioritizing low-value items like snacks and soda. You probably have had the experience of walking into a convenience store that only accepts credit card payments for transactions over $10, sometimes even $20. This is because the infrastructure to accept credit cards payment costs money. Credit cards typically take a percentage of every transaction and a fixed fee on top. For small-value transactions, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Yet, vending machines have been limited to small-value products and fighting the digital transformation that has forced companies to enable digital transactions. This change has been crucial for the automated retail industry because paying for digital payments cuts into revenue, especially with small-value products in a volume-based industry.
This is another area where technology can help. New technologies, like blockchain, cryptocurrency, and stable coins can offer alternatives to payment processing, in ways that can mitigate fees. Blockchain payments can keep information better protected instead of in a database, reducing risk for businesses.
For the vending machine industry, the majority of transactions are under $5. When the digital transformation imposed requirements to accept credit cards, modernization became essential, but also made it difficult for vending machine operators to maintain margins. Thus, payment processing is paramount.
The vending machines industry is the fastest growing industry that you haven’t heard of. From cupcakes to headphones to makeup to pharmaceuticals, everyday staples are now being sold out of vending machines than ever before. The vending machines industry works because it’s convenient. It offers products that people want where they want them. Right now, you can buy a souvenir at the airport. Imagine if you could get a cold beer at a baseball game and avoid the notoriously long lines at the bar.
The hardware for vending already exists. By innovating and improving on the existing infrastructure, such as incorporating solutions that add both payment and reward, the potential for the automated retail industry will be nearly limitless. It’s all about the user experience, getting products to customers when and where they want them with minimal overhead. It’s the ultimate marketing strategy that we’re looking to deliver, all supported with best-in-class digital identity technology.
As we roll out Civic Pay, we’re looking forward to learning more about the automated retail industry. Automate retail may not have been the most obvious on our list, but when you take a second look, it’s really a perfect fit for the application of both identity and payment. It’s the perfect use case to help people conceptualize what digital identity is, how it can be used, and how people can benefit from it.
Stay tuned into the Civic blog and join us on our journey.