Payment option overload? How card payments and a digital selection process affects the usability of vending machines.
Most of us use vending machines and like the simplicity of popping a bit of loose change into a machine to get that much needed bottle of Coke.
But, we have all experienced that level of frustration when you fall short of change or the machine doesn’t accept the only pound coin left in your purse. Contactless payments and Apple Pay are becoming more widely used, for example on car parking ticket machines.
More recently, vending machines are now also being redesigned complete with a card reader to bring them into the 21st century. So how could the inclusion of card payments and a digital selection process on vending machines improve the user experience?
1. Easier and quicker process. The simplicity and efficiency of contactless payments and chip and pin will make it so much easier to buy drinks on the go.
2. More convenient. The annoyance of not having the right change, the coin getting stuck or not recognised will be a thing of the past. Using contactless payments and Apple Pay will be more convenient for those of us who don’t carry change.
3. Inclusive. As vending machines will now include a wider variety of payment types (including, Chip and pin, traditional magnetic stripe card, contactless payments and Apple Pay) there should be a method which suits everyone, making vending machines available and universal for all.
With these new payment options comes a touch screen which allows users to browse and select a product of their choice. Although there appears to be some benefits of these additional payment options, could the implementation of a touch screen as well as new payment options make the process become overly complex?
We assessed the usability and overall user experience from our recent experience with a multi-payment option vending machine.
The initial screen asks the user what their chosen payment method is and gives three options to choose from. However, there is no cash option for users who still wish to use cash. Despite the machine clearly labelling that it accepts Apple Pay on the physical exterior of the machine, there is also no option to select Apple Pay on the touch screen.
The machine then presents two options: ‘Make a selection’ or ‘Browse’. After selecting ‘Make a selection’ a keypad is displayed. However there are no clear instructions to why this has appeared or what the user needs to do next. The initial screen with the two options, also displays a wheelchair icon but it is unclear what the wheelchair icon represents in relation to the vending machine. It also states ‘5 degrees’ but it is not clear whether that is the temperature of the drinks or the outside temperature.
If ‘Browse’ is selected, a menu is displayed for users to choose the type of drink they desire. It may be good for users who want to select a specific type of drink, however the difference between options such as ‘Performance’ and ‘Energy’ is not clear and users may have to go searching to find more information through the ‘i’.
In the bottom of the screen there are two options: ‘Cancel Sale’ and ‘Home’. There is no back option for users who wish to explore the menu again.
After selecting a drink category the user can choose from a list of drinks.
However the menu also displays drinks which are not available in the vending machine, but did not indicate this on the menu. This may frustrate users who had chosen a drink from the menu and then realised it is not available within the machine, resulting in them having to start the process again. At this point it is not clear how the implementation of a touch screen for browsing a menu improves the experience of simply looking through the window of the vending machine!
After choosing a drink from the vending machine and typing the corresponding number into the keypad on the screen, the image displayed alongside ‘203’ in the basket was not the same as the item which was on shelf ‘203’, which could result in the user cancelling the sale and abandoning the machine.
Despite selecting contactless payment at the start, the image shown on the checkout screen implies that the user must use a card payment and does not instruct the user what to do next, leaving the user unsure of how to complete the transaction with their card, i.e. use the chip and pin or contactless.
After trying to pay with a payment card, it appears that the machine only accepts orders over £5, as a card icon and the number ‘5.00’ is displayed onscreen. This could be a huge inconvenience for users who only want to buy one item that is less than £5. It also defeats the convenient nature of these additional payment options, especially considering the user was asked to select a payment method at the start without being informed of the minimum amount.
In conclusion, although introducing card payments, Apple Pay and contactless to vending machines should make purchasing items quicker, easier and more convenient, this review has shown that the inclusion of a digital selection screen makes the process more complex. Minimum payment amounts and the inclusion of all payment options throughout the selection process are important things to review when considering the user journey and flow.