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Coca-Cola and Google teamed up last month to show off the future of cashless vending in a huge way -- with free Cokes for thousands of lucky people in both Times Square in New York and Union Square in San Francisco.
Coca-Cola is one of Google's premier partners for the launch of Google Wallet, which allows consumers to put credit card information into smartphones and transmit this information via a "tap" at contactless point-of-sale terminals.
As part of the bi-coastal launch event, Google representatives let people tap pre-loaded Sprint Nexus S smartphones so they could experience the technology and receive free Cokes from Coca-Cola vending machines. Consumers responded enthusiastically, and media, including the ABC affiliate in San Francisco, provided coverage.
Watch video from the NYC event:
The event -- and the Google partnership -- highlight Coca-Cola's vision for payment flexibility at vending machines. Coca-Cola has invested significantly in technology and forged major partnerships, including the one with Google, to increase its cashless footprint.
"Cashless vending allows more flexibility in pricing and typically leads to a significant volume lift, as well as increased consumer satisfaction," said Dan Avenick, Director of Vending Strategy, CCR.
Currently, only a small percentage of Coca-Cola's machines are cashless (take credit and debit cards). However, that number is projected to increase significantly over the next few years.
Part of the reason for the planned growth is SWIPE, an internal cashless vending solution Coca-Cola has developed that is more cost-effective than working with a third party for payment processing. SWIPE uses vending machine payment acceptance hardware, as well as partnerships with banks and major credit card companies for transaction settlement.
Because of SWIPE's robust technology, Coca-Cola can tie cashless vending to loyalty programs, including My Coke Rewards. Cashless vending tends to do particularly well with younger consumers and is popular at malls, college campuses, hotels, airports, amusement parks and military bases.
While consumers can go cashless with credit cards, they can also go cashless with mobile wallets enabled by their smartphones, which experts predict will take off in the next few years. Google Wallet, which launched in May, works on Nexus S phones. As part of the Google partnership, Coca-Cola placed point-of-sale materials on hundreds of vending machines across the country explaining to consumers how they can use Google Wallet there. Coca-Cola also is partnering with other mobile wallet companies.
"We're investing in cashless vending because we know consumers are more likely to buy a beverage at a vending machine with this technology, and because it greatly expands our ability to connect with consumers through loyalty and other targeted marketing programs," Avenick said. "The enthusiasm at the Google Wallet demonstrations in New York and San Francisco shows how much consumers are embracing this technology and of course, how much they love our brands."