Traveling home for the holidays? Up your in-flight entertainment ante by picking up the new Apple iPod at your local Zoom Systems airport vending machine.
Zoom Systems, a major player in the automated retail market, aims to pioneer the retail revolution with plans to deploy a network of thousands of automated retail venues, to a range of locations (such as hotels, airports and malls) in the coming years, according to a news release, here in PDF form.
"Zoom Shops are not your parents' vending machine," said Gower Smith, CEO and co-founder of Zoom Systems, in a statement. "Unlike vending, we have developed the technology and intelligence to offer consumers the hottest products from $10 to $200, from the best brands. It's like shopping online, but consumers have the instant gratification of getting their product immediately."
Zoom Systems' "Zoom Shops" are 40-square-foot robotic stores (search) (or, what we may refer to as vending machines), which display up to 150 products behind a pane of glass.
Similar to an online shopping experience, consumers can access detailed information about each product (and related accessories) in an "un-pressured" sales environment, Smith said.
With an average transaction time of one minute, the customer can select products using a touch-screen graphic interface and instantly make a purchase via credit or debit card.
"A robotic arm appears from behind the user module and gently transfers the product off of the shelf into a robotic delivery pocket, while Zoom Systems' optical technology ensures product delivery before the customer is charged," said Smith.
All purchase information is transmitted through the Internet to a central bank of service. Zoom Shops are all networked and centrally managed to maintain the highest service levels, according to a company representative.
"Zoom can transform 40 square feet into a profit center that generates thousands of dollars in annual revenue per square foot," said Peg Jackson, managing director at venture-capital firm NeoCarta, who has joined the board of Zoom, in a statement. "And the shopping experience is so positive that even at this early stage, over 25 percent of purchases are from repeat customers."
Zoom Systems' automated Zoom Shops can be tailored to include a range of product channels to satiate consumer demand.
Electronic devices tend to be the most popular, with most Zoom locations offering a variety of consumer electronics, wireless communications and consumer accessories, Smith told Ziff Davis Internet.
Apple's iPod has been a rather lucrative channel for Zoom Systems' high-tech vending machines.
In addition, Zoom plans to introduce the new video iPod, slated to hit shelves in November for the holiday season, according to a company representative.
Zoom Systems makes available a variety of "concept shops" that cater to on-the-go customers, with themes like electronics, DVDs, last-minute-gifts and more.
It can also implement custom-branded store networks. The company will design each concept, program the store, manufacture and install the software and monitor the network.
In addition, Zoom can merchandise the automated shop, as well as purchase, ship and replenish inventory, according to the company Web site.
Zoom Systems was originally founded as a tech company that developed software systems to control the automated retail experience, and also developed a network to centrally manage supply chain merchandising for automated machines.
The company later changed gears and took a retail direction.
It collaborated with a Japanese robotic delivery company and integrated its Zoom software with their technology to introduce the first robotic store in March 2005, according to Smith.
"It all started when we developed an automated supply cabinet of sorts," Smith said. "We wanted to take that a step further and incorporate an electronic sales person to give consumers information about each product and to aid in the purchase process. By implementing with a robotic store, we've created a stand-alone retail channel."
Zoom Systems launched its first robotic store in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (search) and soon after added an installment in San Francisco, both of which proved successful.
The company recently signed long-term agreements with both airports to expand the number of automated outlets, according to the release.
Zoom Systems has also signed with several new brand partners (no details about who those partners are, as of yet) and is currently in the process of developing additional stores for release in the next year, Smith said.
Future plans for the company include extending its network of Zoom Shops to three, in the next two years.
Zoom Systems expects its network to grow significantly beyond that, reaching the 10,000 mark within five years.
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