If Amazon Go and other omnichannel concepts are redefining self-service commerce, does the humble vending machine lose its relevance?

Amazon Go is, in essence, a giant walk-in vending machine — and other companies are keen to deploy their own version of this model. This trend is motivating USA Technologies' partnership with Ingenico Group to advance technology at unattended retail locations, but it's also an acknowledgment that this type of payments development has the potential to take off in a growing omnichannel environment.

Bloomberg News

In its partnership, Ingenico Group and USA Technologies will combine USAT's connectivity designed for the unattended retail market and Ingenico's point-of-sale hardware, and payments routing and security software. To start, however, the three-year agreement with USAT calls for the companies to keep driving the cashless concept by targeting the self-service market and converting vending machines and other unattended retail kiosks in the U.S. and international markets to accept all payment types.

"This partnership addresses literally millions of vending machines seeking to go cashless for the first time, or to upgrade from magnetic stripe payments to EMV chip payments," said Bruce Rasmussen, director of sales for strategic verticals at Ingenico Group. "There are more than vending machine opportunities that our partnership will address, as it will include car washes, laundry, amusement and arcades, parking and more."

Over the past few years, the Ingenico ePayments unit has built its network of merchant acquirers, knowing that retail was moving swiftly to omnichannel payments.

Plus, nearly every major payments merger or acquisition of the past few years has had an underlying omnichannel motivation to it as companies looked to bolster that part of their offering. And unmanned kiosks or vending machines are coming into that omnichannel vertical.

In that regard, Ingenico understands the value of partnering with USAT, a company that specializes in vending machine technology. Ingenico plans to incorporate its iUC285 device, which accepts magstripe, EMV and Near Field Communication contactless payments, with USAT technology through a connecting application programming interface to channel payments to the ePort Connect service platform.

The companies view the combination as a complete enterprise system for unattended retail, delivering secure cashless reconciliation, as well as loyalty and advertising capabilities for marketing.

In the past year, USAT had integrated its MORE loyalty and payroll deduction platform with Apple Pay to operate at as many as 300,000 machines across the U.S. It was a move designed to more closely connect mobile payments such as Apple Pay to the vending machine operator's marketing programs.

USAT also has been diligent in its efforts to secure more payment options at their vending machines, mostly focusing on mobile to soften the blow of conversion to EMV the past two years and also lower reliance on cash.

Ingenico has deployed similar solutions in the past to different merchant types, including micro market operators, in trying to be in the right places at the right times as a payments trend grows.

The partnership also rides the wave of "smart" vending machines in the retail industry — a process in which a machine not only accepts payment cards and mobile wallets, but also tracks inventory and customer visits.

“We believe that through our collaboration, both organizations are well-positioned to capture additional market share, enter and proliferate in new unattended verticals, and help unattended retail merchants benefit from the power of IoT technology both here and abroad," USAT Chairman and CEO Stephen P. Herbert said last week when announcing the partnership.

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