Self-Service Trends

2021 Trends – Which Ones Won Out?

July 12, 2021 | By Alicia V. Nieva-Woodgate

2021 Trends – Which Ones Won Out?

In our 2021 Trends series earlier this year we asked customers, influencers, journalists, and Cantaloupe employees to create a 90 second video. We wanted them to talk about what they thought would be the key trends we would see in our specific market niche, as well as with the greater retail industry. Our participants’ responses ranged from the return of the Milkman to kiosks and micro markets, loyalty, and new technologies such as AR.

A quick look at the predictions:

  • C.J. Recher, Vice President of Marketing, Five Star Food Service, Inc. – “We see the connected consumer experience taking center stage via contactless payments and mobile apps. The mobile device is going to be very important this year.”
  • Jonathan Abernathy, Owner, Empire Vending – “I think micro markets and cashless transactions will be roaring like never before!”
  • David Marler, VP of Sales and Marketing, LightSpeed Automation – “We think this is the year that our operators and our customers in this industry will understand the assets that they have are extremely valuable when it comes to the last mile. We think that the home delivery industry which obviously saw a surge in 2020, is here to stay.”
  • Bunny Proof, Director of Inside Sales, Cantaloupe, Inc. – “Service of convenience to a service of now. Consumers want a choice of products so they can make buy what they want, when they want, with the utmost convenience. Being able to adapt to these needs is key for success.”
  • Richard Bullwinkle, Technologist, Product Innovator, and Founder of Red Dog Digital – “In 2021 brands really need to make it easy to pay and reward the customer to create loyalty. Consumers will make decisions on how easy it is to pay, and what do we get out of it?”
  • Alex Buck, Regional Sales Director for Cantaloupe, Inc. – “Customers will continue to innovate and expand their product portfolio post Covid.”
  • Robin Raskin, Prominent Tech Journalist and Event Planner – “Contactless vending machines that serve everything from makeup to salad to even meat that we get in our local town.”
  • Bill Bartholic, Director of Regional Sales for Cantaloupe, Inc. – “This will be the year operators really start to leverage data to provide more tailored products and services. “
  • Jordan Abernathy, VP of Sales, Empire Vending – “Micro markets are going to be booming, they are on a rise right now as we speak, and cashless transactions have been going crazy.”
  • John Hickey, Co-founder of Tech 2 Success – “Consumers are seeing real value in contactless solutions. They’re also really open to being communicated with by your brand.”
  • Ravi Venkatesan, CTO, Cantaloupe, Inc. – “Customers want it fast, easy, and secure.”

So, what trends have been prolific this year?

The pandemic has certainly established some new behaviors, from both sides of the coin. Brands, restaurants, small shops have all been in survival mode, particularly if what they offered was convenience rather than necessity, and even those that provide essentials had to rethink the consumer experience.

Robin Raskin

As part of her prediction, Robin Raskin explained that “it takes 30 days to change a habit,” but what we saw during the height of the pandemic, was a fundamental shift in how consumers access goods and pay for them. Retailers needed to give shoppers a safe and convenient way to make purchases, whether it was PPE, beauty products, groceries, or dinner. Many got creative and turned to vending machines. LightSpeed’s David Marler mentioned some of the items he’s seen from salads to Covid-19 testing kits in the UK, and this Washington Post article touts how the pandemic accelerated the adoption of vending. In tandem, contactless payments became the norm, rather than the exception. In a study Cantaloupe conducted, we found 61.7% of total sales in July 2020 were made with cashless payments, vs 53.1% in January of the same year.

Jonathan Abernathy

Looking at what trends have had staying power this year, contactless solutions are at the top of the list. Convenience and what Bunny Proof calls, “the service of now,” have further spurred the move to unattended and self-serve retail, with the continued proliferation of vending machines but, as the Abernathy brothers predicted, we are also seeing the growth of micro-markets and kiosks. These have become mainstays at airports, but the Amazon Go model has also prompted other retailers, from established brands to Mom-and-Pop shops, to invest in the model. It encompasses convenience and facilitates a wider choice and variety of products.

Richard Bullwinkle

Richard Bullwinkle talked about loyalty being front and center. Brands are finally waking up to the fact that consumers are fickle, and they want to be rewarded for their loyalty. Even McDonald’s has finally gotten into the loyalty game, and is counting on its success, launchingits program in specific markets, just last week. Starbucks is one of the best examples of a successful loyalty program, having established a flexible program that offers the convenience of paying with any preferred method, whether Apple Pay, cash or Starbucks card, while reaping the rewards of multiple non-fat lattes. Customers can even pay with Bitcoin thanks to the company’s partnership with Bakkt. Cantaloupe has also partnered with Bakkt and will be launching that product offering later in the fall.

CJ Recher

As consumers clamor for more convenience, more choices, and the ability to purchase what they want, when they want, at the point of sale, the importance of data and how the information it holds is managed becomes critical. The consumer experience C.J. Recher and John Hickey describe requires knowing as much about a customer as possible. But as our CTO Ravi Venkatesan notes, security is also front and center, particularly with all the breaches in recent weeks and months. It’s a fine balance that both consumers and companies are learning to navigate and having to address urgently.

What’s in store for the rest of the year? The digital consumer experience remains front and center. And if businesses have learned anything during the pandemic, the convenience of autonomous retail, and all it has to offer, is here to stay. Cantaloupe’s platform and solutions can help make that a reality for retailers of all shapes, size, and form, as our goal is to help the world buy it and go. For more information, please see


Alicia V. Nieva-Woodgate

Vice President of Corporate Communications

Alicia V. Nieva-Woodgate is the Vice President of Corporate Communications and IR for Cantaloupe, Inc.

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