The introduction of self-checkouts to the trade has significantly changed the customer experience. For the better. Queues have been shortened and shopper frustration reduced. Customers during Covid-19 are definitely more willing to reach for self-service solutions. Let’s see if Poles are ready for the next step. Is tobacco sales automation possible and beneficial? An important topic for the retail industry. Retailers are looking for ways to encourage customers to make quick purchases of tobacco or premium products in their shop.

Whai is Vensafe?

Vensafe is a Select&Collect solution – effectively automating the sale of tobacco as well as small, higher-value items such as razor refills, more expensive cosmetics or items that may trigger unhealthy emotions among other shoppers such as condoms. And we don’t want that! Customers should feel comfortable with their purchases.

Vensafe- scanning a ticket.
Automated tobacco sales – collection of goods after scanning a ticket.

Vensafe consists of 3 components:

Touch screen with a kiosk application:

  • an intuitive interface guides the user through the purchase process,
  • screen placed on a wall, shelf or floor stand,
  • display of marketing content e.g. promotions, special offers possibility to display multiple images and product descriptions.

Dispensing unit in a size to meet business needs:

  • one unit holds up to 80 different products and the capacity of the unit is 1600 articles,
  • Possibility to combine up to 3 dispensing units, to obtain up to 240 different products and a capacity of 4800 articles,
  • the dispensing unit displays the current stock level and indicates the need for replenishment not only through the display but also by sending an e-mail to the staff,
  • access to the unit is strictly controlled and recorded.

Vensafe Manager Software, integrating the above elements:

  • allowing inventory and stock updates
  • enabling central management of product data at chain or country level.

What does it look like in practice? The customer selects a product on a touchscreen and receives a barcode ticket (similar to a parking ticket). The customer then goes to a regular or self-checkout with the ticket and pays for it there. Alternatively, the ticket can be downloaded and paid for immediately at a self-service or regular cash register. In the final step, the shopper goes to the dispensing unit, scans the ticket and receives the goods. Simple. But is it beneficial for shops, legal and safe? Read on?

Automated tobacco sales, how the process look like.
Automated tobacco sales. A man in a green jumper buys and receives cigarettes.

6 benefits for shops to automate tobacco sales with Vensafe.

  • Minimalisation internal theft with intuitive software that tracks all activity around the unit.
  • The device is convenient to refill and allows you to set prices for individual batches of goods.
  • Saves staff time – staff do not have to get up to reach for the goods or fetch goods from another till, the size of the dispensing unit can be adapted to the needs of the shop to meet customer demand.
  • Eliminate external theft to zero as the system requires customers to make a purchase before handing over the item.
  • Compliance with tobacco regulations, cigarette packs are invisible, only the names or symbols are displayed on the kiosk screen.
  • Allows customers to buy tobacco or other goods without any problems and minimises the risk of customers leaving the shop to buy cigarettes elsewhere.
Vensafe - replenishing the assortment
Automating tobacco sales – replenishing the assortment.

Regulation of tobacco sales and Vensafe?

As I mentioned above, cigarette packets placed in cabinets are completely invisible. The customer sees the goods physically only after picking them up from the dispensing unit. This not only allows for privacy, but also protects children and adolescents from seeing items that are bad for health. Also on kiosk screens, the customer has to prove his or her age to enter the tobacco offer.

I also want to emphasise that Vensafe is not a vending machine. The age check takes place at the regular or self-checkout and this is also where the sale is finalised, i.e. payment for the goods.

To answer the title question. In my opinion: YES, tobacco sales automation with Vensafe is possible, safe, compliant with regulations and, above all, can bring many benefits to shops. Retailers with the right configuration of Vensafe will make the work of their staff easier and can increase sales of tobacco products or premium products. With Vensafe, they can encourage customers to visit their shops more often and buy products which, for various reasons, are usually bought elsewhere. And that’s what it’s all about! I am very pleased to see more and more solutions appearing on the market that support the digital transformation of the retail sector. I will keep an eye on them and let you know if something interesting comes up again.