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Pop-Up Stores? Passe. Enter: The Automated Retail Store

 Futuristic vending machines are transforming the face of retailing.

You've seen them: The high-tech vending machines from Best Buy, Sephora (like the one shown here), Apple (thank you!), often at airports.

As today's New York Times reports, a new wave of flashy "automated retail stores" give brands a new way to extend their presence without a lot of cost.

As Gower Smith of ZoomSystems, which creates so-called ZoomShops puts it, one of these vending machines "costs less than an employee." And they can reack up the sales. Mall stores produce about $330 a square foot per year, while a 28-square-foot ZoomShop can generate $3,000 to $10,000 a square foot per year.

Quicksilver offers swimming suits in machines at Standard hotels. U*tique plans on selling high-end beauty products in machines. And in Abu Dhabi, a lobby of a luxury hotel has a vending machine that dispenses gold bars and coins at $1,000 an ounce. Those ubiquitous RedBox vending machines are already changing the way we rent DVDs. Why not most anything else?

But hold on. Doesn't this cheapen brands?

According to a study from NCR Corporation, 86% of North American consumers say they're more likely to do business with companies offering some sort of self-service. And they really like self-service technology. Of course, NCR is behind transactional technologies, so consider the source.

Still, these vending machines are already the rage in Japan. Time will tell if these vending machines really take off. But really, is dealing with a machine much different than dealing with most store clerks? And if machine interfaces are good enough for banks (ala ATMs), aren't they good enough for retailers?

Get the full scoop here.

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