Two women pay at a vending machine
By Richard Thompson | May 17, 2021

Identifying the Most Profitable OEM Opportunities of 2021

Everything from vending machines to lockers are going digital. Here’s how you can take advantage.

The events over the last 12 months may have resulted in unpredictable change and widespread economic recession, but for those entrepreneurial businesses able to move quickly, there are still plenty of opportunities to develop solutions and services with staying power. In fact, some of the customers I work with closely in the self-service industries have seen accelerated growth as a result of the pandemic.

The trick is to identify the changes that lead to long-term demand and can be turned into profitable growth. As a leading worldwide supplier of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components – and an OEM ourselves – Zebra keeps a watchful eye on growth markets as they inform our product development. By anticipating market shifts, we can deliver exactly what entrepreneurs like you need to capitalise on new or growing demand for certain types of technologies, including these:

Self-service kiosks

Self-service kiosks are nothing new, but they’re now being used in new and varied settings for a multitude of purposes, as I mentioned in a previous blog post.

For example, Zebra’s 13th annual Global Shopper Study identified a trust gap between retailers and shoppers regarding safety. Ninety percent of retail decision makers believe their customers trust them to prioritize health and safety, but only 65% of shoppers agreed. Self-service kiosks help reduce person-to-person contact points in stores and are a very visible way to show action is being taken to support social distancing.

Although safety may be a leading motivation behind the investment in kiosks, once retailers, quick service restaurants (QSR), event venues and others see the benefits of cross-selling opportunities, increased footfall, improved consumer experience and long-term cost reduction, it’s unlikely they’ll abandon this highly effective customer engagement tool. The diversity of applications is exciting and presents a myriad of market expansion opportunities for your business, from temperature check kiosks for students and informational kiosks to fast food restaurant order systems, ticketing kiosks and airport check-in portals.

The figures back up the hype, too. A recent report claims the interactive kiosk market could be worth as much as $32.8 billion by 2025, up from $26.2 billion in 2020. There is also a reduced investment risk in the development of self-service kiosk solutions given how far applications stretch across multiple sectors.

To hear more about the many different opportunities available in the self-service kiosk market, listen to our on-demand webinar ‘Self-Service Surge, Step Forward OEMs’ or read this blog post.

Vending modernisation

Vending machines have been around for years, but they’re currently going through a face lift to meet the needs of a more digital consumer. The main opportunity for OEMs is around payment. Historically, vending machines have been cash-dependent. But, as fewer consumers carry cash, offering cashless, contactless and mobile payment options is an obvious step forward to improving the customer experience. A recent Mastercard survey found that 82% of respondents were happier with contactless payments as a ‘cleaner’ way to pay, and 72% confirmed they’d continue to use contactless after the pandemic.

There are other vending machine innovations to explore, too. These include touchless technology and mobile integration, which allow consumers to use their mobile phones to operate vending machines, further reducing points of contact.

Take a look at how we can help you develop digital and contactless vending machine solutions by reading our vending application brief.

Robotics automation and collaborative robots (cobots)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, robotics solutions have been deployed across multiple sectors in response to the pandemic. In fact, National Geographic says 33 countries put robotics to work in the fight against COVID-19. From telehealth provisioning and enhanced patient communications to sterilising hospital wards and meal delivery systems, cobots have worked alongside our nurses and doctors for many months now.

Beyond healthcare, warehousing and e-commerce markets have also benefitted from cobots. An increase in online buying placed pressure on warehouses at a time when staff availability was reduced for a number of reasons. And the need to social distance made warehouse operations more complex. Cobots were the perfect solution, taking on repetitive, heavy-lifting tasks and relieving employees to focus on more complex work that made it easier to meet fulfilment goals as order volume skyrocketed.

And while the motivation for implementing cobots in 2020 may have been to enhance social distancing or plug a resource gap, warehouses will be unlikely to remove them from the front lines, having felt the benefits of increased productivity among its human workforce.

For more detail on how robotics automation is becoming a growth market for OEMs, read this blog post and take a look at our robotics application brief.

Smart lockers

As e-commerce continues to grow, we’re seeing new demand for smart lockers that facilitate social distancing and provide a convenient pick-up alternative for consumers who don’t want to go into a storefront – or to a store at all. In 2020, the global smart parcel locker market was worth around $644.7 million, but it is set to grow to $1438.9 million by 2027 at a CAGR of 12.2%.

Retailers are also waking up to the advantages of smart lockers, as evidenced by a recent survey released by Package Concierge. Sixty-six percent of retailers who don’t currently use lockers realise they can improve the customer experience, and a third of those currently using them expect to install more lockers over the next 12-18 months.

Warehouse operators are even starting to use smart lockers for more hygienic and efficient check-in, check-out, storage and charging of shared workforce devices. And this is an application that can be widely embraced by any organization that owns a fleet of shared mobile computers, printers, tablets and wearables, to include those in healthcare, government, manufacturing, energy and more.

Indeed, in a world where reducing touch points and human contact is key, technology comes to the rescue again.

Contactless payments

We’ve been working with OEMs for many years to enhance payment solutions that help reduce queues and abandoned baskets. We’ve also been looking for new payment options that can increase customer satisfaction in stores, restaurants, and leisure facilities. The pandemic has led many of these stores and venues to offer contactless payments that help keep transactions cleaner and socially distanced.

A recent National Retail Federation survey showed that one in every five consumers has made a contactless payment for the first time during the pandemic, and around 57% said they will continue to do so. Meanwhile, payment limits have increased to make it easier for consumers to spend more using contactless methods, and some shops are even refusing to take cash. These changes are likely to be permanent, meaning there are long-lasting contactless payment opportunities out there for the taking.

Read one of our recent blog posts by Zebra’s Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer, Jeff Schmitz, to see how contactless payments can deliver a safe and satisfying customer experience.

Meet Demand Quickly

The key to success is speed, but not at the cost of product quality. By working with an OEM partner like Zebra, you’ll benefit from market-leading technology, product choice and specialist expertise. This can significantly reduce your product development lifecycle whilst maintaining quality, allowing you to gain a competitive edge on all fronts.

No matter what opportunity you’re maximising on, we’ve got the perfect scan engine for you. Just use our product selector tool to help you find the right one or contact Zebra to discuss your requirements.


Retail, Hospitality, Public Sector, Banking,
Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is the Global Director of Sales for the OEM business within Zebra Technologies which in turn is part of Zebra’s Global Sales & Services organisation. Richard is responsible for the sales of key component technologies which Zebra manufactures and sells to a hugely diverse range of customers around the world who build these components into their own final products. 

He has a team of 40 specialist sales and support people around the world. 

Richard has worked in the IT & Telecommunications Industry for almost 30 years and has held sales, management and senior management rolls in a number of global organisations, including Elcom International, Symbol Technologies, Panasonic Computer Products, General Dynamics and Motorola Solutions. Prior to his current role within Zebra he ran the OEM Business with in EMEA and prior to that the Government and Public Sector business and the Mobile Carrier partners business for Zebra in the UK & Ireland. He has also sat on the board of several industry bodies and charities. 


Richard is married with two children aged 16 and 19 and lives in Worcestershire, UK. 

He is a keen advocate of diversity and collaboration in the workplace. 

Zebra Developer Blog
Zebra Developer Blog

Are you a Zebra Developer? Find more technical discussions on our Developer Portal blog.

Zebra Story Hub
Zebra Story Hub

Looking for more expert insights? Visit the Zebra Story Hub for more interviews, news, and industry trend analysis.

Search the Blog
Search the Blog

Use the below link to search all of our blog posts.