The bright lit walls are filled with rows of small rectangular pieces. Each piece features its own unique design, ranging from swirling flowers and geometric patterns to the strokes of colour of urban modern paintings. But this is no art gallery. Instead of paintings in frames, the shelves are lined with colourful phone casings all in a neat display.
Walking into any Just In Case concept store feels very much like entering an art exhibit. Their newest store opened just last month at the Atria Shopping Gallery with a whole new range of different phone covers to appeal the Damansara crowd. Just In Case combines a strong protective casing with artistic designs to create a whole new concept they call, ‘techsessorize’. It stands at the very core of the Just In Case brand—the idea that you can match your daily outfits (or OOTD, if you will) with their mobile phone casings.
“It’s amazing what accessories can do to make an outfit stand out. We’re accustomed to using watches, jewelry and hats make our outfit ‘pop’, so why not phone casings as well? After all, your phone is something that you carry with you wherever you go,” said the co-founders Esther Chew and Liew Ping Xuan.
The “Light Bulb” Moment
Always moving with the times and bringing something new to each release seems to be a core part of not only the Just In Case concept, but also its name. The wordplay is intentional, Esther Chew admitted, adding that they wanted something that was both fresh and catchy.
“The ‘Just In’ part of our brand name refers to a new concept of using handphone casings as a fashion accessory and also because when we say ‘Just In’, we mean that we want to constantly bring in new and fresh designs on a regular basis,” she explained. ‘Case’ of course refers to the fashionable and quality phone casings that can be matched with any outfit.
Beginning as an online store, Just In Case participated in bazaars and local flea markets to reach out to their customers. The original inception of Just In Case struck the co-founders when Esther was lamenting to Ping Xuan about how she could never find any phone cases that were interesting; the cheaper ones were too plain and the nicer ones were too expensive.
“This was a ‘light-bulb’ moment for us as we thought, why don’t we come up with phone cases that were not only unique, but affordable and of high quality as well?”
Tapping into a previously unexplored niche, Esther and Ping Xuan focused on setting themselves apart from other mass produced phone casings by offering unique designs on each phone casing.
Online To Offline For The Sake Of Trust
Maintaining an online presence was easier than expanding into retail but the question soon arose on how they could gain the trust of consumers regarding the quality of their products.
“Consumers like to have a look and feel of products before purchasing,” Esther explained, “To show the quality of our products, we therefore needed a physical store. Many of our customers who purchase from our retail stores usually will shop on our website as well after they are rest assured of our quality.”
To gain the trust of their customers, they themselves too had to place trust in their business; thus they took a leap of faith by quitting their jobs and focused on expanding into retail.
Opening a brick and mortar store brought a whole set of new challenges. Customers wanted to be sure that there was something new, fresh and different waiting for them each time they visit a Just In Case concept store. Collections are updated once every fortnight with the added spice of a new artist or brand collaboration once a month. Ultimately both the online store and physical store complement one another.
“Our aim is not to excel in just either retail or online, but to excel both ways as we believe that there is an opportunity for growth in Malaysia’s e-commerce market as it is still new and maturing, thus we want to be ready when online shopping has become a norm,” they told Vulcan Post.
“Many of our customers who first purchase from us at our physical store make their next purchase through our website so that is still a good thing for us. Our physical stores attract new and potential customers, besides serving our current and existing customers,” said Esther.
It also helps that even with their venture into the offline market, Just In Case has maintained their products at the same prices as they were online and the same as when they first started selling in bazaars. Their phone casings are mostly priced at RM49 (which isn’t bad for branded phone casings that is of good quality); customised casings are RM69; and their artist series are RM79.
“We want to keep the price that way so that customers have the opportunity to purchase a variety of designs to mix and match rather than just sticking to 1 if our price is too high.”
Like many others, I wondered how well does this concept work for Just In Case. Most of us would either buy a really strong long-lasting cover or a really cheap but boring replaceable one from the pasar malam (yours truly is one of the latter group). I was interested in knowing if customers really do buy into the idea of changing and matching their phone casings with their outfits.
To get customers to understand the Just In Case concept, they use social media to post OOTD inspirations so customers get an idea of how they can match their phone case with their outfit. Esther Chew told us that they have gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers and things are moving in the right direction. “In such a short period of time since we started the brand, we have gained at least 30% of returning buyers and we are hopeful that this number will increase.”
Who would have thought that a phone cover could be a canvas for young artistic talents to show their skills? But any blank space can be used for art as Just In Case has shown us with the artist Series, a collaboration effort with young local artist and designers. Previously Just In Case worked with Haris Rashid to come up with phone cover designs of animals in an almost art-nouveau style. Their latest collaborative effort is with designer Soofang, whose unique urban design has brought a whole fresh and funky vibe to the phone covers they decorate.
“We wanted to create a unique platform for the local talent to promote their work because we believe that there is just so much talent in Malaysia and other parts of Asia that has yet to be discovered.” Just In Case does not only work with artists but also illustrators, graphic designers, brands and magazines. “As long as you have an idea, we can definitely work something out. We are open to all ideas.” So artist and designers, if you want an alternative way to publicise your works, the back of a pone casing might be a good place to start!
Mindset, Philosophy and Team-centricness
Have Fun and Be Passionate is the motto which Just In Case runs by. Esther has some advice for young entrepreneurs interested in launching their own startup. “Not only do you have to be mentally, emotionally and physically prepared, but having passion and loving what you do will always help you go the extra mile,” they wisely said.
And, of course, teamwork plays an important part is the success of any venture. The creative team spends hours working together and brain-storming to bring better designs and service, even if they have to lose a few winks along the way.
For Esther and Ping Xuan, in the end, it all boils down to team spirit and a love for what they do, “Without our team, our customers and for everyone else who believed in the brand, there wouldn’t be Just In Case so we are always grateful the support we have.”
All images are credited to Just In Case.