Entrepreneur

You'd Annoy The Co-Founder If You Call His M'sian Startup's Product A "Vending Machine"

“Oh, so it’s like a vending machine for travellers?” I exclaimed.

The co-founder, Raja Ahmad Fauzan was not amused.

Trendy County is a service that removes the need to employ a human cashier altogether.

The team calls it “omni-channel retail”.

Fauzan described Trendy County as such:

“Trendy County is established to sell products via a self-service retail platform designed to showcase brands and products at fast-paced locations. We combine a traditional shopping experience with that of online shopping.”

With a small team of 10 in their fold, the team looks into disrupting how retail works.

“As our less-sophisticated ancestor, vending machines and Trendy County have some common DNA: self-service, a boxy layout, operating 24/7 and can’t survive without electricity,” said Fauzan.

Not a vending machine? Part 1
Not a vending machine? Part 2

The idea itself isn’t that new (countries like Japan are the byword when it comes to vending machine innovation), but their machines are somewhat unique in Malaysia.

The team—working hard to dispel the preconception we have towards low-quality vending machine items—sells items like makeup, to collectibles from Hasbro and Mattel, to even Lee Cooper Aviators.

They hope to gain enough user trust to eventually be able to sell higher-tier items like smartphones and tablets.

“If you can swipe and tap on a smartphone or tablet, you can buy from our automated stores. It is just as easy.”

“What’s even better is that all the products are displayed as they are. As soon as payment is made, they are dropped into the compartment below, you pick it up and go. What you see is what you get. No waiting, no fuss,” said co-founder Jasvinder in a press release.

He says this in reference to how there’s still space for retail today. While e-commerce provides convenience, they still can’t beat the instant gratification you can get from retail.

A customer trying out the screen / Image Credit: Trendy County

In fact, the team would argue that they’re redefining e-commerce as well. With the ability to make purchases online and to be able to collect at a Trendy County machine, Fauzan says that they combine hassle-free online shopping with the instant gratification of traditional shopping.

Their machines can be found in:

  • KLIA
  • KLCC Convention Centre (digital machine & physical outlet)
  • Subang Airport
  • Immigration Centre Jalan Duta
  • UM Hospital
  • UKM Hospital
  • Coming soon in:  LRT stations, Senai Airport JB, KL City Walk

And for pre-purchasing, the Trendy County app is also available on both iOS and Google Play (beta). You can also make purchases online from their website.

While it won’t replace all of the possible retail outlets available, I do see the appeal of this machine.

Developers of hobby items, and other similarly lower-turnover businesses would probably find that Trendy County:

  • could be more profitable
  • in the long-run, helps cut the middleman costs, which will then also benefit consumers
  • is not tied to the normal 10–10 operation hours of normal stores.

Since they are AR enabled with cameras that have recording capabilities, they can easily collect data about purchases. Such data could be useful to marketers and manufacturers, though as a potential customer, there are some qualms.

It could be argued that it’s no different from a CCTV at a store recording as customers go in and out. However, if you use the app, the makers will know exactly who bought exactly what exactly when, coupled with a face/photo.

Not everyone might be comfortable having such information in the hands of others. Of course, this just means that you have to choose if you want to make your purchases there.

On the positive note, the AR feature could also be a fun way to draw in customers through gamification or additional interaction.

Customers ‘trying on’ aviators on the machine using AR (Image Credit: Trendy County)

But they do say that sometimes, the human touch is necessary. In this case, a machine might not have the convincing power that a good salesman may have as well.

I can also see the possibility of users tampering with the machine to be able to get the higher-tier items. Then again, items can also be shoplifted from normal retail stores.

The hot trend right now is to move online and a lot has been said about how malls everywhere now are dying a slow death.

Time might prove me wrong in the long-run, but I personally don’t see retail in Malaysia dying anytime soon.

Rebrand and rethink their place in the ecosystem? Sure. But, we haven’t even caught up to what retail is able to do overseas.

This machine won’t replace all retail, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these around.

And as an added bonus, the folks at Trendy County are currently doing a giveaway in conjunction with the upcoming Raya celebrations. You can find more info about the giveaway here.

 

 

Feature Image Credit: Trendy County

 

 

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