Redefining retail, the old-fashioned way
By Lum Ka Kay March 1, 2016
- Disrupting the retail sector with automated stores and QR shopping
- First 3D-enabled virtual vending machine according to Malaysia Book of Records
FOUR men came together to provide Malaysia with a new shopping experience through … a vending machine?
Yes, a vending machine, although one of the founding partners, Jasvinder Singh, prefers the term ‘automated store.’
Jasvinder, along with Leon Chong, Ahmad Fauzan and William Du, founded Eye Port Sdn Bhd in October 2014 to develop Trendy County, an omni-channel retail platform that combines e-commerce with automated stores placed at high-traffic locations.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) in Petaling Jaya recently, Jasvinder says the idea came about in 2013 when the smartphone penetration rate was growing in Malaysia.
“We wanted to be different – and this was back in 2013, when more and more people were going online with their smartphones. E-commerce was also picking up in Malaysia, but retail was still being done the conventional way.
“So we asked ourselves what were the new ways of shopping that we could introduce to Malaysians, and we came up with two ideas: Automated stores and QR (Quick Response Code) shopping.
“We’re disrupting the retailing space because we’re operating in a smaller space with lower rental fees, and we don’t need a salesperson to manage the automated machine – hence, the lower cost is transferred to consumers,” he argues.
Currently, Trendy County automated stores sell sunglasses and tech accessories like power banks, smartphone charging cables, phone covers, and memory cards.
“These are necessities that people look for when they’re on the go,” says Jasvinder.
Eye Port is also looking to get toy and cosmetics merchants to come on board.
“Currently, 75% of our customers are male, and we want to increase our appeal with female customers as well,” says Jasvinder.
Currently, the products it carries range in price from RM10 to RM299 (from less than US$3 to about US$70, at current rates), but it intends to bring in more expensive products like smartphones and tablet computers once it has established brand confidence among consumers.
The online store is not Eye Port’s primary focus though, acting merely as an additional channel to offload goods, according to Jasvinder.
“It is not our primary focus, but in this digital era, an online store is something we need to have,” he quips.
QR code technology helps tackle one limitation of vending machines – pardon, automated stores – and that is the maximum product size.
“We recognise this issue and we want to overcome this limitation with QR codes. Bigger products will come in as a QR code – all you have to do is scan it and then pay, and you can have the product shipped to you directly or you can collect it at selected counters,” he said.
The target audience for Trendy County’s products are people up to 40 years old, according to Jasvinder.
“This is a group of people who are willing to invest in smartphones and upgrade them on a yearly basis, which also means that they are more comfortable shopping online and more open to new technologies.
“People are looking for connectivity, convenience and a new experience. And our platform aims to provide all that,” he declares.
Customer-centric, omni-channel retail
According to Jasvinder, the Trendy County customer care team is committed to providing a response within three hours via its customer care line, and all products are backed with a six-month warranty.
“Customer service in Malaysia is just a thing on paper, it’s not done wholeheartedly,” he argues.
The Trendy County stores come with a 3D ‘try-on feature’ so that customers can, for example, “try on sunglasses” they like before they make their purchase.
“That feature landed us a spot on The Malaysia Book of Records as being the ‘First 3D-Enabled Virtual Vending Machine’,” Jasvinder proclaims.
In the pipeline
As of now, Trendy County has five automated stores in the Klang Valley – two in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), and one each in Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus, Subang Airport, and the Immigration Complex in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.
Jasvinder says Eye Port will be placing another six Trendy County automated stores in KLIA and the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre by April. It is targeting to have at least 30 automated stores up-and-running in the Klang Valley by year-end.
The startup will also be expanding to the states of Penang in the north and Johor in the south “in the near future,” he says.
Jasvinder says Eye Port managed to secure pre-seed funding of RM2.5 million (US$593,000) from Vision Venturers Management Bhd last August. These funds are being used to enhance its product and for marketing.
The company is also looking at a franchise model.
“Say you’re an entrepreneur who wants to sell something – you can now sell it via our automated machine, where you can leave the machine unmanned yet still monitor everything from your phone,” says Jasvinder.
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