Accustomed to the instant gratification of ATMs, iPads and high-speed internet, consumers now increasingly seek novel ways to shop—and, in turn, are re-defining the retail landscape. Be it online, via curated retail web portals or through automated retail stores (aka vending machines), the concept of self-service has become both streamlined and sophisticated. Though leading a marked departure from the classic brick-and-mortar, person-to-person shopping experience, these tech-savvy retailers and entrepreneurs are betting on easy access’ burgeoning future.
Following successful launches at The Standard Hotels’ downtown L.A. and New York outposts, Quiksilver has again partnered with the chain to introduce vending machines to its Miami Beach and Hollywood locations. Stocked with $75 board shorts colorfully inspired by the different locales, the vending machines now also offer Standard by Quicksilver bikinis and sunglasses (both $88) as well as Shiseido skincare products ($28 and $32). Those forgetting their trunks, looking for something new or simply down for an impromptu dip now have a readily accessible option at their fingertips. Ditto anyone unable to make it poolside this season, as the products will also be available via Quiksilver.com and ShopTheStandard.com.
Convenience, of course, plays a key role in purchasing decisions, saving consumers a trip to the store or an excursion outside of one’s home-away-from-home. Come late fall, a new line of luxury vending machines, U*tique, is slated to appear in boutique hotel lobbies, gym locker rooms as well as nightclub and airport lounges. Stocked with an array of high end skincare products, makeup, gadgets and even books, the machines’ offerings will be curated by each venue. Anyone about to catch a flight, for instance, might score travel-size goods from Malin + Goetz, while gym bunnies could procure a pair of headphones or a Phix natural energy supplement. In order to make the transactions as seamless as possible, U*tique’s touch screen interface will also offer video demos, label profiles and ingredient listings.
Granted, not all easy access retailing comes courtesy of vending machines these days. Launched by the team behind Tank, digital fashion mag Because.com enables users to peruse and purchase a curated selection of clothing, jewelry, accessories and beauty products. Shot in 30-45 second editorial-style video clips, the goods appear on models, from a variety of angles, accompanied by music (picture a Helmut Lang crochet knit dress sported by a blonde dancing to The xx). In lieu of flipping to a print pub’s back page market listings, users can click on a link to “Buy Now,” read more about the designer or even purchase the song they just heard on iTunes.
If such easy access retailing—à la U*tique and Because.com—indeed proliferates, it can, at least in part, be chalked up to basic economics: vending machines are essentially portable, less expensive to operate and maintain than traditional stores and don’t require sales associates. Online magazines like Because.com, meanwhile, link consumers directly with vendors and don’t necessitate costly shoots or photographers. And from a shopping perspective, anyone on the fence about going the self-service route can take heed knowing they’re not entirely alone—a friend’s trusted e-opinion is still only a click or snap away.