Customers love the speed and convenience of shopping from these Zoom Systems machines.
Sodas, snacks … and self tanner? While the first two are items you’d expect to see in an airport vending machine, the latter might seem like a stretch. But thanks to 3floz, travelers can purchase their favorite personal care products in TSA-approved travel sizes, right from a machine at the airport.
The New York-based company started selling travel-sizeproducts online about six and a half years ago when founders Alexi Mintz and Kate Duff were frequently traveling for business. They found it hard to track down travel sizes of their usual beauty products without wasting time going to many different retailers, and most airports certainly didn’t carry them. This often meant bringing full-size bottles and checking luggage, which became a hassle.
“There was no place to really get products like that all in one place,” Duff says. Thus the idea for 3floz was born. Both women quit their day jobs to focus on the new endeavor.
“We were those girls working and living out of our apartments and shipping inventory,” Duff admits. “We started with a website, and had a lot of press out of the gate. We had a segment on The View in the first few months and it crashed our site.”
Their website, 3floz.com, carries everything from showergels to hair removal cream to fragrances, from brands such as Bliss, Dermalogica, Jack Black, Murad, Peter Thomas Roth and many other higher-end companies, along with mass market brands like Burt’s Bees and Yes to Carrots.
Since 3floz targets travelers, Duff and Mintz decided a natural next step was to create a footprint at airports. But when they looked at airport retail, they found the cost to be prohibitive. Enter automated retail.
“What’s so exciting about automated retail is it bridges the gap between online and brick and mortar. It’s not as expensive on a monthly basis and gives you the tech aspect, like having a website. We can collect consumer data and also interact with our consumers; it’s the best of both worlds,” says Duff.
3floz partnered with Zoom Systems and started rolling out vending machines in August 2013, with its first three at Las Vegas McCarran Airport. The company currently has 19 locations in 13 airports across the United States. Seventy percent of their business is now in automated retail.
The machines, which can hold from 25 to 85-plus products, are all custom designed. “The hardware is always the same, but the functionality can be customized on each machine,” Duff notes.
The machines switch inventory depending on the season, such as more giftable items around the holidays, and sunscreen in summer months. Bestselling products include Yes to Carrots facial towelettes, Living Proof hair care, Jack Black for men products and Supersmile toothpaste
The machines will include razors in the near future. “Forty percent of our business is men. We find a lot of women pack and plan for travel and men forget stuff,”
When it comes to strategic goals, Duff said automated retail fits right into their plans. “Our goal is to have as many locations as possible, and build brand awareness and educate consumers at the same time,” she says. “This makes it easy to have a physical footprint in locations that are super-high traffic where you couldn’t even do a pop-up or a standard lease. It’s also a cool marketing
In terms of marketing and data collection,3floz collects information like customer email addresses, gender, demographic information and if there are specific questions a brand wants to ask, those can be included as well.
“We can send out newsletters and coupons, and let customers know when we have new locations. It opens a dialogue and we can find out what other products they’re looking for,” Duff says.
Down the road
“We’re going to continue expanding to airports, malls and university campuses over the next year and half,” Duff says.
When asked what they’ve learned about working in automated retail, the biggest takeaway was the consumer acceptance of this technology. “What’s really interesting is there’s no real price resistance,” Duff says. “We can sell $2 to $250 items. Especially if you look at companies like Best Buy, who sell iPads [from vending machines]. Consumers are now ready and comfortable shopping from those platforms, where maybe they weren’t five years ago.”