SINGAPORE - Long queues and loose change will no longer be a hassle for customers, with 16 cashless vending machines at a newly opened SPH Buzz convenience store.
Officially launched on Monday (Nov 27), the store - a collaboration between SPH Buzz and Mastercard - is located at the Cynergy Gas Station, a petrol kiosk in Old Toh Tuck Road in Jurong. It has both manned counters and self-serviced machines.
These are the first vending machines in Singapore to have QR code scanners for payment through a smartphone app, said the equipment's manufacturer Auresys.
Other vending machines use card readers, which require the physical presence of a credit card, said Mr Raymond Yap, managing director of Auresys.
Mastercard's executive vice-president of market development, Mr Chang Yunsok, said the moveis part of the push to a cashless society. Mr Chang was at the store's official launch and demonstration tour on Monday.
Transactions will be safer, and more secure and convenient, said Mr Chang. "Customers don't even need to carry around their cash any more," he added.
Customers simply have to download the "Vending powered by Masterpass" app to scan a QR code on the machines, select their items, and pay for themfrom their smartphones.
The mobile app is available for download on the Google Play store and will soon be available on the Apple App store.
Customers can choose from an array of vending machine products: local or imported snacks, drinks, instant meals, beauty products, over-the-counter medicine, phone accessories and small gifts.
Prices range from $1.20 for a canned drink to $248 for a Fitbit activity tracker.
The store also has a manned cafe selling bread and local food. It also provides services such as cash withdrawal and the sale of pre-paid top-up cards, tourist attraction tickets, and more.
Transactions at the vending machines take less than a minute on average, to two minutes at the most.
Mr Yap said the reliability of the machines is important.
"When (supplies at) the machines go out of stock, other vendors have no visual. Our machines have a central management software that notifies them where to go, which machine to fill, and what products to bring," he said.
If products are not dispensed, there will be automatic refunds, he added, eliminating the need for vendors to go down to repair the machines.
SPH Buzz chairman Chua Wee Phong said that with the hybrid concept store, labour costs can be cut by half.
"Manpower is so expensive these days... after a while, this will be a good transit from purely manpower-operated kiosks to half-man, half-machine (stores). Eventually, when everything goes cashless, these machines will be able to replace manpower," he said.
Ms Audrey Joan Yap, franchisee of the Buzz hybrid convenience store, echoed this. She said having vending machines solves her manpower allocation problems, especially on the night shift.
Currently, the machines support both cashless and cash payment.
Older customers to the new store, Mr Chang said, will have to get used to more of these transactions in the drive towards a cashless society. He added that as consumers get used to the behaviour, it will become natural over time.
Mr Spencer Tan, deputy general manager of SPH Buzz Convenience Stores, added: "There has to be an educational process. We have tasted success with our own senior citizen cashiers, who are able to use apps to provide services like cash withdrawals."
SPH Buzz plans to have 200 stores, up from the current 60, in the next few years, with a mix of normal and hybrid stores around the country.