Bridging the retail gap with technology for a more inclusive society

ATLAS Vending – the largest food and beverage vending operator across Malaysia and Singapore, was keen to improve accessibility and inclusivity in each consumer’s experience, and thus explored new ways to focus on consumers with special needs. In line with UN SDG 11 and 16 that promote efforts towards a more inclusive society, the company used innovative automated retail technology to enhance accessibility in a collaboration with the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB), launching the first Braille enabled vending machine in Malaysia. The initiative also created awareness on the daily experiences of the visually impaired community and generated empathy through the Braille-enabled vending machines.

In the inaugural rollout, 11 machines with special assistive features were deployed around key transit locations identified by MAB as those commonly used by visually impaired members of the community in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, which would help reach a concentrated pool of potential users – in this instance, the visually impaired people who visited the MAB headquarters for work, education or social purposes. The first Braille enabled vending machine in Malaysia was also recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records for its groundbreaking achievement. 

To highlight the technology’s uniqueness, the campaign included collaborations with influencers to generate conversations on assistive vending technology, optimising ATLAS Vending’s owned social media accounts, and creating a special experience for the media and influencers with a special media kit for dissemination. The special kit brought the Braille enabled vending machine experience to the media and influencers to pique their interest, using a mockup for a more experiential touch, in addition to seeing photos and videos and reading the news release.

The campaign garnered a total of 118 pieces of coverage, and was able to enhance awareness of how ATLAS Vending’s technology could transform life for visually impaired Malaysians and how automated retail technology held potential for improving the shopping experience for people with special needs. The campaign also helped position ATLAS Vending as an innovative and inclusive company that prioritised improving accessibility for potential customers, with sound technology to spearhead and pioneer innovative offerings within the vending sector.

ATLAS Vending received positive feedback from MAB’s management team as well as members, plus enquiries on other ways it could extend the accessibility of vending machines, such as by placing wheelchair friendly machines at the Malaysia Paralympic Sports Excellence Centre. This showed that ATLAS Vending was now perceived as an inclusive company that can provide accessibility to different communities with specific needs.

The publicity campaign for the Braille enabled vending machines was a holistic one that began from documenting the development process, where ATLAS Vending’s technical team worked from scratch in close collaboration with the MAB team for guidance, to ensure that the specialised features would work as intended. This also laid the groundwork for future partnerships to develop innovative technical upgrades to the machines.

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