Ecommerce Isn’t Just For Websites – Threadless Vending Machines

by Joseph Flaherty on November 27, 2011

Coinstar has partnered with Threadless, the crowdsourced Tshirt company to test out kiosks containing their stylish products. It’s an interesting move and exciting to see from a company whose major claim to fame in the past was collecting the money you found in your couch cushions. It’s a good reminder that “ecommerce” doesn’t have to occur on a website like

Ecommerce currently makes up between 5-10% of retail spending, but I wonder if we are in a transitional phase much like when early cars looked like horse carriages? Current ecommerce websites are essentially better versions of catalogs, but a new crop of companies and experiments hint at the future. Square, Tesco’s QR/subway experiment, Apple’s self check out, and other innovations suggest a future where ecommerce is more of a “Bricks & Clicks” or “Clicks & Mortar” experience.

Retail is going to shrink and proliferate. Coinstar is also the company behind RedBox (Netflix’s retail competitor). Blockbuster was once the undisputed king of the video rental industry but was squeezed by Netflix on the digital side and Redbox at retail. If your product doesn’t need to be touched or demonstrated and it is relatively small, your retail footprint is going to shrink dramatically. This is bad for retail clerks, but exciting for entrepreneurs because it could become easier to sell products in places that you couldn’t previously.

On a completely unrelated note, this is a presentation I made unmasking the secrets of winning a Threadless design competition.

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  • Alex Gourley

    As I’ve discussed with you, vending machines seem like they should be a coming micro trend. Cheaper touch screen tech, improved internet reach, changing consumer expectations around price and service (both down)…

    I still think someone could vend cables / adapters and replace half of radio shack’s business. 

  • Joseph Flaherty

    Totally agree with you re: RadioShack – That is a great example where the clerks usually know nothing about anything beyond cell phone plans and the product can be easily packed up. The micro trend is right on – I had no idea CoinStar was also RedBox. They never get discussed in the tech press vis a vis Netflix and media disruption.

  • Anonymous

    “crowsourced” – just had a mental image of crows making tees… would make a good advert.

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