Help Yourself: Kiosks Expand Roll Out in Retail

The adage that good things come to those who wait applies to self-service kiosks in retailing. Increased merchant acceptance, heightened customer demand, and enhanced access to information that helps drive purchasing decisions are among the reasons why retailers are increasingly rolling out self-service solution.
According to a study by IHL Consulting Group, self-service kiosks are no longer just for large chains and big-box players. In the study IHL conducted last year, consumers are on pace to spend more than $525 billion at self-checkout lanes, ticketing kiosks and other self-service machines, an increase from $438 billion in 2006.
"The revenue generated by self-service transactions should continue this pace of growth in the coming years," says Greg Buzek, IHL Consulting's president. IHL estimates that transactions rung up at self-service stations will rise 18 percent in 2008, with demand for self-checkout systems and other self-service applications pushing the dollar value of self-service transactions to nearly $1.3 trillion by 2011.
As Kiosks Get Smaller Their Footprint Expands
Kiosks rank at the top of the list of self-service systems finding new homes in retail stores. Applications for kiosks include product specifications, merchandise location within a store, dissemination of coupons and other offers, loyalty card information, Web site access for special orders and out-of-stock items, and the completion of requests for credit and credit-line increases on store credit cards.
Miniaturization, which is allowing for the integration of complex hardware -- for example, payment acceptance hardware and sophisticated printers -- as well as for the use of kiosks in smaller spaces, is another factor spurring kiosk growth in retail.
IBM is feeding into the miniaturization trend with a recently introduced, ultra-compact self-service kiosk product line with built-in wireless capabilities and what it claims is an "industry-first" 19-inch screen. The IBM AnyPlace Kiosk wireless capability allows it to be deployed quickly and easily in almost any environment.
Enabled by a Sprint Mobile Broadband ExpressCard, or other wireless providers, consumers can connect to the Internet via kiosks inside stores and elsewhere. The IBM AnyPlace Kiosk product family also includes 17-inch and 15-inch models. A rich multi-media format on all three units encompasses full-motion video, high-quality audio, 3-D graphics and advanced infrared touch-screen technology.
As part of the product line, IBM has also rolled out a feature that enables the AnyPlace Kiosk to function as a flexible POS system. The solution leverages integrated wireless, optional WAN and a range of integrated touch screens.
Kiosks in Retail Go Together Like Wine and Cheese
An equally important factor in kiosks' growth is the debut of highly specialized kiosk applications. Under a joint venture operating as Wine Market Tech, WineMiner LLC ( and Southwest Georgia Technology Services have configured Wine Market Kiosk, a second-generation wine, recipe and cheese pairing kiosk.
The application pairs content from the consumer Web site with enterprise kiosk technology from Southwest Georgia Technology Services. Wine Market Kiosk enables retailers to select from a variety of four application modules to best suit their environment.
"By providing basic wine, cheese, recipes and meal match modules, each retailer can determine which features and functions best meet their distinct image," says Jon Holland, president, and Wine Market Kiosk.
The application is designed to be scalable to any retail environment and may be fully integrated with retailers' POS servers, ensuring that stores' wine inventory and prices are reflected on the kiosk.
The potential of kiosks to contribute to upselling is am important part of its growing appeal and suggestive selling is being built into kiosk applications. For instance, in a deli environment, kiosk software can be programmed to 'ask' shoppers if they want a pound of cheese to go with their pound of ham, or even suggest that the cheese is on sale. In a do-it-yourself environment, it can present a message to a customer who is buying.
The next wave in kiosks will likely involve increased deployment of applications that allow customers to interact with a single unit for multiple purposes, enhancing customer convenience and conserving hardware costs.
Giant Food Stores, based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has already jumped on this bandwagon with its Shopping Solutions kiosk system. It comprises IBM Anyplace kiosks equipped with Symbol Technologies MS 3207 MiniScan scanners and LCD digital media screens.
Customers can use the kiosks to perform a variety of tasks, ranging from placing deli or bakery orders to refilling prescriptions, to searching for and printing out recipes on printers from Practical Automation. Applications developed by Agilysis permit shoppers to access personalized offers and coupons (based on their purchasing histories and pulled from Giant's loyalty card database via a scan of their loyalty cards), as well as to look up prices on various products throughout the store.
This story is based on the story Help Yourself that first appeard in VSR magazine, an Edgell Communications publication.
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