Valentine's Day is the busiest day of the year for American florists. It's the day that Keefe's Flowers in Casper, Wyoming is most grateful to have 24 Hour Florist, an automated kiosk that allows customers to purchase floral arrangements using cash or a payment card.
Kiosks play an important role for not only florists, but merchants offering greeting cards, candy and other gifts.
"Love it, love it, love, it," said Melanie Bradford, owner of Keefe's Flowers, which has used a flower kiosk since 1999. Two years ago, the company replaced its first flower kiosk with a new unit from 24 Hour Florist that features a 17-inch touchscreen.
The 24 Hour Florist machine, 92 inches high by 97 inches wide by 32 inches deep, enables independent florists like Keefe's Flowers to provide the convenience that allows them to compete with mass merchants. The kiosk provides convenience and the ability to meet impulse buys. The machine's 17-inch touchscreen also serves as an advertising billboard for the florist shop.
Touchscreen shows videos
The touchscreen shows videos when a customer isn't using it to make a purchase. The video can be customized to promote the local florist. 24 Hour Florist programs seasonal videos automatically. There is also an instructional video for customers on how to use the kiosk.
The unit has 16 doors and accepts cash, payment cards and vouchers. An audio recording greets customers as they begin the purchase process.
The machine's software allows the florist to see in real time what has sold and how long each item has been in the kiosk. The florist can create a work order to replace items. When the driver arrives with a replacement item, the kiosk walks them through using the kiosk to make the replacement.
According to 24 Hour Florist Inc., three to four sales per day at an average $25 price will cover all kiosk, inventory, Internet and location costs and return a profit of more than $300 in one year.
Valentine's Day sales are swift
On Valentine's Day, the machine at Keefe's Flowers has to be serviced every hour. "We have to just constantly stock it. That thing just sells like crazy," Bradford said. There have not been a lot of service issues with the machine.
The kiosk is in a separate room in the floral shop that has its own entrance and is accessible 24 hours a day. The new unit paid for itself in one year. "It's amazing," Bradford said. "It's really cool. It emails you every time you make a sale. Our customers love it."
The kiosk's main benefit to the shop is being able to offer flowers outside of regular business hours. Customers can get flowers at the last minute.
There are also customers that come in and use the kiosk during regular shop hours. This gives the staff time to assist other customers in the shop.
The kiosk does $2,000 in sales per month on average, Bradford said.
Keefe's Flowers pays a monthly fee to access the machine's website. 24 Hour Florist handles all service and maintenance.
The system's management software does not integrate with the shop's point of sale software. "We have to have a separate credit card company, a separate phone line," Bradford said.
Flower kiosks evolve
Bradford got the idea for a flower kiosk from a florist trade publication. The company's first kiosk in 1999 came from Bush Refrigeration. 24 Hour Florist acquired Bush Refrigeration's inventory when the company closed a few years ago.
The machine, which is made from wood with sheet metal overlay and thermo pane glass, has also provided a competitive advantage since none of the other floral shops have one. "When our other one went down, I really wanted to get another one," Bradford said. "It's just super cool to be known as the flower shop with a vending machine."
"To miss some of those sales would just kill me now," she said. "I would feel bad for people that can't get their flowers when we're closed."
Bradford has considered placing a kiosk at an airport, a hospital or a shopping mall.
Customers can custom design Valentine's Day cards with Kodak Alaris photo kiosks.
Busy day for photography kiosks
Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times for greeting card creation using the Kodak Alaris Inc. Kodak Picture Kiosks, according to Catherine Meihofer, director of marketing communications. Valentine's Day falls right behind Christmas, Mother's Day and graduation days for Kodak Alaris.
"You can use images from your smartphone, either connecting to the kiosk via cable or transferring images through Wi-Fi to the kiosk using the Kodak Moments app," she said. Cards can be created in various sizes – 4-by-6 inches, 6-by-8 inches and 5-by-7 inches.
"This Valentine's Day we are offering 25 percent off all photo cards at the kiosk. This offer is valid through the 14th since it's easy to create cards in minutes."
Kodak Picture Kiosks are available at CVS, Target, Sam's Club, Walmart Canada and various regional pharmacy chains, Meihofer said.
SouveNEAR, a vending machine that dispenses selections of locally sourced, artist made objects such as jewelry, t-shirts, gifts and gourmet food, stocked Gin Labs by Snake Oil KC at the Kansas City International Airport for Valentine's Day. It's an infusion kit with botanicals and juniper berries to make gin for cocktails. "We always carry an 'original' variety of the Gin Labs, but for Valentine's Day we stocked the Lover’s Lab including aphrodisiac infusions: Bouquet, a floral blend; and Love potion, a cacao and strawberry blend," said owners Tiffany King and Suzanne Southard via email.
Not for men only
"It's not just men who procrastinate when it comes to Valentine's Day," said Frank Olea, CEO of Olea Kiosks Inc., a kiosk manufacturer that makes gift card kiosks. "Take a look at the greeting card aisle on February 13 and you'll see almost as many women there as men. And stores like Victoria's Secret, Bass Pro Shop, Macy's and others are packed. That's where gift card kiosks can make a huge difference for retailers."
The gift card kiosks allow last minute shoppers to buy their gift cards quickly, without waiting in the long lines that may be queued up at that counter.
"They provide a great option for someone who doesn't know what his or her Valentine may want," Olea said. "If my wife wants to get me something for my photography hobby, for example, I'll have to tell her what I want or she'll have to guess. With a gift card kiosk, she can buy a card for my favorite camera shop, whether the kiosk is located at a big box retailer or in the store itself. Plus, I get the added pleasure of taking myself shopping."
With Olea's printing technology, gift cards can be customized with a favorite poem, love note, or even a photograph of something meaningful to the recipient, Olea added.
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