Retail kiosks 101
Retail is a battlefield. You have endless options facing off against each other in combat, with the reward of customer money and loyalty on the line. As with any conflict, you need to have the right tactics, and the same principle applies to kiosks. You simply have to discover those tactics.
The first tactic to consider is space. How do you use space effectively considering the retailer and the kiosk? "Retail is size-centric. Each square foot is accounted for, and there is a charge associated with each square foot of floor space and shelf space. Kiosks that are built without this mindset are prone to be space hogs," said Ben Wheeler, director of marketing for kiosk manufacturer RedyRef Interactive Kiosks.
However, you still have to keep your overall design needs in mind. "A kiosk design is going to take up whatever space it needs to. There are so many factors like the hardware that it has to hold and safety. You can't put a large 55-inch touchscreen on top of something that only has a 12-inch deep base," said Olea Kiosks Inc. CEO Frank Olea.
Finding the correct space for your kiosk can be a challenge as those highly valuable ideal spots usually are already taken by other products, according to Olea. This means you have to become skilled at finding the next best spot and finding ways to make your kiosk stand out.
"When we designed BonTon's kiosks we added a tall, curved panel to the back of the kiosk and even finished the backside of the kiosk so that it could be placed in the middle of the store if needed. The tall, curved sign panel helped shoppers to find the kiosk from a distance," Olea said.
Sometimes, it can simply be challenging to keep your POS databases up to date for your retail kiosks. "Not every store carries the same product array as another store in the same chain," Wheeler said. "Prices change by demand and age. A product locator could be out of date all the time if the merchandizing team is moving locations without communicating."
One guiding principle to keep in mind is to start by determining the purpose of the kiosk and the needs of your customers. You need to limit each kiosk to one major function, according to Wheeler. Otherwise, you will create unnecessary lines, which will impede your kiosks' productivity.
In order to meet the needs of your customers, you need to have a good list of requirements and a team to carry out those requirements. For example, Olea is working with a retailer that prides itself on having superior customer service, so the retailer wants kiosks to emulate that degree of customer service. That can be a challenging standard to meet.
"If the kiosk doesn't do a good job, it won't apologize; the customer will simply stop using it," Olea said. "We've gone through several iterations of the user interface to perfect the experience. No matter how much work you do in a lab, it can never be a substitute for the real world."
It's a bad idea to rush customers through the development cycle, Olea explained, because every customer has different needs. In order to meet those needs, you have to test your kiosks and find key individuals within the retailler that understand the business deeply.
"I purposely seek out those people and campaign to have them on the team because that insight is something I can never get being on the outside looking in," Olea said. "These people exist in IT, store planning, marketing, etc. When they are on the team magic happens."
Finding a service that is not commonly offered by kiosks is another smart strategy. For example, Versatile Credit uses kiosks to offer users lending services from both primary and secondary lenders. "Our waterfall process allows stores to retain customers who have been refused primary credit," said Kevin Lawrence, vice president of sales and marketing for Versatile Credit.
Of course, in this battle, sometimes it also takes a healthy dose of grit, determination and persistence to win the day. "You'd never dream of buying new equipment only to let it rot away in the corner. Or ditch a new POS system and go back to calculators because it just didn't work out," Olea said. "Kiosks and self-service are a category and discipline and should be treated as such."
Bradley Cooper / Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.