Bad execution: Why good kiosk ideas fail

| by Michael Ionescu
Bad execution: Why good kiosk ideas fail

My last blog detailed some kiosk programs that I thought have been relatively successful in recent years. The common theme of these successful programs seemed to be largely that they differentiate well, and even more importantly, they provide a convenient service that makes the consumer's life easier. Originally, I wanted to include one more kiosk program that existed in Pennsylvania but had to reconsider after I learned that the program had been deemed a failure and discontinued.

Let's backup first and detail the program. The state hired a company to do a pilot program of a wine vending machine that could sell bottles of wine to consumers. It was a service that was piloted across a series of grocery stores, including Wegmans. Now, I don't think these vending machines would be for the true wine connoisseur, but for the everyday consumer, it would be convenient. It satisfies criteria for successful interactive kiosks -- to create a convenience that can streamline and simplify a consumer's busy life. Instead of going to a separate wine store, a consumer can buy alcohol from these self-contained wine stores while grocery shopping.

The program failed, however, and it seems to stem from bad execution. Wegmans decided to cancel the program because the kiosks did not function properly.

During an audit, one out of every 21 transactions had a problem or error. A kiosk that is in front of thousands of people every day simply can't have that many errors. You're easily looking at having numerous problems per day; a technician would have to be on site daily to address all of the problems. Simply stated, the kiosks caused too many problems which kept it from making money.

So what can be learned from this? Execution is key, especially when dealing with expensive computer equipment designed to be in the public space. Whenever I talk to prospective clients I always acknowledge that with any kind of automated electronic kiosk system, there may be bugs and glitches. What matters is how long it takes to fix those problems. When a kiosk program is rolled out with bugs, ideally they need to be fixed within days and at worst, within weeks. Maybe you have to spend more money for more reliable software/hardware, or maybe more bug testing, but this investment pays off in the long run.

Because of poor execution, there stands little chance that this program or anything similar will see the light of day. Proper execution could have made the wine kiosk program a standout in a very public space, and because of that visibility, the kiosk industry could have had another unique offering to show the world.

Wegmans testing another wine kiosk

As a brief follow-up to this, I did learn that Wegmans has come up with a slightly different wine vending program that actually lets guests purchase wine by the glass, which seems to be an interesting evolution of the by-the-bottle concept. Guests could buy a glass of wine to taste as they shopped. Anyone who has been through a Wegmans should know how large and endless these stores can be. You could easily spend a whole day in there, and what better way would there be to get your weekly shopping chores done than by sipping on a little wine. Shop together with some friends and all of a sudden you have a social event instead of a boring chore.

Does anyone want to discuss any other kiosk programs that were good ideas but failed due to poor execution? Leave your comments below.

Topics: Kiosk Design, Retail, Self-Checkout

Michael Ionescu
Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years. wwwView Michael Ionescu's profile on LinkedIn

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