Redefining automated retailing part 5: Wayfinding enters the mix

| by Michael Kasavana
Redefining automated retailing part 5: Wayfinding enters the mix

Photo courtesy of iStock.

GPS navigation comes standard on almost every mobile device nowadays, and people have become accustomed to touching and clicking to find their way around. The impact of wayfinding — the use of signage to direct people in an unfamiliar area — on retailing, particularly in combination with digital signage, cannot be overstated.

Digital signage, described in part 3 of this series, adds a new dimension to wayfinding by enabling visual presentation of materials such as maps, schedules and other information. Data-rich, "smart" wayfinding systems operate dynamically to determine the best route to a destination. 

Kiosk Marketplace readers are already familiar with wayfinding as a navigation aid for consumers using kiosks in public spaces. Airports, hospitals and government buildings have been using wayfinding kiosks for years.

Wayfinding and automated retailing

Wayfinding is also supporting the growth of automated retailing, a quietly expanding retail sector. Automated retail kiosks are not new, but they are becoming a part of the "endless aisle" that brands and retailers are using to market to today's "connected consumer."

Back on Sept. 25, retail consultant Paul Schlossberg described in a blog 10 new automated retailing kiosks that have popped up in the past year, including CVS Pharmacy, Walmart's 20 Pickup Towers and the controversial Bodega.

As consumers come to rely on smartphones for their shopping decisions, automated retail kiosks such as the ones mentioned above are bound to become more pervasive across the retail landscape. And as wayfinding apps become more widely used, there will be opportunities for automated retail kiosks to integrate with wayfinding apps and allow consumers to access retail kiosks in public spaces.

How wayfinding apps support kiosks

Let's consider a hypothetical example.

A consumer arrives at an airport and barely has time to pick up a gift for a friend he is planning to visit. A wayfinding app on his smartphone identifies the nearest self-serve gift kiosk in the airport and directs him to that kiosk.

Once the consumer is in proximity to the kiosk, a facial recognition camera embedded in the kiosk processes information about the consumer to determine what products to promote to that particular consumer. The wayfinding app is capable of amassing key words and other relevant data associated with the kiosk's database. Hence, the app can provide the consumer information about the kiosk's contents. 

In our hypothetical example, the kiosk determines the consumer is a young adult male. The digital screen on the machine then displays some local sports souvenirs the consumer can buy from the kiosk. 

Detailed information can be presented for any item. Or the consumer may be able to use an on-board search engine or component filter to identify qualifying items for purchase. Digital signage "pushes" content to consumers, which can lead to interaction, engagement and sales.

In addition to product promotion and sales, a company operating an automated retail kiosk may reap incremental revenue from advertisements and event promotions appearing on the machine's digital screen. Advertisers, for their part, welcome the opportunity to reach large numbers of consumers in public spaces.

The various technologies explored in this series on redefining automated retailing — digital media, video streaming and wayfinding — work in combination to allow consumers to shop in more environments. Automated retailing also creates new opportunities for brands to reach consumers.

Part 6 in our series will explore the role of cloud computing in automated retailing.

Topics: Customer Experience, Digital Signage, Display Technology, Retail, Vending Kiosks, Wayfinding / Information

Michael Kasavana

Michael Kasavana, Ph.D., is the National Automatic Merchandising Association endowed professor emeritus. Dr. Kasavana has authored or co-authored six books and a host of academic and industry journal articles. In addition, he has also created a series of online instructional materials and software products. He has been inducted into the HFTP International Technology Hall of Fame and was the first recipient of a Distinguished Achievements Award from FS/TEC.

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