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“A kiosk enclosure is the equivalent of a stem cell: Just wash the right hormones over it, and it can become anything.”
That far-out comparison is from Mike James, founder and president of Kiosk Group Inc., in Frederick, Md., which wholesales to firms that develop kiosk software for different niches. “Practically speaking,” he says, “besides the touchscreen and computer, we often add card readers, coupon printers, receipt printers, full-page printers, bar code scanners, RFID [radio-frequency identification] scanners, cash acceptors and lots of branding. If you can imagine it, we can make it happen.”
That roster of functions reflects the increased sophistication of today’s kiosks. Similarly, Andrew Annacone, VP of innovations and new ventures at Outerwall Inc., in Bellevue, Wash., says his company’s scalable and completely turnkey solutions offer retailers an opportunity to engage with customers cost-effectively within a small footprint in the post-register zone and throughout the store. “Outerwall Inc.’s kiosks — Coinstar, Coinstar Exchange, Redbox, ecoATM and SAMPLEit — turn empty space into retail solutions fulfilling consumer needs and driving incremental profit for retailers,” he notes.
Outerwall’s two latest models are Coinstar Exchange, which offers instant cash for unused gift cards, and SAMPLEit, currently in pilot stage, which offers samples and coupons, according to Annacone.
“As automated retail technologies improve and evolve,” he observes, “Outerwall sees kiosks, mobile and other interactive self-service technologies playing a much larger role in supermarkets in the future.”
Offering self-checkout as a good example of this trend, he says that many supermarkets have adopted the technology as a way to empower shoppers and drive efficiencies for both consumers and the retailer.
Delivering to Millennials
Meanwhile, Tommy Woycik, president of Nextep Systems, in Troy, Mich., takes an all-or-nothing approach to kiosks: “As technology-immersed Millennials continue to become the most dominant purchasing power on the planet, supermarkets will continue to deliver ways to purchase goods that Millennials prefer, or they will fail.”
Woycik says statistics show that Millennials prefer a self-guided, personalized experience, most often accomplished through a user interface, and that kiosks are the next logical step to capture the attention and sales of this demographic.
“Our Deli 1-2-3 solution is one of our most mature products, and has continued to evolve since first inception in 2007,” notes Woycik. “A successful Deli 1-2-3 solution generally consists of a pair of floor-standing kiosks at the front of the store, with proper signage and visibility; Order Status Monitors throughout the store; and an Order Management System for the deli to receive and process orders.”
Once the value of the core system has been established, Woycik says, many retailers opt for online and mobile ordering, which Nextep accomplishes through responsive design, eliminating the need for expensive applications for each different operating system. “This allows greater reach to guests while increasing sales at the deli and reducing the costs of entering the online marketplace,” he explains. “Past Order Recall has been developed in the past two years to allow previous guests to order in mere seconds, and we’ve continued to develop our online and mobile ordering to culminate in a ‘one site for all’ ordering portal that operates on any browser-enabled device, including computers, smartphones and tablets.”
Also in the past two years, according to Woycik, Nextep has developed the free-standing ML and the countertop TD-18. The ML fits into any marketplace, with durability and store branding as improved benefits, while the TD-18, featuring an integrated printer base and a very small footprint, can also be wall-mounted.
Another benefit of deli kiosks, Woycik points out, is reclaimed sales. Shoppers who might not have bought items in the deli are now given another chance to purchase on their own terms, and they can make their purchases as personal as they like, “without a mob of villagers behind them, glaring at them for being particular. Not only does the store capture a lost sale, but they’ve [also] given the customer the most personalized experience possible while saving them time. This helps customer service at the deli as well, by helping to lighten the load during busy hours.”
In Grafton, Wis., Ronald Bowers, SVP business development at Frank Mayer & Associates Inc., says, “Kiosks allow the retailer to offer customized additional services to the consumer, without store associate participation, while they allow the consumer to shop the store and acquire additional services the store offers, at a pace the consumer wishes.”
Kiosks also give the shopper another option to purchase product that may be out of stock, Bowers says, such as special order and home delivery, thereby allowing the consumer flexibility and convenience. “All of these services build customer loyalty and positive brand exposures,” he adds.
Lincoln, Neb.-based Nanonation provides software that powers kiosks and digital signs. “Utilizing Nanonation’s Pinpoint application, a product-finder kiosk will provide a fast and efficient shopping experience, helping a shopper identify a recipe and associated ingredients,” says Sales Associate Jenna Deck. “The kiosk will allow users to specify their needs; access products, pricing and ingredients; [and] then locate the product. The Nanonation kiosk can be branded per supermarket with their design, font, logos and colors, and imagery can be implemented in nearly any way.”
The company’s latest offering is a digital menu board that Deck says “helps the retailer communicate products based on time of day and current promotions, and gives them the flexibility to change promotions as necessary.” Nanonation is in the process of deploying a kiosk that delivers coupons and allows shoppers to check their loyalty program points in a network of stores throughout the country, she adds.
RedyRef, in Riverdale, N.J., builds enclosures with component arrays that meet the requirements of all types of kiosk application solutions, including its newest kiosk line, EnGAGE. “We have our own wayfinding and directory software, and partner with software companies for any other solution,” says Ben Wheeler, director of marketing and sales. “Since we are not a turnkey software solution in food ordering or services, we need a partner to make solutions work with our sheet metal enclosures.”
Wheeler sees various advantages to implementing supermarket kiosks, such as coupon dispensing, customer loyalty programs, self-checkout, mobile sales assistance and locators, fast-casual food, and specialty ordering in deli and bakery, as well as in human resources and employment services.
Thus it seems that kiosks will be standing tall in supermarkets’ future, improving convenience for the shopper and the bottom line for food retailers.
“As automated retail technologies improve and evolve, kiosks, mobile and other interactive self-service technologies will play a much larger role in supermarkets in the future.”
—Andrew Annacone, Outerwall