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02/14/2016

The Case for Kiosks

Kiosks are becoming ubiquitous in food retailing. While there are no statistics available, when asked if they see an increase in kiosks in supermarkets, suppliers are uniformly positive.

“Yes, we most certainly do,” affirms Sandy Nix, president of Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Connected Technology Solutions, manufacturer of Mighty Touch Kiosks. “The grocery segment continues to enjoy the same enduring momentum toward self-service that many other consumer-driven businesses do.”

According to Nix, one of her company’s main focuses at present is on tablet enclosures so that operators no longer have to clear valuable floor space for big cabinets. “iPads and other tablets, with the right peripherals secured in one of our enclosures, can enable shoppers to get information, place orders and swipe a card to complete transactions very quickly,” she notes, “and tablets offer the added benefits to the grocer of being easily movable and affordable. They are a great option when a full-size kiosk is more than what’s needed.”

While kiosks will continue to be deployed in the traditional sense, Nix believes that tablet-based technology is about to explode onto the retail scene as an enhancement in the interactive space. “Interactive technology solutions are the stepping stones to deeper and wider relationships with customers,” she says.

Function and Form

Ben Wheeler, director of marketing and sales at Riverdale, N.J.-based RedyRef, asserts that there are “absolutely” more kiosks in supermarkets, because “the function and form factors of kiosks are changing rapidly.”

Function-wise, according to Wheeler, kiosks are not only informational, but also transactional, including self-checkout, couponing and end caps. “Furthermore,” he says, “transactional fifth-wall applications are increasing that include coffee, lottery, key duplication and carpet cleaning.… I believe that the more tedious a transaction is for a store to service, the more likely the function will be automated.”

Form-wise, Wheeler feels that “we will see tablets popping up all over the retail landscape. Matching wines with meat and deli items using an end cap informational kiosk will become the norm.”

RedyRef manufactures a line of tablet kiosks and self-checkout kiosks based on its enGAGE line of kiosk enclosures. The line is customizable to any size, but is based on 12-, 24-, 36- and 48-inch footprints to make it retail-ready

Regarding the future, Wheeler is adamant. “We see all transactional processes that require human labor being shifted to kiosks — period,” he says. “No benefits, less shrinkage from employees, no sick days. The harder the push to raise the minimum wage, the quicker the migration will be.”

Hands Off

“We anticipate an increase in kiosks in the grocery industry,” says Jim Weaks, VP self-service coin business unit at Cummins Allison, in Mount Prospect, Ill.

He adds that customers select his company’s Money Machine 2 coin counters because of the flexibility of the solution and the highly responsive nature of the sales and support organization.

“Grocers like our four procurement options: placement, lease, rental or ownership,” he says. “Each provides an opportunity to increase store revenue without increasing user fees.”

Weaks notes that Cummins Allison provides what he calls a “hands-free” operation by managing all coin pickup and processing, thus eliminating the time-consuming task of coin handling. “Since replacing their existing equipment, many of our customers have found their monthly revenues have increased because the machines were available when customers wanted to use them,” he observes.

Self-service coin redemption is an effective way to use front-of-store space that has been traditionally underused, according to Weaks, and that can dramatically increase the bottom line.

Healthy Profits

At Grafton, Wis.-based Frank Mayer and Associates Inc., SVP David Anzia notes, “Because more customers, especially Millennials, are embracing technology in-store, supermarkets are employing kiosks to improve the customer experience through a variety of e-commerce solutions.” His company produces several client-specific kiosk solutions, with each program unique to the objectives of the retail store, including transactions, loyalty, product information, ordering, health care and gaming.

“Kiosks that have proved popular in supermarkets,” notes Anzia, “are those that improve the shopping experience by allowing shoppers to place orders within store departments, provide product scanning, recipe product locators and loyalty card information.”

According to Anzia, a highly popular Mayer program is the SoloHealth (Pursuant Health) Station, a kiosk that allows shoppers to check their blood pressure, BMI (body mass index) and vision, as well as receive an overall health assessment. Advertising platforms atop the monitor offer targeted opportunities to reach shoppers when they’re in the store, where the product is available for purchase.

“One of our recent kiosk programs was a loyalty kiosk allowing customers to sign up for their rewards card right at the kiosk,” he says. “As a result, the client has reported a dramatic jump in new customer registrations.”

Kiosks and interactive displays will continue to grow in supermarkets to cater to increasingly technology-driven consumers and to enable grocers to keep up with other retail sectors, he concludes.

Welcome to the Future

In Bellevue, Wash., Dana Krug, VP of sales — grocery, military and financial at Outerwall Inc. says, “We believe the future of retail starts now.”

With a focus on optimizing its existing network of Redbox and Coinstar kiosks, Outerwall regularly evaluates its kiosk designs to identify opportunities for improvement. During one evaluation, the Coinstar team identified an opportunity to eliminate the need for lighting on the lower section of the kiosks to reduce energy use, with no impact on functionality. Doing so also helped the company meet corporate energy reduction commitments.

“Since Coinstar rolled out the design changes to the kiosks,” says Krug, “the result has been a 29 percent decrease in overall kiosk energy use, saving money for retailers as well.”

With Millennials as major drivers of the shift from physical store visits to online shopping and by-mail meal subscription services, Krug believes retailers can attract this key demographic and other shoppers into the store by customizing the front end.

“Research conducted by Seurat and Field Agent in 2014 showed that the availability of front end services played a part in the grocer and location selection for four out of five shoppers,” he points out.

The research also discovered that 91 percent of people who use front end services also shopped in-store during the same trip, he notes, so retailers have the opportunity not only to attract customers, but also to drive store sales.

Jewelry Box

Kevin Miller, partner and COO at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Goldstür, says he “definitely” sees an increase in kiosks in supermarkets.

“Macro-economic trends associated with employees and the increasing hourly-wage mandates are driving more companies to develop a strategy involving kiosks as their main customer interface,” he says.

Goldstür currently manufactures just the Goldstür kiosk, which Miller describes as “the world’s first and only fully automated kiosk for converting old or unwanted gold, silver and platinum jewelry into cash.” In two minutes, items can be analyzed and cash or a store gift card can be offered on the spot. Further, the kiosk boasts a footprint of just 2 square feet.

“We are receiving requests for installations across the country at a variety of grocers,” notes Miller. “We see this space as a growth area. Over time, the products will change, but long-term there will be growth.”

That, of course, is the main case for kiosks: growth.

“Matching wines with meat and deli items using an end cap informational kiosk will become the norm.”
—Ben Wheeler, RedyRef

“Because more customers, especially Millennials, are embracing technology in-store, supermarkets are employing kiosks to improve the customer experience through a variety of e-commerce solutions.”
—David Anzia, Frank Mayer and Associates