Do You Listen to Your Shoppers?
By John Hennessy
Staples and Office Depot are both deploying in-store kiosks. The major focus of these initiatives is to expand the selection of products available for sale to shoppers who visit a store. Online ordering through in-store kiosks is also a way for both retailers to gain additional leverage from their significant e-commerce investments.
Both programs will include additional kiosk functionality such as the ability for shoppers to research product information, verify product availability and manage personal account settings.
In an article by Paul Demery, published in the August InternetRetailer.com, Francie Mendelsohn, president of kiosk research at Summit Research Associates says, “Staples is best at it. They’ve had more success than others. I’m in Office Depot stores all the time, and their kiosks are rarely used.”
The way these two chains are deploying in-store kiosks is quite different. Office Depot is putting in more (eight per store vs. four or six per store for Staples) kiosks. Office Depot is making the kiosks mobile and using wireless network connectivity. Staples is placing wired kiosks in standard locations to make them easy for shoppers to locate.
Mendelsohn makes it clear that implementing a kiosk program is not easy. “You have to keep it simple, to let customers know at a glance what it will do for them, keep the kiosks working 100% of the time, and educate employees to let them know that kiosks are not a threat but an adjunct to the sales process.”
In its kiosk implementation, Staples appears to be aware of the challenges.
Mike Ragunas, vice president of technology strategy and architecture for Staples notes it routinely conducts telephone surveys of customers to get feedback on store policies. “We’re always looking for ways to make it easier for customers,” he says.
Shopper feedback from focus groups is how Staples learned that it needed to implement a fast track checkout option for kiosk shoppers. Under the fast track option, shoppers simply enter basic information in the kiosk, print out the order and take it to a cash register for payment. Prior to the change, a shopper had to enter extensive personal information to place an order whether they wanted to pay at the kiosk or at the register.
Moderator’s Comment: What kiosk programs have you seen that either worked or did not? What role do you believe the retailer’s use or lack of use of shopper
feedback plays in that outcome?
Kiosks are popping up everywhere and shoppers are becoming more familiar with their benefits. But this article is about more than a kiosk program. The two
retailers featured appear to be implementing their programs using very different approaches. One approach is grounded in listening to shoppers; the other approach seems to be
based more on guessing.
The listening approach requires continual feedback from shoppers to check on how shoppers perceive what has been done. It requires measurement of actions
taken and changes against shopper feedback where possible. This approach is slower. This approach is more tedious. This approach is evolutionary. This approach can place some
limits on creativity. This approach can also make it appear that no one knows anything but the shoppers.
The guessing approach can make those implementing the program feel really good. Grand plans are drafted. Large budgets are assigned. There are lots of big
ideas. The latest technology is used. Scale and functionality are the answer to satisfying all shopper needs. Often performance milestones and success metrics are afterthoughts.
Keeping tabs on shopper adoption of these two kiosk programs is going to be interesting. My money is on the retailer with the biggest and most active ears.
John Hennessy – Moderator