Retail Customer Experience:  Does Mobile Render Kiosks Irrelevant?

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Feb 01, 2011
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a
daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.

Predictions
and rumors are running rampant about whether retailers will combine kiosk and
mobile technology to serve consumers or if mobile will simply replace kiosks.

In
fact, Troy Carroll, the CEO of Intava, a provider of interactive retail technology,
declared 2010 as "the year the kiosk died" in a recent
article published on Retail Customer Experience.

"This was the year retailers’ attitudes turned against the kiosk," wrote
Mr. Carroll. "Without exception, every retailer I spoke to about traditional
kiosks this year met the topic with frowning brows, shaking heads or statements
that kiosks simply aren’t that interesting. In other words, retailers have
moved on."

According to the Digital Screenmedia Association’s report, 2011
Self-service Future Trends
, more than 75 percent of respondents said that
self-service is important, very important or critical to their business plans,
while a little more than six percent said self-service was not important at
all. Although those numbers look favorable for kiosks, they actually demonstrate
a decline in self-service programs compared to a similar survey published in
2007, when more than 85 percent said self-service initiatives were important,
very important or critical, and less than four percent said it was not important.

So,
do these declines mean kiosks are on their deathbeds?

"I would lay a wager that time will prove that to be an incorrect prediction," said
Don Lineburg, vice president of business and operations at Phoenix Kiosk. "Sages
and gurus have had a good history of being wrong guessing how technology would
impact various parts of our life. Much in the same way that email did not eliminate
paper, and, for example, the independent insurance agent and realtor have not
been made extinct by online services, kiosks will always have a place to bring
the benefits of technology to a public venue."

Francie Mendelsohn, president
of Summit Research Associates, expects self-service companies to combine the
technologies.

"You need to be realistic and look five years out," she said in
the DSA report. "It’s going to be a very different landscape. They need
to have applications that make sense. Just to say, ‘We offer mobile…’ Well,
what’s that going to do for me? What mobile app can I use? So if you can leverage
what you’ve already done on the kiosk and be able to use it on a mobile device,
that would be great."

For example, Ms. Mendelsohn said consumers would
probably like to rent a Redbox DVD via phones and then pick them up at kiosks.

"I think there are a ton of possible applications that are currently
on kiosks," Ms. Mendelsohn said. "Not all of them can be ported,
because some of them don’t make sense, but I think that would be a good
way to go with the flow."

Discussion Question: How will the increased use of mobile technologies affect retail kiosks?

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18 Comments on "Retail Customer Experience:  Does Mobile Render Kiosks Irrelevant?"


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Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 3 months ago

Will the smart phone kill the kiosk the way mobile killed the pay phone? I wouldn’t bet on it. For starters kiosks offer a lot more “device” which is important for usability and speed of service: bigger screens, bigger keyboards. Kiosks are also convenient and engineered to serve a single purpose. A well designed kiosk application should have much higher usability than a mobile equivalent.

What I think is likely to happen is mobile phones encroaching on the kiosk space. You might see fewer kiosks. But since serving in-store customers is still priority #1, I would be very surprised to see them disappear altogether.

I now want to circle back to the analogy I used at the beginning of this post. The pay phone “died” because it offered no tangible benefit over a common cell phone. The kiosk does offer benefits over smart phones and as long as it does, I would hold off the swan song.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 3 months ago
Well, we’re actually talking about a couple of different things here. I think the trend to self-service has clearly peaked. Not because of mobility, but because at least half the customers who come into a store actually want to interact with a human. Otherwise, why go to the store in the first place? Why drive to a store, find a parking space, wander the aisles, put my stuff into a physical cart, take my stuff out of a physical cart, self-scan them and then pay for them when I can accomplish the same thing with a few clicks on line? But that trend should not be married to the question “Who needs kiosks?” There are a lot of uses of in-store kiosks that cannot be duplicated on a mobile hand-held device. On the most basic level, there’s more screen real estate. That means there are other things I can see and do. And who is to say the kiosk is solely for the customer? Perhaps a store employee can also use the kiosk. It can… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 3 months ago

Mr. Lineburg is absolutely correct; e-mail did not eliminate paper. However, the Post Office continues to lose money hand over fist and is talking about closing 20% of their locations. The automobile didn’t eliminate blacksmiths either, they’re just kind of hard to find.

Technology continues to become ever more personal. Why should anyone take the energy to learn how to navigate an individual retailer’s kiosk when they have a mobile app on their PDA that they already know how to use and is focused on benefiting them, not the retailer.

By its nature, trying to forecast technology winners and losers is a fools errand. The laws of the two M’s–Moore and Metcalfe–say that change in technology is geometric, not linear. It will change increasingly quickly. Put slightly differently, retailers should (IMHO) think hard about long-term capital investments in on-floor technology that provides anything beyond basic store navigation and product attributes.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
10 years 3 months ago
I disagree that 2010 was the year that kiosks died–particularly the point that retailers moved on in 2010. Most of the retailers I’ve spoken to on the topic have hated kiosks from their inception. “‘Kiosk’ is a dirty word guaranteed to kill any project it’s attached to” was the prevailing wisdom as early as 2005. However, I’m not willing to predict the kiosk’s death quite yet. And the reason why lives in a variation on the question asked (“Does mobile render kiosks irrelevant?”)–it’s the wrong question. I think the real question is, does WIRELESS render the kiosk irrelevant? Because the greatest mobile app in the world is useless if there is no cell signal, and there are too many retail locations where it is the cell signal that creates sub-par customer experiences on mobile devices. Until my grocery store is offering free WiFi, I think it’s the network access that is going to be the problem that keeps the kiosk alive. And even once that problem is solved (which is not at all guaranteed, by… Read more »
Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
10 years 3 months ago

Given Coinstar’s 56% stock increase in 2010, I don’t think 2010 was the “death” of kiosks. However, it depends on what they offer. Kiosks offer movies, photos, change, etc. It really depends on the kiosk and what they offer.

Customers will buy based on price, availability and convenience. I think the movie kiosks are at the greatest risk right now. The lines can be long and outside in the winter, it’s no fun waiting. Selection is also very limited. On the other hand, movies are only $1. Downloading the movie is far more convenient, but the price is still $4-12. If and when that price comes down, kiosks will be at great risk.

I still believe people will go to stores for the customer experience, but they won’t be going for the “kiosk experience” if they have to wait in long lines, only to have the movie they went in for sold out.

Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

It’s probably worth pointing out that some kiosks have the ability to deliver physical product or service (a la Redbox or Coinstar) and that is something mobile will not do.

But kiosks that deliver only information are certainly endangered. They take up space that can be used for something else if the information is available via wireless apps. They don’t move around the store with me, so I have to go find one when I need to get some information versus pulling out my mobile device right there in front of the shelf. They can’t tell me if I’m in the wrong aisle to find what I’m looking for–unless I go find the kiosk first. Perhaps they can add value in Paula’s scenario of “assisted selling”–but beyond that the future seems bleak for the information only variety.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Kiosks for information may suffer…because apps can do that well. However, kiosks where an identity needs to verified or a product needs to be delivered may thrive.

I am not sure it’s an either-or situation. I could see a time when kiosks would interact with mobile phones (a few already do). This may be the wave of the future.

Among people under 30, a majority of those polled at a car dealership claimed that they would prefer to interact digitally vs. face to face. Although I am well past 30, I agree with them.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 3 months ago
New media frequently displace, but seldom replace, old media. Kiosks have a place and a role in the retail environment, but these will inevitably shift as more shoppers arrive with their own mini-kiosk controllers in their pockets. A useful analysis at this juncture would examine the entire retail mediascape and seek to understand the balance and interaction between various devices in use. Smart phones can interact with kiosks, digital signs, point of sale devices, even printed images. Kiosks can vend stuff on demand; take payments; print out ads, lists, recipes and coupons; check in frequent shoppers; count coins. That adds up to a rich array of functions for the shopping environment. Shoppers will assemble their own choices of user experiences based on what’s made available to them. It’s still a bit too early to expect every shopper to interact via the device in their pocket. A reminder: Retail shoppers are not all 18-34 early technology adopters. So, no. Kiosks are not disappearing any time soon. But we may confidently predict that their roles will continue… Read more »
Frank Beurskens
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Have to weigh in on this one, especially given the survey results. Mobile is a channel; one among many, and its in-store use is impacted by several variables including dwell time, trip purpose, content complexity, and context. Mobile to Kiosk integration is a powerful combination that drives traffic while cost effectively leveraging the power of digital content across multiple platforms. The past twelve months represented record kiosk sales for our firm and it is due in large part to the recognition that digital content needs to be available to shoppers in whatever channel they prefer, online, in-store, and mobile.

Dave Wendland
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

“Traditional” kiosks that only deliver information may indeed be on life support. However, I agree with several of other comments that an integration between wireless (mobile) and some form of information center with real and differentiated value may create a new opportunity. Technology should be viewed as an enabler–something that guides consumers’ shopping journey and ultimately leads to a satisfying transaction.

There is most definitely a role for the right technology to help activate shoppers so they become buyers!

Dave Carlson
Guest
10 years 3 months ago
I agree with most of the “not dead yet” comments above. At issue here is the word “kiosk” and the ambiguity it represents. To some it is the Interactive machine that failed miserably in the ’90s. To others it conjures a multi-function touch screen with a line waiting to get their turn. And it consumes precious floor space. Lots of negatives. Retailers need interactive devices, in various configurations, to serve their shoppers well. Whether renting a DVD, getting a printed list of deals with a store map, or viewing a meal prep video, collecting and dispensing physical items, large screens and printed media have a clear role to play. These devices will be supplemented by and integrated with mobile devices everywhere it makes sense–wave the mobile at the device reader to identify and/or pay, find the right recipe at the large touch screen and send ingredients with prep instructions directly to my phone. The question isn’t whether kiosks will die, but how in-store devices will evolve and how they will best be integrated with ALL… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Kiosks will not be going away for a very long time. They will change and adapt but they will provide a continuing long-term role for retailers and their customers. Ease of use, variety of applications, and ability to control content are all reasons for their continued use.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

At Barnes & Noble, I don’t have to go to their kiosk (which never worked very well anyway) to find where in the store a particular book is. I can use my phone. (We will not even address any reason why I would have to go to B&N at all.) At the movie theater, I don’t have to swipe my credit card at the ticket kiosk, my ticket is already on my phone. At the airport, I don’t have to go to the boarding pass kiosk, my boarding pass is already on my phone. I don’t go to the DVD kiosk because I can download unlimited movies from my computer with a better selection than any kiosk can hold. I don’t even have to use the kiosk at the post office because I can buy everything I need online and the postman will pick my shipment up.

So, why do we need kiosks? Oh, you are right, neither my phone nor computer will accept refundable soda cans.

Gina Rau
Guest
Gina Rau
10 years 3 months ago

I’m fairly certain that everyone here has enjoyed the pleasure of a speedy trip through the airport using a check-in kiosk, or has avoided rolling up coins to take to the bank by stopping by a Coinstar machine. Those are kiosks.

And until there’s a better way to perform those tasks, those kiosks do the job quite efficiently.

With the variety of tools and technology we now have access to, the most critical elements to consider before deciding which to use are 1) what problem am I solving, and 2) who’s my audience. That last one is key because I can tell you that my 60-something mother isn’t going to use a mobile device in store but she has a lot of questions that staff can’t always answer, and my 80-something grandmother isn’t going to use any technology when she can ask a staff member for help.

By the way, they’re both still going to the airline counter to check in, too.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I disagree entirely with the premise. No they won’t be going away. They may evolve. However, points of consumer interactivity will grow through these types of devices, as well as those we haven’t thought of or imagined yet.

The term ‘kiosk’ is way too broad of a term to be used as widely as it is for predicting its death.

Coinstar and Redbox are completely different from a device offering information on recipes or pharmacy.

Even if you order a DVD on phone and want to pick up at store, where would you pick it up from if not a kiosk?

They will evolve, change, adapt, and grow.

John Karolefski
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

A recent well-publicized study found that many shoppers prefer getting product information from their smart phones instead of store associates. I bet these same shoppers would prefer getting information from a kiosk instead of a store associate, too. Have you ever tried getting meal-planning ideas from a store associate?

So there will always be room for the right kiosk in a store. But today’s units need to evolve to serve the needs of time-pressed and demanding shoppers. If they don’t evolve, they will be ignored and eventually removed.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
Jason Goldberg
10 years 3 months ago
1982 was the year the “kiosk” died…that was about the year that Florsheim shoes deployed touch screen computers in all their stores, and analysts and futurists all started predicting that these new devices would be the future of retail merchandising. Almost three decades later we have generations of “kiosk pioneers” with arrows in their backs, all waiting for the predicted explosion of kiosks that was always “just around the corner.” There have certainly been a few use-cases that have seen some success…Muze music database had a good run, Gift Registry had a number of good years, Video based Vendor Provided Displays continue to be prevalent in big box concepts, Unicru employment kiosks, the Post Office self-service stations (I think the USPS has been a keynote speaker at Kioskcom for about 10 years), Redbox, etc…. But mobile solves a huge problem that kiosks have always struggled with…a kiosk can only serve one customer at a time. In most retail concepts, if a kiosk really had a strong value proposition, then retailers should want 10-20 per store… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
Guest
Ricardo Belmar
10 years 3 months ago

I believe both kiosks and mobile devices have a role to play in the store of the future. Informational kiosks likely will transform into “digital concierges” that provide rich media content to consumers and interact with their mobile devices. How that content is delivered to the store and the consumer is what many retailers struggle with today. While mobile apps are a great way to drive customers into the store, 3G/4G still doesn’t provide a reliable, high bandwidth connection inside many retail locations. The store of the future needs a robust wireless infrastructure (Wi-Fi) and an enterprise network on the back end to engage customers and deliver a superior shopping experience.

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