Self-service kiosks that help you locate products, get more information, or order items that aren’t available in the store are a good way to help stem the hemorrhaging of business to Internet retailers. Shoppers who enjoy the experience of brick-and-mortar stores or are simply more comfortable seeing products for themselves get the best of both worlds from a rich, hybrid experience that combines bricks and mortar with technology.
Part of the reason we shop online is because a store’s size might limit its inventory and its capacity to display merchandise. Recently, I found the perfect T-shirt at the perfect price, and I wanted one in every color. But -- too bad for me -- many other women apparently had the same idea, and there were no more in my size. I walked up to the new self-service kiosk in the store. Using the bar code scanner attached to the kiosk, I located my item and placed an order. The in-store discount applied, and there were no shipping charges. Obviously, that was much better than missing out on a good deal or even visiting the retailer’s Website later and paying for shipping.
A good self-service system like that one helps stores win over customers, increase sales, and save money in the long run. The ROI depends on the overall costs, and there are several things to consider up front.
- Short term costs: equipment purchases, software, systems integration, and site installation
- Long term costs: content management, system management, equipment monitoring, and repairs
Though kiosk hardware and software costs are coming down, many IT departments and managers might be asking themselves whether they should go with a manufacturer’s software (designed to be customized) or develop the software in-house. A lot of thought needs to go into implementing a kiosk system, including future needs, scalability, and the costs of developing in-house software if that’s decided. It’s a big investment, so it doesn’t hurt to get many heads together on this one, including the store planning, IT, marketing, and even legal departments.
In designing the ultimate experience for the customer, planners should discuss the kiosk's location, how obvious the purpose is to a shopper, the complexity of using it, and the speed and reliability of the unit and its peripherals. The overall experience should be easy on the users. They should get what they need quickly, and they should be able to make a transaction without hassle.
ROI can be measured in a variety of ways. A kiosk may mean you need fewer workers on the floor to assist customers. During peak times like holidays and weekends, the kiosk may provide faster service to customers. And every customer order made using the kiosk in the store becomes data that’s measurable for ROI.
Though electronic kiosks haven’t always been embraced by those who prefer dealing with a human being, willingness to interact with technology has increased exponentially in recent years. This survey shows 51 percent of shoppers are interested in using kiosks in stores. And 42 percent are interested in the even more expensive and robust "video walls."
Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, the general public has grown ever more accepting of kiosks, and the increased availability of these virtual sales assistants will further increase that willingness. In the survey, almost 74 percent of shoppers said they did research online -- sometimes directly in the store -- before making a purchase. The best thing you can do for yourself and your customers is to make that research and the purchase that follows as easy as possible. Hybrid shopping gives you that ability.