Self-service kiosks continue to be a growing trend in retailing and is expected to accelerate over the years. By the end of 2012, nearly 2 million self-serve kiosks will be in place, and savvy retailers should consider capitalizing on this trend. This exploding industry has launched retailers to develop their own kiosk strategy in order to respond to this growing consumer demand.
Self-service kiosks are unique because they benefit both the consumer and retailer. These benefits are quite substantial, enabling consumers to gain control over their own purchasing by providing them with a myriad of options that allow them to customize their orders fitting their personal needs. Another big benefit to consumers is that self-service kiosks provide an excellent way for them to shop quickly if their time is limited. For the retailer, the benefits are immense, including: cost savings associated with labor; managing order process flow more efficiently; and providing a dynamic, interactive tool to market their variety of products to consumers.
Kiosks have made their way into the consumer mainstream, and a number of markets—especially those that make up the retail industry–are beginning to convert in droves. As consumers are introduced to more and more kiosks as part of their shopping experience, they will become less intimidated by this technology and will soon actively seek them out. Much like the ATM revolution in the middle 80’s, self-service kiosk technology is poised to take the consumer by storm. This rapid consumer mind-shift during the next five years will force many retailers to install self-service kiosks if they haven’t already. Industries such as the airline and hotel channels are quickly finding tremendous labor savings for check-in through the use of kiosks.
Implementation: Implementing a kiosk rollout in one store—or a chain of stores—is fortunately far-less daunting than it may appear. A kiosk can either be a stand-alone unit or one that is directly linked into a store’s technology platform. Generally, the A-to-Z process from concept to actual rollout can happen in less than a few months. In addition, a retailer can generally expect to generate paybacks on capital-employed in two years or less.
Plan It Well: The key to accomplishing a successful, money-making kiosk rollout is effectively planning and managing the rollout and its costs. Expertise in kiosk implementation is critical to managing not only pilot store tests, but its subsequent rollout. Failure to implement a well-planned, well-managed rollout will undoubtably increase your overall costs, not to mention burden your existing staffs unnecessarily, hampering their ability to manage the system once it is up and running.
Capture The Gold: That being said, kiosks can provide the retailer tremendous upside on two key profit and loss fronts: 1) managing expenses associated with labor; and 2) increasing top-line revenue by enticing consumers to make more purchases through introductions of new products, up-sells and combo offers. The ultimate winner will be the retailer who aggressively rolls out self-service kiosks system-wide in order to capture the total marketing and sales potential that kiosks deliver at the store level and home office.
Create Efficiency: Self-service kiosks essentially provide the infrastructure from which merchandising and marketing programs can seamless stream through store operations directly to the consumer. This management system becomes a tremendous ancillary benefit to the retailer, ultimately allowing them to more effectively manage and sell their products to their consumers on a national, regional or store level.
Grow Or Fade: The future is bright in retailing, provided that steps are made to continually deliver what the consumer wants: more options they can choose from in less time, customized to their needs. Internet-age consumers are beginning to want that same speed and customized simplicity in their retail-store buying experience. Retail industries that can deliver on this consumer desire will prosper during the next decade. Those that choose to continue to deliver their products and services in a slow, methodical way will find themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.