The Kiosk Approach
What some store managers have been exploring are modern-day interactive kiosks, such as the ones Nike is using to let customers design their own sneakers in exchange for personal data and a lot of cash.As the latest in a series of do-it-yourself retailing kits, this one has some serious promise. Here again, the ultimate value of the kiosks will be dictated by how intelligent and self-restrained the systems will be.If the units become TVs on wheels, displaying continuous product commercials, they will deserve their fate. But if they are able to compare customer-selected products with non-promotional illustrative animations, they have promise. If they are able to answer detailed questions about the products that go well beyond whats printed on the label, its getting better. If the boxes are given a Web connection so that the displays can communicate live with product experts and allow for real-time communications (think of the customer service kiosks at Disneyworld), this is getting very interesting.But theres a limit. The day a kiosk greets me at the stores front entrance and tells me that it is fluent in 6 million forms of communication, Im gone. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here. Check out eWEEK.coms Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis of this vital industry.
To read about how Toys "R" Us learned the lessons about the importance of CRM, click here.