Next-Gen Kiosks Could Guide You Through Holiday List

Opinion: Yes, Virginia, There Is A New Kiosk. While mostly being used to scan bar codes for prices, Evan Schuman argues that the self-service devices have the potential to help customers check off items on long shopping lists.

Shoppers this holiday season are going to run into a blizzard of next-generation kiosks, about three times as many of the devices as they saw last year, according to a new report from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan. The report comes as retailers learn that its better to give than to receive, especially when CRM (customer relationship management) and self-service are involved.

The kiosks will be hung by the aisle with Care®, in hopes that Mr. Customer soon will be there. The products were nestled all snug on their shelves, with visions of buyers wanting to scan bar codes themselves.

But these are not old-fashioned kiosks. The analyst report is seeing a surge of interest in current-generation PoD (point-of-decision) kiosks, which Frost defines very specifically: a standalone or networked, interactive, self-service device with a primary customer interface in the form of a touchscreen or programmable buttons.

The typical PoD has a diagonal screen size between 5 inches and 9 inches, resolution no less than quarter VGA, and multimedia capabilities including full-motion animation, according to the Frost definition.

Clearly, such units are not destined solely to scan bar codes to reveal pricing, but thats overwhelmingly (63.4 percent) how they are initially being used, the report said.

In order of popularity, other current retail uses are music sampling (31.4 percent), advertising/promotions, guided selling, contextual product information, loyalty program, store map and brand-specific information.

/zimages/5/28571.gifHoliday online shopping this year is likely to jump 20 percent. To read more, click here.

The potential to use multimedia for sales, demos and creative marketing—and to use these LAN-connected devices to link with inventory and ultimately with CRM systems—is absolutely there, said report author Vineeta Kommineni, a senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

"Most of them are being used for price-checking at this initial, early-adoption stage," Kommineni said. "The power of CRM has yet to be unleashed. There is so much more customer information to be mined," she said, adding that she expects greater PoD kiosk sophistication to materialize "in another two to three years."

Next Page: Using kiosks for guided selling.