Free, secure smartphone charging stations from ChargeItSpot are being installed in additional Neiman Marcus stores as part of a project that began in 2014 to give customers the opportunity to charge their smartphones while they shop.
The expanded deployment of the charging stations in Neiman Marcus stores will bring 37 additional charging kiosks to 30 more locations, according to a May 23 announcement by ChargeItSpot.
The custom-designed and built kiosks, which each contain eight lockable drawers with an assortment of cables to fit the charging ports of virtually any Android, iOS, Windows or BlackBerry smartphone, include powder-coated steel exterior panels and custom lighting, decorations and branding to meet the needs of each retailer where the units are placed, Douglas Baldasare, CEO and founder of ChargeItSpot, told eWEEK.
The kiosks hold one phone in each of the eight lockable drawers, which are secured using a customer’s smartphone phone number as a temporary code. The kiosks are 13 inches wide, 13 inches deep and 6 feet, 5 inches tall. Larger department stores are equipped with several kiosks in different locations, while smaller retail stores are equipped with one unit.
So far, ChargeItSpot kiosks are located in about 50 national client store chains in some 22 states, having charged almost 2 million customer smartphones for free, said Baldasare. He would not disclose how many kiosks are in use, but said that the usage of the devices has grown by more than 50 percent compared to a year ago. Stores that are equipped with the charging stations are in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other larger cities, with more to come.
For retailers, the kiosks offer a convenient and free service for customers so they can charge their smartphones while they shop, said Baldasare. But in addition to their convenience, the kiosks also are found to increase customer spending because, by leaving their phones in the charging stations while they shop, the customers are less distracted by calls and everyday life while they are perusing merchandise in stores, he said.
“When people charge their phone in a retail store, they end up spending 2.5 times more time in the store and they spend 29 percent more,” according to statistics collected by the company, said Baldasare. “The chargers give them a productive phone charge and it allows them to slow down, with no one calling them on their phone and interrupting.”
The chargers in the kiosks are quick chargers that are controlled by smart charging boards in the machines that deliver the proper amount of current to each phone.
Customers never have to pay for the phone charging.
“At Neiman Marcus, superior customer service starts with a great overall experience in the store,” Wanda Gierhart, chief marketing officer of Neiman Marcus Group, said in a statement. “The ChargeItSpot kiosks allow our customers to charge their phones securely while they shop. It is very important to us that we work with technology to continue to improve our customers’ experience.”
ChargeItSpot first partnered with Neiman Marcus in 2014 to test the branded phone charging stations in its flagship Bergdorf Goodman store in New York City, and then expanded into additional Neiman Marcus locations in 2015, according to the companies.
Baldasare began the business in August 2012 after graduating from college. The first unit was a basic device with drawers that were locked with keys, which turned out to be a bad idea because the keys could be lost. The next generation of the kiosks received 17-inch touch-screen displays and keyless locking systems using customer phone numbers which are easy for them to remember, he said. A photo of the user is taken by an on-board camera as a secondary identification system if the customer forgets their locking information.
Free Smartphone Charging Kiosks Expand to More Neiman Marcus Stores
He wasn’t sure that the idea would catch on with customers, but the first machine, installed in a Whole Foods store in a Philadelphia suburb, was used by 50 customers in its first six hours in the store. The machine had signs posted that explained to customers how to use the kiosk.
The latest kiosks are monitored directly from ChargeItSpot’s Philadelphia headquarters via video and include microphones that allow company workers to communicate with store customers if they have a problem using the kiosks, he said.
“We want them to have the certainty that there is someone there to help them,” he said.
Other clients that use the kiosks include Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman stores, the Penn Medicine hospital group, casino company Caesars Entertainment, Verizon Wireless, Westfield Malls and retailers such as Under Armour.
Earlier in May, another smartphone charging vendor, MobileQubes, which rents plug-in mobile phone battery packs to smartphone users as they travel, extended its kiosk network to eight more train stations in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The latest stations to get the MobileQubes kiosks are Boston’s South Station, Boston’s Back Bay Station, the Route 128 Station in Westwood, Mass., Providence Station, New York Pennsylvania Station, Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, Wilmington Station and Baltimore Penn Station, according to a recent eWEEK story. The company installed its first kiosk in Amtrak’s Chicago Union Station last August.
The MobileQubes kiosks allow mobile phone users to rent a plug-in battery booster module that gives one to two charges to an Android or iOS smartphone if they’ve forgotten their charger cord or don’t want to wait while their device is charging in a wall socket. The plug-in batteries are called MobileQubes by the company and can be rented at one of its bright-green kiosks for $4.99 for the first 24 hours, plus 99 cents for each extra day up to seven days. After seven days, the rental is automatically transferred into a purchase and additional rentals accrue until the full price of $44.99 is reached. Renters can return the used battery packs to the original kiosk where they picked them up, at another MobileQubes kiosk in another location or can ask the company to send them a prepaid label to mail it back.
Each kiosk holds 160 of the 3,000mAh rental batteries and recharges each one as it is returned by a user. MobileQubes also has deployed its battery module kiosks in airports in New Orleans and Memphis, and has placed them in about 102 locations around the country, including in hotels and casinos. The company plans to have them in 300 to 500 locations by the end of year.