A mini-debate broke out over the value of in-store, web-based kiosks at the Retail Systems 2001 conference in Chicago this week. As an aside at the end of his keynote presentation, Gerald Storch, vice chairman of Target Corp., said he opposes web-based kiosks in stores. In response to a question from the audience, Storch elaborated: “It’s insulting to the customer when she’s driven all the way to the store to tell her we don’t have the product but she can order it from this kiosk and wait a week or two for it to come to her house.” He said Target’s 10 years of experimenting with kiosks have shown that the best uses for kiosks are as electronic store directories, to explain products and as gift registries.
A few minutes later, Brian Light, CIO of Staples Inc., disagreed with Storch during the panel discussion “The Dot Has Settled ... Now What?” Staples likes kiosks for a number of reasons, he said. For one, “We have a lot of complex inventory that we are not able to inventory in the store and kiosks make that available to our customers,” he said. Furthermore, they are useful in guiding a customer through a sale, for training of sales associates and to promote Staples’ web site, Light said.