March 20, 2002, 12:00 AM

Web kiosks may spur try-before-you-buy shopping

Using web-enabled kiosks to allow store shoppers to try out merchandise before they buy could be a new trend in selling, analysts say, especially as consumers become comfortable with automated self-service.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor


Using web-enabled kiosks to allow store shoppers to try out merchandise before they buy it could be a new trend in selling, analysts say. "Consumers are getting more comfortable with automatic services and web kiosks are supplementing the store clerks," says John Hoeller Jr., senior manager with KPMG Conuslting Inc.’s consumer markets, retail practice. From a trend standpoint, the “try before you buy” kiosk function allows retailers to extend their store footprint, cut operational costs by requiring less staff to help shoppers find obscure items and give consumers another opportunity to buy something from that store, he says. Hoeller says he expects entertainment and media retailers, including books, music and even computer games and software, to catch onto the web kiosk trend to boost sales.

One example of such an application is Virgin MegaStores’ use of web kiosks. Shoppers looking for music can scan any CD in the store and listen to 30 seconds of a selected track. The kiosks use the in-store broadband connection to connect to a web server that stores Virgin’s entire catalog, giving the retailer another channel to cater to shoppers looking for obscure or older tunes that are not featured at in-store listening stations. The new kiosks are in place in the Virgin’s New York and Boston stores and the company expects to roll out more locations in 2002.



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