March 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

How web-enabled kiosks are adding more C to C-stores

(Page 2 of 2)

Meantime, 7-Eleven’s kiosks have been shrinking, literally, and that’s good, says Morrow. When 7-Eleven first commissioned NCR Corp. to roll out in-store kiosks in 2001, the kiosks measured nine feet wide, taking up a lot of space for a convenience store. But as 7-Eleven worked with NCR to perfect the machines to offer more services, they also shrank in size. They went to six feet wide, and then to the current three feet. Now the relatively svelte machines are small enough that 7-Eleven will deploy two in some stores in less space than was required by the original model.

The growing need for two kiosks per store stems from the increasing number of services available on the kiosks, Morrow says. The kiosks can cost up to $60,000 each, though Morrow says that, as in most computer technology, kiosk prices have been dropping.

Retailers selling through 7-Eleven kiosks may pay a placement fee to have links appear on the kiosk screen, or fees based on transactions, Morrow says. Cyphermint charges a one-time set-up fee to retailers that sell through the kiosks, ranging from $15,000 to $100,000. The fee depends on how many links Cyphermint needs to create between the retailer and the kiosk-based e-commerce system and whether a retailer connects to the Cyphermint Pay Cash System, which enables consumers to make online payments by deducting funds from a networked account.

In addition, Cyphermint may charge a monthly service fee of as much as $2,500, depending on the amount of maintenance a retailer requires. For example, if a retailer sends in printouts of product and promotional information, that costs more to upload into the Cyphermint system than information that retailers send electronically, Stempler says. Retailers selling through the Cyphermint system provide information about products to Cyphermint, which maintains the product information on its own servers. Kiosk customers don’t actually connect to the retailers’ sites until they are ready to check out. Rather, Cyphermint delivers the product information to the kiosk. Only when the customer pushes the Buy button does the kiosk connect to the retailer’s checkout page.

The right direction

Cyphermint also charges transaction fees on kiosk-activated retail sales that it shares with 7-Eleven. These fees range widely depending on the type of transaction, from about 5% to 40% of the value. Sellers of digital content, for instance, would pay fees at the higher end of that range, Stempler says.

Consumers can add value to the Pay Cash System by mailing money orders to Cyphermint or setting up direct deposits from their checking accounts. They can also load value with credit cards at Cyphermint.com, but Cyphermint advises against the use of credit cards because it accepts only cash advance transfers, which typically charge higher interest rates than credit card purchase transactions.

The range of shopping and payment options at 7-Eleven is likely to continue evolving, as the retailer continues looking for new ways to add convenience for customers, Morrow says. “We’re heading in the right direction,” he says.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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