September 20, 2001, 12:00 AM

Borders to add cross-store inventory search to kiosks

“Title Sleuth” kiosks will tell users if the book is available in another store. Kiosk users are more likely to shop at home, make unplanned purchases in the store and buy more books, Borders finds.

Borders Group Inc.’s Title Sleuth in-store kiosks will add a “sister store” availability feature in time for the holidays, Bob Edington, Borders’ director of online operations, tells Internet Retailer. “If you’re in the Michigan Avenue Borders store in Chicago, for example, but you see at the kiosk that the title is not in stock, it’ll tell you if it’s in stock at other area Borders stores,” says Edington.

Borders’ kiosks aren’t at this point transactional, but they’ll tell users how long it will take for a title ordered by the store for delivery and pick up at the store to arrive, if the title isn’t already in the store. The kiosks are linked to local store inventory as well as offsite inventory. The inventory information is updated centrally by Borders every 6 to 24 hours based on sales data, but even so, the integration between what’s on the shelf and what`s listed as available on the kiosk screen isn’t perfect.

That’s because of the nature of “the Borders experience, and how people view us as a retailer,” says Edington. “There’s going to be some discrepancy,” he says. “Customers who come in spend in excess of an hour on average. They’re browsing. If they pick up a book, who’s to say they don’t leave it in the café or on a chair? If on a particular day, a person went to the kiosk, saw that it said the title was in stock, but didn’t find it on the shelf, they could find a staff person who would make the rounds from the back room to areas where books are deposited in the store to see if they could find it.”

Shoppers have flocked to use the kiosks, initially rolled out just before Holiday 2000. Today, more than 1,000 kiosks are distributed among the 350 U.S. Borders stores. Multiple kiosk stations in each store are now standard at Borders, with each store housing three to seven kiosks, depending on store size. Borders store shoppers drive more than 1 million searches per week through the kiosks. “We know that the Title Sleuth user is more likely to also shop at home or at work, that they make more unplanned purchases when in the store than non-users, and that on a per year basis, they spend a good percentage more on books,” says Edington.

At a recent trade show where Borders shared its experience on how Title Sleuth pulls together its external web presence with its in-store presence, the presentation attracted interest from other retailers such as Hallmark. Edington adds, “Not every customer is going to use the kiosk, but those that do use it regular basis, and non-users have indicated their intention to use. We see we still have a ways to go but we feel good about what’s happened so far.”

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