November 1, 2001, 12:00 AM

Fill ‘er up—and shop online

Circle K convenience stores is testing 70 web-enabled kiosks in the Southwest and the Southeast. Customers can use the kiosks to shop, check their e-mail, engage in video conferencing and find maps.

Web marketers are going beyond wireless to capture customers on the fly, and one of the latest venues is the landing pad provided by service stations. BP earlier this year began testing kiosks in retail stores attached to service stations in the United Kingdom and just recently began rolling them out in U.S. service stations.

Now, Phillips 66 is, too. In October, Phillips 66 began testing kiosks in 70 Circle K convenience stores. Internet kiosk provider Info Touch, a Canadian company, is partnering with Compaq Canada to develop and install 35 kiosks at Circle K stores in Phoenix and Global Access alliance, a Bessemer, Ala.-based consortium of kiosk companies, will develop and install 40 kiosks in Philadelphia as well as in selected truck stops in the southeastern U.S.

The kiosks will charge per minute usage fees averaging 19 cents with different rates for different web-based services, says Hamed Shabazi, chairman and CEO of Info Touch. Fee revenue will be shared between Circle K and the kiosk developers; sponsorships on the kiosks are expected to provide another revenue stream. Online services at the kiosks go beyond access to shopping to include kiosk-to-kiosk video chat, local news, maps and driving directions, e-mail access, games and even the ability to download electronic media such as music and software onto PDAs.

It’s too soon to get a read on which services will be successful, but Shabazi grants that some applications will work better than others. Two weeks after the deployment, daily usage of the kiosks ranges from one hour to nine hours of use per day, and averages three.

If the pilot project is successful, a larger rollout of several hundred kiosks is planned for early 2002. But getting there will require kiosk performance to hit several specific targets over the next few months. Among them, Circle K is looking for kiosk usage by at least 4% of in-store customers, an increase in store income of at least $500 per month, and gross product sales in kiosk-equipped stores to exceed non-equipped stores and market trends by at least 5%. There are also targets for kiosk downtime, a problem that’s dogged kiosk deployments in a number of settings: it’ll need to be no more than 10% in the first six months and 5% after that.

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