December 5, 2005, 12:00 AM

Why some retailers are eyeing kiosks again

Multi-channel expectations have hit stores, according to a new report from Forrester Research. To meet store customers’ demands for the kind of information and service they can access on the web, some retailers are reconsidering kiosks.


Some 50% of U.S. consumers use the web at some point during the purchase, even if it’s only to research a product. Now, customers who are used to the control and level of information they have access to online are bringing those expectations into the store, sparking a return of retailers’ interest in kiosks, according to a new report from Forrester Research, “The retail kiosk comeback.”

“Retailers struggle with ways to meet these new demands. Kiosks can help meet them by providing consumers with the control to browse and compare product information at their own pace in the store, without depending on or feeling pressured by a sales associate,” notes report author Tamara Mendelsohn.

In fact, according to Forrester’s data, 67% of consumers polled believe kiosks would be a great way to get information without talking to a sales associate. The report notes that in-store kiosks can assist sales associates as well by giving them access to information already researched by shoppers they are assisting.

Yet some retailers’ early attempts at implementing web-enabled store kiosks failed due to factors such as poor design and poor placement in stores, leaving a bad taste in consumers’ mouths and causing some retailers who’d installed kiosks to take them out. Forrester’s report advises retailers looking to kiosks as a way to provide a better store experience to refocus their strategy before jumping back in, noting that the seemingly easy route of simply attaching an existing e-commerce site to the store kiosk is not necessarily the most effective one.

A successful kiosk implementation may require an interface more suitable to stores that leverages the platform functionality of the web site. For example, Forrester’s report notes, Virgin Megastores’ new kiosks allow shoppers to scan CDs or DVDs to retrieve product information already prepared for its web site.

Another approach is limiting kiosks` role in the store to a specific function. “A kiosk should have a specific job such as solving a problem. Simply putting up a ‘web site on a stick’ will not be the best way to solve a problem,” says Mendelsohn. “Retailers should identify a quantifiable, functional problem that a kiosk can solve and then design and optimize the hardware and software application to address the problem.” One example is using kiosks to allow store customers to check loyalty program status and point or reward balances, Forrester notes.


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