The Perspective 
Sunday, 25 June 2006
Juan Perez is president chief technology officer of kiosk software developer ADUSA, Inc.
The trend of changing from traditional ordering to self-service creates healthy debate, but also misconceptions. In the case of self-ordering, critics make believe that kiosks somehow detract from the customer experience.
A Chicago Sun-Times columnist writing about a deli self-ordering kiosk at his local supermarket called it “another step towards our dehumanized future.” When asked about using self-ordering to help alleviate the long lunch lines in his restaurants, the CEO of a growing sandwich chain said he wanted the long lines, because having customers waiting in long lines was a part of the restaurant’s culture. He said they can usually listen to a local musician strumming a guitar while they wait.
Both perspectives ignored the fact that a growing number of their customers are more concerned with convenience than with ambiance or old-fashioned retail charm.
Convenience is what self-service is all about. And, yes, you can have self-ordering in your supermarket or restaurant and still maintain a traditional ordering process for those customers who prefer it. Self-ordering and traditional ordering can co-exist. They complement each other well.
Implementing self-ordering at the supermarket deli or in the restaurant will free up resources to dedicate more time to customers using the traditional ordering method. Order accuracy, which naturally improves for self-ordering customers, now also has a chance to improve for traditional-ordering customers. Order size, which has been proven to increase for self-ordering customers, now also has a chance to increase for traditional-ordering customers. Lines are shorter and wait times are reduced. Both kinds of customers are served better. Order accuracy is improved. Retailers really can’t afford not to try out self-ordering in their stores.
In his column, the Sun Times columnist reminisced about when he was a boy and the butcher would give him a slice of bologna while preparing his mother’s deli order. He laments that self-ordering makes that sort of old-fashioned retail experience extinct. But he also says the self-ordering process is “efficient as heck,” and that it would be a lifesaver on a busy Saturday afternoon. He would also do well to ask a busy customer which they would value more: a few seconds of social interaction with the stranger behind the deli counter, or shaving off 10–15 minutes from their shopping trip.
Consumerism moves forward. There is no going back to the days of free balogna. Self-service gives the customer control and a growing number of customers, having tried it, will have it no other way.
Self-ordering will most likely become available in every supermarket deli and restaurant on the planet because customers will demand it. Many retailers recognize this trend and are working to integrate self-ordering into their stores and restaurants. As for the others: it’s never too late to give the customers what they want.
Posted by: Juan Perez AT 02:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 19 June 2006
Self-service innovation is rapidly growing and changing with no sign of slowing down. Research indicates that customers have moved from acceptance of self-service choices to demand of the technology. Clearly, it is no longer a question of whether to implement the technology, but rather where and how to do so for the most impact on customer service and return on investment (ROI).
It is vital that retailers understand what lies ahead for this ever-evolving technology. Three key areas of innovation are leading the way in the move to a self-everything world: footprint, new technologies and ergonomics.
Smaller Footprints
Space is an important commodity in the world of retail. Fortunately, self-checkout technology is evolving to accommodate smaller footprints. Space-restricted retailers such as convenience stores, drug stores, specialty shops and department stores can now benefit from space-saving versions of self-checkout.
Current, as well as future, adopters of the technology will benefit from smaller self-checkout hardware that frees up more floor space, providing opportunities to offer better customer service and improvements to the bottom line.
Introduction of New Technologies
Radio frequency identification (RFID) and other emerging technologies have launched a new wave of possibilities for self-service solutions. Examples include:
  • Enhanced payment options, including contactless (RFID-enabled) payment and fingerprint recognition, provide consumers and retailers with added convenience and efficiency
  • Integrated Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) deactivation antennas increase customer convenience by deactivating EAS tags while ensuring security for store owners
  • Multiple language capabilities break down language barriers and open the world of self-checkout to customers across a spectrum of cultures

Looking to the future, RFID readers may someday be integrated with self-checkout, as well as assisted-service checkout, to read RFID tags on individual merchandise packages. Germany’s METRO Group has installed self-checkout with an RFID reader in its RFID Innovation Center. In this METRO Group demonstration, the self-checkout deactivates the merchandise security function of the RFID tag on selected merchandise during the scanning process, enabling customers to exit the store without triggering a security alarm.

Ergonomic Enhancement
With consumer acceptance no longer a barrier, technology providers and retailers are focusing more attention on improving the usability of self-checkout solutions. Look for continuing enhancements around solution design and management, to include making the user interface even faster and easier to use. Screens will provide more advanced functionality and richer multi-media content with “multi-pathing” – a feature allowing shoppers to conduct transactions in the personalized way that seems most logical to them. Hardware design will continue to provide incremental improvements to the transaction “flow” while better assisting those with disabilities.
Where is Your Self-Checkout Headed?
It’s clear that self-checkout technology is rapidly growing and evolving. For retailers who wish to stay ahead of the competition, the key to successful implementation depends on an experienced, yet innovative technology partner who knows the retail industry inside and out.
Mike Webster is vice president and general manager for NCR Self-Service. He leads all aspects of the self-service business for NCR’s Retail Solutions Division, including the NCR FastLane self-checkout and NCR EasyPoint kiosk lines, as well as airport self-check-in and other travel industry solutions from Kinetics, a subsidiary of NCR, and medical self-service solutions from Galvanon, an NCR company.
Posted by: Mike Webster AT 02:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 12 June 2006
There’s a closely guarded secret in the journalism world that really isn’t a secret to anyone who reads a great deal of journalism: Reporters are extremely opinionated. But if that confession leads you to believe you’ll gain some inside information from reading this column, by the end you will feel gypped.
In a newsroom, where these opinionated types congregate, they debate stuff. And one of the debates around our office has been whether U.S. consumers will adopt media-burning kiosks. Those skeptical that adoption will occur usually cite home downloading as the primary thwart.
Home media download creates two areas of direct competition to media downloading stations: 1) The ability to download without leaving the house, and 2) the ability to download media that is free, albeit oftentimes illegally. I’m not endorsing piracy, but it is an undeniable competitor in the marketplace. In 2003, USA Today wrote that about 4 million people were using file-swapping networks at any given time.
Fortunate for deployers of media kiosks, severe limits to what a person can do from home may help drive consumers to their machines. Pirated files may be poor quality (grainy movies, badly recorded sound), and the time it takes to download any thing larger than a typical three-minute song onto a home PC is daunting. Pulling a feature-length film through a consumer grade broadband connection, for example, can take all night. And unless someone is savvy about the proper protections to take, file-sharing is a good way to get a computer virus.
At least, then, the case for a DVD-burning kiosk seems obvious. If it can do in a few minutes what would take a PC with broadband all night to do at a questionable quality, a trip to a kiosk is warranted. What’s more, the business model is more efficient than traditional DVD sales, requiring no freight costs or shelf space, and can be offered less expensively.
The case is less clear when it comes to CD-burning kiosks. If you download an MP3 at home, you can buy exactly what you want, reproduced in excellent quality, for about 99 cents per song. If a person on a file-sharing network happens to get a bad copy, it only takes a couple minutes to download a different copy. Here, the skeptics have a point: Who would ever leave his house to download an MP3, or take the time while running errands? We started batting this around after McDonald’s removed its MP3 kiosk from its flagship store in Illinois. To many people, that the kiosk wouldn’t work should have been obvious from the start– it just wasn’t practical for the average person MP3 user, compared to downloading and burning at home.
And then there is me, whose (admittedly very weak) response to this question is: The kiosks are a hit in Germany.
Germany’s population is wired to the Internet as much as the U.S.’s, and boasts more Web sites than any other country. But in Germany, McDonald’s MP3 burning kiosks are very popular. It seems there must be some kind of cultural difference. Maybe Germans like hanging out and doing things at McDonald’s, whereas in the U.S. we act differently. Or, perhaps, Germans aren’t so likely to pirate media as Americans.
I’ve asked experts. I’ve Googled. And still, I have no clue. So this is the part where you feel gypped: I have absolutely no answer to this argument, other than to say, “It works in Germany.”
Perhaps you can help. If you have an idea of why media download kiosks work over there but not over here, e-mail them to .
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 05 June 2006
Over the past three-plus months, I have been to trade shows in Orlando, Las Vegas and Chicago and have visited with companies in the Midwest, New England and (old) England. An observation: people tell me the grass must be greener on the other side.
They don’t use this expression, but essentially this is what they’re telling me. In the U.S., people have wondered out loud why America is slow to adopt things already seen in Europe. Well, I have a surprise for Americans: people I met recently in England thought that the European kiosk industry was generally behind the U.S. “What happens in America will eventually happen here,” I was told by Louise Janeway of Hemisphere West Europe. Case in point: the U.S. has had a kiosk show for 10 years and kiosk shows are now only starting to crop up in Europe.
So who is further along? I would say each is more advanced in certain areas. Obviously, citing the number of shows and how many years they have been in existence, the industry in North America is more mature than Europe. But that doesn’t mean Europe hasn’t been more innovative in some ways. It could certainly be argued that kiosk design in North America has been strongly influenced by sleek European design. And where would we be without engineering and manufacturing innovations from Asia?
It seems the U.K. at least is further along in protecting credit card users from fraud. On February 14, the U.K. government rolled out an initiative to implement chip and PIN (or smart cards) across the country. (Exceptions are being made for residents who have not received their new card and overseas visitors.) Several restaurants I’ve visited in the U.K. bring the PIN pad to the table so that the credit card never leaves the consumer’s hand.
According to a press release, fraud fell by 80 percent after introduction of smart cards in France. So while mass chip and PIN introduction in Europe is ahead of North America, some parts of the U.S. are leapfrogging to biometric technology (see related story: Misplaced fears impede biometric adoption). Jewel-Osco stores in the Midwest U.S., for example, have implemented biometric payment systems.
This “grass must be greener” theory also exists in vertical markets. While at the Retail Systems show in Chicago recently, a visitor to our booth commented that retail has been slower than other indutries to implement self-service. I also heard a similar refrain about the restaurant industry at the National Restaurant Show.
So which industry has adapted more self-service? It depends on your perspective. The financial industry really kicked this thing off with ATMs, which is the most widely-deployed kiosk, but did little other self-service until recently. Pay-at-the-pump, not usually seen as a kiosk, but is certainly self-service, has been around for decades. Check one off for the petroleum industry.
Who would have guessed that the airline industry, with all its troubles, would have been so pioneering in deploying self check-in? Or that supermarkets would lead the way with self check-out?
Different industries have different strengths and weaknesses. There are bright spots and innovations in all areas. You may find that you are surrounded by green grass in your part of the world or your sector of the industry once you take a closer look.
Posted by: David Drain AT 02:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  
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