The Perspective 
Friday, 22 June 2007
The other day I was with my dad, driving our Ford F-150 around town and discussing how reliable the truck has been. I remembered hearing that most of the American-made pick-ups rank pretty high in reliability tests from year to year.
It hit me that perhaps one of the reasons the truck has seen less shop time than any car I have owned is that its design is very simple. There is no rain-sensing wiper blade system, no automatic parallel parking computer and no eight-speed computerized transmission. As a result, we don’t have to pay to have these high-end components fixed when they break.
Because of my ever-present self-service mentality, I got to thinking that successful kiosk design should follow the same model. Simpler is better and offering too many features in one kiosk can result in customer dissatisfaction and extra repairs.
I spoke with two kiosk vendors on this topic and they agreed. Both have seen the same thing in their respected fields.
Bill Lynch is vice president of Self Service Solutions for Source Technologies, a member of the SSKA Advisory Board and contributor to He explained that one of the dangers for kiosk manufacturers and deployers fall into the trap of W.I.B.C.I, which stands for “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”
Lynch frequently sees the phenomenon in action. He said banks and financial institutions often want to take financial kiosks beyond simple transaction processing and have them process loan applications and the like. But who wants to wait in line to cash a check while someone applies for a loan?
Greg Swistak, director of the Custom Solutions Group for Elo Touchsystems and member of the SSKA Advisory Board, says that overloaded kiosks are sometimes the result of engineers and technology-philes who aren’t the ones interacting with the customers.
“So many companies get caught up in the kiosk technology,” Swistak said. “Don’t fall in love with the technology; fall in love with the concept of self-service.”
The ATM industry experienced the in the ‘90s. There was a trend among deployers to tack on as many extras to ATMs as they could. The thought was that offering coupons, tickets to events, stamps and lottery tickets would boost the customer experience. The efforts failed miserably.
The reason? Customers who wanted to get 20 bucks out were stuck behind someone looking for Bon Jovi tickets. Too many options meant too many choices and longer wait times. Ultimately, the ATM was stripped back down to its normal (and effective) functionality.  
The truth is that simplicity makes things easier. Kiosks that offer too many applications and features have the potential to annoy customers more than please them. When users get lost in a myriad of options, customers spend more time at the machine and the queues tend to get longer.
To avoid W.I.B.C.I., consider this question: What is the original intent of your kiosk? If the purpose of your ATM is to give customers access to their money, selling concert tickets is only going to slow the process. If the purpose of your retail kiosk is to speed up checkout, than offering gift registry at the same machine will work against the purpose.
I’m not suggesting that people knock the excitement from the industry that comes from experimenting with cool new applications. Just remember who you’re dealing with: the potential repeat-customer who won’t come back if the line is too long.
So, in the end, a kiosk is like a truck. No night-vision windshield camera, no problem. As long as it works like a well-oiled machine.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Friday, 15 June 2007
Bill Lynch is on the Self-Service & Kiosk Association Advisory Board and vice president of Self Service Solutions for Source Technologies, a provider of financial self-service kiosks and printers.
Retail self-service is catching on and everyone’s getting in on the act, as evidenced by hundreds of vendors and increasing adoption rates. According to NCR, 39 percent of consumers are willing to use timesaving self-service alternatives to help reduce their wait times. Consequently, kiosks in North American retail locations have increased 69 percent since 2004, according to KioskCom's Self Service Expo. 
The growing momentum of self-service transactions reveals a higher confidence in non-traditional delivery channels such as self-service kiosks. All businesses should carefully evaluate their approach to self-service and consider the positive impact of deploying services through feature-rich self-service kiosks.
In this new culture of convenience, the real question for consumers is not “may I help you?” but “how would you like to be helped?
Consumers are becoming more comfortable interacting with kiosk technology, even in the sensitive area of money handling. In fact, they increasingly trust automation as much if not more than the traditional person-to-person service.
The rapid growth of self-service technology is leading to a migration of transactions from traditional retail environments to other, more convenient locations driven by consumer demand.  Thus, the kiosk becomes a customer service strategy just like online banking, personal service, call-center support, etc. The objective is to reach the customer when and where he chooses.
So instead of forcing kiosks on customers, the real task becomes identifying the optimal transaction solution for every activity, in any setting, then educating the customer on how to use the new technology. When kiosks provide the right technology solution for self-service, consumers are happy to embrace them once they understand how they meet their needs for convenience and service.
For example, let’s look at bill payment. Historically, bill payment involved someone sending a check through the mail or presenting it in-person. Today consumers who want to pay bills may chose between many options, including online bill payment, paying by mail or paying in-person with either a check, cash, debit card, credit card and money order. 
Despite the vast impact of the Internet and electronic payments, there remain customers who prefer to pay in-person or who do not have traditional banking relationships. In fact, this particular demographic is significant: according to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 40 million U.S. consumers are unbanked or underbanked.
The kiosk is an optimal solution for delivering convenient service to the unbanked as well as for those who may have bank accounts but prefer to pay in person. The utility and wireless industry demonstrates the success of bill payment kiosks, with some providers like cable company Cox Communications having tremendous success with transitioning bill-payments from manual to automation. 
Bruce Beeco, director of Technical Architecture for Cox Communications said “Because these kiosks have the ability to accept all forms of payment and apply them to the accounts in real time, the kiosks are extremely popular with Cox customers. In Baton Rouge, for example, if a kiosk went down, the customer service reps would not be able to handle the workload when it comes to the sheer number of bill payments that customers make. That’s how important [the kiosks] are.”
Businesses embracing expanded self-service offerings realize the benefits of consumer-driven service where the customer can choose his method of business interaction. Kiosk adopters capitalize on this trend by differentiating themselves with self-service portfolios that appeal to today’s convenience-oriented consumer. In addition, self-service kiosks offer many operational benefits by reducing manual tasks for employees, which yields improvements in overhead costs, labor requirements, transaction accuracy and reduced risk of human error.
It is wise to approach this market shift as a response to consumer preferences for self-service transactions already evident in the marketplace. Assisted self-service is already prevalent in applications such as self-checkout lanes at grocery stores, airport self check-in lanes and gas station “pay-at-the-pump” option, where there is an attendant available to assist and sometimes help complete the transaction. Total self-service involves the customer interacting with the kiosk only, as is the case with bill payment. These options are now viewed as an “added value” to convenience and customer service. Kiosks give you an edge, not just another option. 
The convenience challenge
Once you understand the value of kiosks in providing consumer-driven service, how do you sell this concept throughout the organization? Even today, shifting management culture to emphasize customer-oriented delivery solutions rather than the traditional focus on specific technologies can still represent a significant change of thinking. 
Managers should emphasize self-service as a business strategy that weaves numerous technologies and distribution channels together into a self-service portfolio, rather than focusing on one specific device. Businesses will achieve more benefits by implementing the self-service solution that best matches the needs of its key customer groups.  
Businesses that embrace the market shift to a broad view of service options will differentiate themselves by providing more customer choice in service delivery. In this new culture of convenience, the real question for consumers is not “may I help you?” but “how would you like to be helped?” 
Decision makers should carefully evaluate their organization’s approach to self-service and consider the positive impact of providing these options. Kiosks are a distinct part of a company’s portfolio of self-service options and add value for progressive businesses that are willing to invest in convenient, feature-rich technologies for their customers.

Posted by: Bill Lynch AT 12:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 11 June 2007
The writer is a senior analyst on Forrester’s Marketing and Strategy team.
Retailers struggle to adapt as the online channel shifts the balance of control into consumers’ hands and increases pressure on stores to deliver superior experiences. Consumers who research products online before buying them offline will influence more than $500 billion of offline sales in 2007.
Now, retail’s newest sales channel, mobile, promises to change the dynamics of shopping yet again.
Over time, mobile will bring three new attributes to the multichannel shopping experience — portability, location awareness and ubiquity — characteristics that bring consumer control to a whole new level.
More than three-quarters of households in the United States (88.4 million), own at least one mobile phone; the average is two per household. As carriers continue to offer low-cost services such as prepaid and family plans and as new entrants target underserved segments, Forrester predicts household penetration in the U.S. will exceed 85 percent by the end of the decade, outstripping the Web.
As U.S. consumers grow comfortable with using mobile devices for activities beyond voice, the mobile channel stands to exert a greater impact on their shopping habits. Although buying products through the mobile phone still is far from becoming mainstream, using the device as a self-service tool to aid in the shopping experience is much more imminent.
As the form of mobile commerce with the lowest consumer risk and greatest value proposition, product search will be the starting point to mobile shopping for most consumers. Mobile applications for search and comparison are emerging to aid shoppers and give them more control at the point of decision. SCANBUY, for example, enables shoppers to compare retail prices with online prices by taking a picture of the barcode or tapping the barcode number into a downloadable mobile application. The application then retrieves prices for the product from online comparison shopping engines.
GPShopper, which has more than 100,000 users through its mobile application, lets consumers search for products at local stores and compare prices and promotions. NearbyNow, another local search-based application, gathers local inventory feeds from mall-based stores; when users search for specific products, the application sends back an SMS detailing which stores carry the product and whether it is in stock.
Mobile-based product search threatens to turn brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for Web-tailers such as and other lower-priced online pure plays as consumers compare prices while in-store. So not only do retailers have to compete with low-priced online pure plays in the Web channel, now they have to do so within their stores.
Retailers can’t fight consumers who want to compare retail store prices to Web prices; instead, they should give consumers an incentive to identify themselves through their mobile devices when in the store, which will provide an opportunity to target in-store shoppers. This requires store-based technologies such as Bluetooth-enabled kiosks and, eventually, mobile-location-aware services that can engage consumers when they are in the store and help to prevent them from defecting to a competitor.
Local search also takes center stage as on-the-go consumers search for products and where to buy them. This places pressure on retailers to release local store inventory data (when available) to engines such as NearbyNow, Channel Intelligence and ShopLocal, and to begin buying keywords on local search engines and general search engines.
There is no rest for the weary retailer as consumers increasingly connect themselves to new channels and to each other, arming themselves with information to make smarter decisions and take control over a process that traditionally has given retailers the upper hand. Retailers that want to succeed in this new world are given little choice but to engage with consumers on their terms and use technologies of their own to grant them entrance into consumers’ connected lives.
Posted by: Tamara Mendelsohn AT 12:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 04 June 2007
In a span of three weeks I recently attended three major shows. Traveling between Las Vegas, Chicago and Essen, Germany, it got a good view of the state of the market in terms of self-service, kiosks and digital signage.
(For additional show coverage click here.)
Companies exhibited many practical yet innovative uses of self-service at Self Service Expo, formerly known as KioskCom. Flextronics’ Smart Auto Management (SAM) kiosk, for example, connects to a car’s onboard diagnostics and checks more than 2,000 fault codes and can make vehicle owners aware of applicable recalls or technical service bulletins.
I’ve heard self-service described as “turning the screen around” to the customer, and two kiosks I saw particularly reminded me of this point: United Tote’s convertible POS system specifically for pari-mutuel wagering and Apunix’s perfume kiosk for Nordstrom, which can be used by employees for assisted selling or by consumers for self-service.
Alamo Rent A Car’s new ad campaign is does something fresh: It highlights kiosks as a point of differentiation.
From what I’ve seen, I believe that many companies in the United States — especially retailers — are not asking themselves if they should implement some form of customer-facing technology, but when and how. Whether it’s to save costs or differentiate from their competitors, they don’t want to be left behind.
In Europe
Although I think most would agree that the market is more mature in North America — its 11-year history of self-service and kiosk trade shows is a strong argument — the European market is definitely coming into its own. This year, Germany’s Kiosk Europe Expo featured approximately 120 exhibitors from 26 countries, attracting companies from across Europe, Russia, China, Australia and North America.
At the show, it was exciting to see that companies were trying new things. I saw a new form of gesture technology, a battery-powered kiosk on wheels, large-format interactive digital signage, even a kiosk that was shaped like a pet. I saw plenty of the elegant European design we always hear about in the United States, and I saw great software applications. One, called MusicGenome, could predict a user’s music tastes with 80 percent accuracy after having the user rate a couple of sample songs.
Though self-service was born in Europe, with the first ATM created in England, it has thrived in North America. The United States, in particular, knows how to mass-market good ideas. Still, neither shore is a clear leader.
For years, Europeans have used machines to purchase train and subway tickets, as well as pay for parking, while some U.S. cities only are beginning to move in that direction. On the other hand, pay-at-the-pump has been around for years in North America, but has been slow to catch on in Europe. In the United States and Europe many service industries, such as restaurants and hotels are slow to adopt for reasons varying from language, culture, currency and user attitudes.
On the digital signage front, while most of the industry is still involved in broadcasting, a growing number of digital signage applications are becoming interactive by using various triggers, be it touch, motion sensors, RFID, mobile phone or others. Nanonation showed off a 65-inch touchscreen application it developed for Royal Caribbean. GestureTek also continues to develop non-traditional methods of interaction.
From what I’ve observed, what the self-service and digital signage industries in the United States and Europe have most in common is that they are limited only by imagination. The technology is there, or will be soon. The best applications anywhere, however, are those created to solve a problem.
Posted by: David Drain AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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