The Perspective 
Monday, 28 September 2009

It isn’t often that we truly can compare apples to apples when it comes to kiosks. There are many reasons: The applications on the kiosks are different (retail versus financial services, for example). The hardware and software manufacturers are not the same. The placements within the businesses are so different that a real comparison would be unfair.

Recently, however, we did have the rare opportunity to compare two kiosks in two deployments that presented a level playing field. Both kiosks belong to the retail self-checkout vertical market, and both use the same hardware and software from NCR. Furthermore, they are located in the checkout lanes in large big box retailers—Ikea and Lowe’s—and both use the kiosks as an integral part of their customer experience strategy. The difference is that one provides a positive experience while the other leaves the customer frustrated.

Although the exterior appearance of the kiosks is slightly different to allow each retailer to leverage its brand—logos, colors, fonts—the kiosks essentially look the same and operate in the same manner. The usage process is identical: Customers scan the barcode on their items, or key them in, and move the product down to the end for bagging. When all the items have been successfully scanned, customers pay for their purchases, collect their receipt and proceed to the exit.

The kiosk at Ikea was frustrating to use. The built-in scanner did not work, despite repeated attempts, so I tried to use the hand held scanner. That attempt was not initially successful, either, until an employee came by and said I needed to hold the scanner about six inches from the barcode. I asked her "How was I supposed to know that? There is nothing on the screen to indicate that this is how the thing works." She shot me an angry look and walked away. I was serious. The secret to self-service—any kind of self service, including candy vending machines—is don’t make me think. As I looked around at other customers at nearby kiosks, I saw that several were equally thwarted in their attempts to check out. They were looking for another kiosk to use. But once I learned how to use the scanner, I was able to complete the check-out process without incident.

Later that day, I used the kiosk at Lowe’s with no problem. The built-in scanner worked perfectly, and I was able to check myself out quickly and easily. Admittedly, now that I was proficient at using the NCR checkout kiosks from my visit to Ikea, the process was easier to complete.
One problem with the kiosks at both stores was that the numeric keypad was not laid out in the format we all understand, the layout used worldwide on phones. This one is laid out more like the keypad on a computer keyboard. It is not the worst fault one could imagine, but the unusual configuration does slow down a user.

Why was one experience so much better than the other, given that the hardware and user interface were the same? We believe it is because the kiosks at Lowe’s are better maintained and all seemed to work without any difficulty or hiccup. Statistics from our recently published flagship report, the seventh edition of "Kiosks and Interactive Technology," show that the overwhelming majority of kiosk deployers say they maintain their kiosks either directly (using store personnel) or through third-party providers. But having a maintenance contract and actually having preventive or routine maintenance performed on a regular basis are two entirely different things.

What can we conclude? Lowe’s seems to apply more resources to keeping its kiosks fully operational. As far as I could tell, the kiosks all worked flawlessly. The Ikea units were problematic; several customers (in addition to myself) began looking for another kiosk the moment we encountered repeated difficulties. The store, even on a Tuesday morning, was quite busy, and all the other kiosks were in use, so we had to make do. Customers are not given the luxury of finding a human to check them out—it is use the kiosk or leave empty-handed. In a number of cases over the years, we have seen people give up and leave the store, or find a human-assisted checkout line.

Negative experiences can have a significant impact on the likelihood a customer will return to shop another day. But while Lowe’s customers always have the choice of visiting a Home Depot or smaller hardware stores, Ikea customers are less fortunate. The chain simply has no real competition. The choices are too vast, the designs are too appealing and, most importantly, the prices are too low, for their customers to take their business elsewhere. They will return, grumbling about their less-than-happy experience at the checkout counter, but they will be back. It would be nice to know that in the future, they will find kiosks that are as easy to use as those at Lowe’s.

Francie Mendelsohn is president of Summit Research Associates

Posted by: Francie Mendelsohn AT 01:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 28 September 2009

An estimated 1,080,000 unique advertising spots play on Digital Out-of-Home displays across North America during 2009, based on calculations using conservative parameters.

The Digital Signage /Digital Out-of-Home (DS/DOOH) industry in North America has emerging rapidly (25-50 percent CAGR) over the past six years in particular and despite reductions of an estimated three percent in overall ad spending, ad spending on DOOH continues to grow from its 2008 level of $1.4 billion (according to PQ Media) by nine percent annually. DOOH has found itself in the “communications continuum” with other credible advertising medium such as TV, radio, Internet, print, billboard, etc. and is positioning as a “trigger device” to motivate engagement through a handheld and mobile interactivity.

The Digital Out-of-Home area of the industry, which is based on third party advertising revenues is comprised of almost 200 networks, which allow advertisers to reach targeted audiences based on demographic profile, Designated Market Area (DMA), geography and even the activity in which they are involved (shopping, transit, café, workout, attending a game, etc.) in presenting messages at points of purchase, transit and gathering.

The following provides sample characteristics of networks while indicating total industry ad volume. The estimates used are generally conservative.

DOOH advertising is sold by a wide range of organizations including:
  • Most Digital Out-of-Home networks have an internal ad sales capability.
  • Many network operators are members of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau ( or the Canadian Out-of-Home Digital Association (CODACAN These associations increase the profile of DOOH to accelerate overall ad sales success.
  • Adcentricity (per represents over 80 network partners with over 140,000 place-based and retail screens covering 16 main venue categories and over 70 sub-categories.
  • SeeSaw Networks, (per “reaches more people in more places than any other digital video network. Combining over 50 digital signage networks across 30 different types of locations, SeeSaw is the most extensive national digital video network currently in 26,000 venues nationally and growing. SeeSaw delivers over 50 million weekly gross impressions – more than primetime TV spots at a fraction of the cost”.
  • rVue ( acts as a sales agent for about 20 networks.
  • Ad display on DOOH are often included in campaign proposals blended with TV, cable, radio or static billboard ads by ABC, CBS, NBC, ClearChannel and others.
  • As existing media providers (i.e. cable, print, etc) deploy DOOH networks, ad display opportunities will be bundled with “core business” ad proposals.
  • Personnel responsible for sponsorship, patron programs, merchandising and co-op programs typically add Digital Signage to their proposals when display capability is added to their facilities.
  • Other ad sales capability could be expected as media organizations seek to leverage their ad sales capabilities and infrastructure.
Given the proven results in sales lift, message recall and awareness, reduced perceived waiting times and improvement to the location experience that result from the proper use of Digital Out-of-Home, as well as the continuing growth in the number of displays, advertisers and ad sales representation, the future continues to be positive for Digital Signage/Digital Out-of-Home – “the sharpest instrument in an advertiser’s tool chest.”

Lyle Bunn is a consultant, commentator and educator in North America’s Digital Signage / Digital Out-of-Home industry.
Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 10:34 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 21 September 2009

Transactions completed by consumers in North America using self-service kiosks are projected to more than double over the next few years, according to a new research study from IHL Group.

The report, "2009 North American Self-Service Kiosks," forecasts the value of self-service kiosk transactions will grow from $775 billion this year to more than $1.6 trillion by 2013. According to Lee Holman, lead retail analyst of the IHL Group, the ongoing recession is contributing to the growth of self-service kiosks as businesses and institutions turn to the technology to keep labor costs in check. Also helping to propel the growth is consumer acceptance of self-service kiosks as what he termed "a way of life."

In particular, retailers, restaurants and transportation authorities can expect to see continued double-digit revenue growth from self-service kiosk transactions, said Holman.

The report is outstanding news for the digital signage market. As I’ve written about before in this space, pairing traditional linear digital signage with interactive capability is a powerful tool for anyone who has a message to deliver and a transaction to conduct.

That’s because such hybrid interactive digital signs can be used to promote events, merchandise and services as normal digital signs do, and with the touch of finger be transformed into interactive mode supporting self-service transactions for the very items promoted in the normal, linear digital signage presentation. For example, imagine digital signage kiosks strategically positioned around a shopping mall promoting what’s showing at the mall cinema with movie trailers, text, graphics and animation. After attracting the interest of passersby, some will decide to act on the impulse to watch a movie. With a clearly visible instruction to touch the sign to select a movie and buy tickets, the sign switches to interactive mode offering the customer the opportunity to browse movie times, select a show and purchase a ticket — maybe even dispense a coupon for concessions too.

All that’s needed to turn a linear digital sign into an interactive self-service kiosk is the right software, someone to build, test and deliver the branching and transactional aspects of the interactive presentation and any one of several different technologies that recognizes a touch to the screen as an interactive input.

One particular hybrid interactive digital signage application in a suburb of Wichita, KS, takes interactivity to an even higher level. The Walnut Valley Garden Center in Andover, KS, is using interactive digital signage to provide customers with self-service guidance on completing landscaping projects, recommending garden products based on their specific project and fulfill orders on an expeditious basis. The garden center application illustrates another important aspect of digital signage-based self-service kiosks not covered in the IHL Group report. Specifically, hybrid, interactive digital signs can be used to enhance efficiencies in areas of business such as customer service, order processing, inventory control, marketing and personnel allocation. Taken together, efficiencies in these areas can have a real impact on the bottom line of a business.

That’s a substantial bonus for businesses that stand to benefit from a more than doubling of self-service kiosk transactions over the next few years. Isn’t it time you joined the digital signage revolution?

David Little is director of business development at Keywest Technology.

Posted by: David Little AT 01:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 14 September 2009
Oct.1, 2009, marks the 10th anniversary of the first talking ATM installed in the United States. From that first accessible ATM’s release in 1999, there are now tens of thousands of talking ATMs around the world.
Here I highlight the advocacy efforts, technology developments and corporate commitments that have contributed to the proliferation of talking ATMs in the United States and around the world over the past 10 years. Please check my Web site over the next two months for more updates.
Blind community advocates laid the groundwork for talking ATMs in the 1980s and early 1990s, with important policy work on federal legislation and regulations. These advocates made strides with the banking industry, as well as by serving on standard-setting committees. Banks were first contacted using structured negotiations in the mid-1990s; by 1999, all of these efforts resulted in the first installed talking ATMs in the United States.
CCB advocacy leads to Wells Fargo’s 1999 state-wide commitment
Three months before the first talking ATM was installed in the United States, Wells Fargo and the California Council of the Blind announced a historic plan to install talking ATMs throughout the state. 
When the first 20 talking ATMs were installed at Wells in April 2000, Wells became the U.S. bank with the most talking ATMs in the country. 
In 2002, Wells Fargo announced state-wide plans for Talking ATMs in Iowa. In 2003, the bank announced that its talking ATMs also would provide spoken instruction in Spanish. By 2009, all of Wells’ more than 7,000 ATMs are talking ATMs.
1999: First U.S. talking ATM installed in San Francisco City Hall
The first talking ATM in the United States was built by Canadian accessibility company T-Base Communications Inc. for the San Francisco Federal Credit Union. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the ATM's installation at San Francisco City Hall, part of San Francisco’s plan to make City Hall fully accessible.
Len Fowler, then a T-Base employee, flew to San Francisco with the parts and assembled the audio aspects of the Diebold Inc. machine on-site.
T-Base got the bid, because the only 12 talking ATMs in the world at that time were owned by the Royal Bank of Canada.
California Council of the Blind’s 1999 Citibank announcement
One month after San Francisco’s talking ATM was up and running, the California Council of the Blind on Nov. 9, 1999, announced that Citibank had installed five talking ATMs in California. The announcement was the result of an agreement that CCB and individual CCB members had reached with the bank. Eighteen months later, Citibank announced that it had installed the first talking ATMs in New York. 
The early Citibank talking ATMs were touchscreen-only, with unique tactile input devices along the bottom of the screen. That input method, while innovative and effective at the time, proved cumbersome, and today all talking ATMs, including Citibank ATMs, have tactile keypads.
Bank of America’s 2000 multistate talking ATM commitment
Bank of America was the first bank in the country to agree to install talking ATMs in more than one state. In March 2000, B of A announced a deal with CCB to develop a plan to install talking ATMs in California and Florida and said it would work out a plan for the rest of the country the following year.
B of A, the California Council of the Blind and several blind individuals eventually signed three different settlement agreements, ultimately calling for the installation of talking ATMs at every U.S. B of A location. The bank is now very close to meeting that goal, with more than 12,000 talking ATMs installed across the country.
Lainey Feingold is managing partner with the Law Office of Lainey Ford.
Posted by: Lainey Feingold AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 09 September 2009
Digital signage and digital out-of-home is not in itself a technological breakthrough, but rather the ongoing incremental improvement of technology integration that exploits "digital" in a supply chain that includes digital content creation, management, connectivity, playout, display and measurement.

This incrementalism, which continues its rapid acceleration, means that neither ad revenue achievement or "infrastructure" come first, but are concomitant — both effected by, and effecting each other simultaneously. The presence of either of these elements supports and triggers the other.

It was never an option for a single DOOH firm to "cross the chasm" with others rapidly following as is characteristic in technology breakthroughs. Instead, a critical mass and momentum by a larger number of firms has had to be achieved almost simultaneously over the past several years, which in itself has fueled growth.
Digital signage is a vortex, accelerated by the internal forces of enabling technologies, better technology integration and scalable operations along with the external forces of the increasing pressure for communications and marketing cost effectiveness.
The growing numbers of networks and displays reflect the broadening at the top of the vortex, while the vortex seeks to gather up and integrate technology elements and processes with integration into other systems for better message targeting, impact measurement and other points of operational optimization and cost savings.

The growth in the number and locations of displays motivates increased advertising which enables greater infrastructure investment, resulting in an upward spiral, rather than a "chasm crossing."

The great benefit is that all end users, location providers, technology providers, system integrators and operators, and content providers "win" through participating in this upward spiral.

The genesis of DOOH has not triggered an exodus from TV or other advertising devices, but enabled the revelation that media more optimally applied means more effective communications spending. Digital signage has found its place, incrementally, into the communications continuum and is on its path in wealth creation, in the same way that every other high-value application of managing light has found its economic success since the beginning of time. DOOH allows demographic targeting at points of purchase, long dwell times and high traffic.

The expanding infrastructure of digital displays proliferates message presentation in the "digisphere," the global environment of digital addressability and connectivity where media and messaging serve people, organizations and society.

People live on the lithosphere of earth, as part of its biosphere in its atmosphere while looking up into its troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere. The digisphere enables human success through connectivity in all these areas.

Within the digisphere, communications can be increasingly granular — in the case of digital signage and digital out-of-home, improving the message targeting to audiences and individuals by location, interest, demographic and intended action to improve the level of relevance and engagement leading to the outcome intended by the communicator.

Lyle Bunn is a highly regarded independent advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage/digital out-of-home sector.
Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Friday, 04 September 2009

Product packaging is a powerful and effective means of communicating a product’s potential, promise and desirability to consumers. There’s no argument about that. However, product packaging is a little overworked these days — a package must clearly list ingredients, nutrition facts, instructions for use, safety information, consumer hotlines, and make room for a bar code. And all of this is before the important stuff! It must also do a stellar job of displaying its brand, attract consumers and make them desire the product — and do this better than every other product package within view.

Until recently, product packaging has been pretty much up to the task of delivering all that is asked of it. But, with bigger stores carrying ever-larger assortments, packages need to shout louder to be heard over the competition. Compounding this problem is the admirable drive to reduce packaging, which finds manufacturers with less package ‘real estate’ to use for messaging. In some cases, there is no package to use for messaging (think bicycles or car tires) — just a tiny shelf tag to tell the story. And if your product package can’t tell its story, your product won’t make it into the cart. Consider that a recent Miller Zell study shows that 60 percent of purchase decisions are made right there in the aisle.

Interactive media systems bring products to life. Video games locked in display cases are replaced with on-demand trailers, searchable extended inventory and instant pre-ordering.
Interactive media systems bring products to life. Video games locked in display cases are replaced with on-demand trailers, searchable extended inventory and instant pre-ordering.
It’s no surprise then that we’re seeing an increasing number of retailers and brands using in-store interactive media systems to help their overworked product packaging. Interactive touchscreens offer near-infinite real estate in a compact space, which makes it possible to provide in-depth technical information, to show product demonstration videos or simply tell a product’s story. The feel-good origins of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or the quest for innovation that led to Dyson vacuum cleaners make for compelling "aisle theatre," and are sometimes just the things that cement purchase decisions.

Another retail trend I see is the inclusion of extended inventories — products which are merchandized in the store, but only available online or via ship-to-store delivery for later pickup. This trend brings the best of web shopping to the brick-and-mortar store, but often comes without all the great sorting and filtering tools the web provides to make sense of all this choice.

Think of digital cameras, or other technical products that require some consideration like golf clubs, laptop computers or even baby carriers. Without a knowledgeable sales associate and only a shelf tag to do the talking, retailers are increasingly turning to in-store interactive screens. These assistive shopping systems guide consumers through the selection process and provide independent user ratings, product reviews, and even price comparisons. The trend toward these systems is growing, as it is preferable to maintain a single, accurate product decision tree, than to train thousands of store associates on the intricacies of a dozen or more high-touch product lines.

Looking to the future of in-store interactive systems, it’s clear the gel has not set — retailers are still discovering new ways of mixing packaging and interactive technology to connect with consumers. Decades from now when computing is truly ubiquitous, and packages are literally alive with moving images, every container could be in itself an interactive experience. Until that future arrives, in-store interactive systems may be the best way to think outside the package.

Posted by: Troy Carroll AT 01:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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