|| The Perspective
Monday, 26 October 2009
In the ongoing battle to attract and retain consumer mindshare, retailers are increasingly turning to innovative marketing mediums to engage and stay top-of-mind with consumers. Gone are the days of unlocking the door and turning on the radio; today’s retailers are pressing fast-forward to fully customized soundtracks. Paper POP table tents and static signage are being replaced by sophisticated digital media networks.
Smart companies are implementing ways to take the in-store experience beyond the lease line to extend brand affinity, drive consumer behavior and provide relevant lifestyle content to the consumer. All these advancements aim to enhance the shopping experience, lifting it to more than just a trip to a store, but rather a theatrical experience where purchasing merchandise is only part of the journey.
Not only are these solutions successful at engaging consumers, but they have also been proven to extend dwell time and increase brand awareness – key factors in ongoing loyalty and long-term buying relationships. Keeping consumers inside the store is even more important today than it has been in past years. The current economic downturn has meant a loss in revenue, so on those days when consumers are out and about, it is imperative that a retailer attract them, keep them in store, and close the sale. Just as important is that, as your customers go mobile, so must your brand.
A recent Retail Systems Research report ("Walking the Razor’s Edge: Managing the Store Experience in an Economic Singularity," June 2009) states 70 percent of retailers surveyed said they use in-store technologies to maintain or improve the customer experience and extend that experience past the lease line. According to the same report, two-thirds of the retailers surveyed said they have reduced their payrolls in the wake of the economic slide, but those same two-thirds of retailers surveyed have not changed the expenditures devoted to in-store technology.
So, what are some key elements of the "store as theater" retailers can take advantage of to increase mindshare, and stay connected and engaged with their customers?
The eyes have it
Digital signage is becoming the fastest-growing segment of retail media and advertisers are taking note; a 2007 Forrester survey found 72 percent of advertisers are looking at in-store media as an alternative to traditional advertising. In-store digital signage has the power to effectively relay brand messages to consumers by providing the message diversification needed to captivate shoppers in a new way.
With digital signage networks, advertisers can target consumers in different parts of a store, in different locations, in different ways, at different times of the day, delivering some of the most target-specific visual marketing yet. For example, signage content at an athletic retailer might run footage and/or related product advertising in the footwear section of the store, while the exercise equipment section highlights an instructional video on a specific piece of equipment. According to industry research, in-store messaging drives a 40-percent uptick in sales. It does this because it has the ability to be personal and connect with a consumer on a different level.
Digital signage increases traffic, which in turn increases the capacity to capture the consumer. Gaining a shopper’s attention by placing that consumer into the messaging is a key factor in increasing brand awareness and sales. For instance, a person who is passionate about surfing may see themselves as the focal point of a sign on display at their local surf shop. They connect with the image and are therefore drawn to that store, creating a more loyal following.
They’re all ears
Much like digital signage has the ability to draw a shopper’s attention through visual elements, music attracts consumers through emotion and sound. Customized playlists that put brand to music have the ability to focus on specific demographics, catering to a certain genre and style while staying true to your brand essence. And with choices ranging from commercial satellite subscriptions and pre-arranged "mixes" to regularly updated fully custom programming, there is an option to fit every environment and budget.
In-store music is another area that has benefitted from technology. While many retailers still opt for their programming to be delivered via CD, more and more are choosing to have their tunes delivered over the Internet. Internet delivery has a number of advantages, including ease-of-use and fewer requirements of the on-site store employees. More sophisticated systems/services even allow for track selection and message insertion right from a Web browser.
In selecting a music provider, it is vital to make sure their service enables a level of customization that will fit your current and future needs. Things like day-parting — arranging music for different vibes to coincide for different times of the day — and a true understanding of how to convey your brand via music can make or break the in-store experience. Finally, make sure your chosen provider is current with their licensing agreements. In-store music is "public performance", and leading providers can handle all licensing so you know you’re legal.
Brand on the run
It is more important than ever that retailers implement strategies to take the in-store experience to consumers, wherever they are, to extend brand engagement beyond the lease line. This "anywhere concept" truly extends the lease line of a retailer by allowing consumers to be exposed to branded entertainment media at any moment, whether its an hour or a week after the consumer has left the store.
Mobile, Web radio, branded podcasts, artist promotions and compilation CDs are powerful vehicles for reaching consumers. They provide the means to remain engaged with consumers across multiple touch points, while delivering personalized content that extends brand visibility and affinity. Whether cooking dinner in their kitchen, out for a jog, or sitting in their cubicle at work, an entertainment media campaign keeps your brand in front of consumers on their terms, making sure you stay top-of-mind.
Retailers that can target consumers with multiple touch points at various points of the day and week, in various locations and regions, with branded content and messaging are the retailers who become most successful. These retailers have learned that, for consumers, the shopping experience is not just about selling products — it’s about creating a shopping experience which is fun and exciting, and establishes a true brand connection.
Craig Hubbell is executive vice president of media services for PlayNetwork Inc., where he is responsible for all media services, including music services, video display, and advertising and entertainment services.
Wednesday, 07 January 2009
As deployers and vendors look to maximize the value of self-service in the coming year, it helps to take a look back at what did (and didn't) work in 2008. As editor of SelfService.org, I've compiled some of the stories that rocked the industry last year. Here is Part II of that list.
February was a black month for Citibank as two Brooklyn men allegedly made hundreds of fraudulent withdrawals from New York City ATMs. They reportedly pocketed at least $750,000 in cash. The significance of the thefts? Experts say this ATM crime spree is the first to be publicly linked to the breach of a major U.S. bank's systems.
#4: NCR debuts SelfServ kiosk, ATM lines.
In January, NCR announced the release of the SelfServ ATM, its first new line of ATM in a decade. The SelfServ ATM features, among other things, the ability to accept bulk check deposits. It also comes equipped with so-called self-healing technology – technology that enables the ATM to recover from some malfunctions via a remotely-managed reboot.
The SelfServ 60 kiosk was unveiled in October at KioskCom Self Service Expo. It integrates Intel vPro technology, including the next-generation Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Mobile Intel GM45 Express chipset, enabling it to run more advanced and engaging applications than its predecessor, the EasyPoint 42 kiosk.
#3: EyeSite kiosks help health care industry 'see' the light.
It was early in 2008 when EyeSite kiosks first broke into the national scene. Developed by startup SoloHealth, the EyeSite kiosk provides the user with a self-service eye exam. Though not a substitute for a professional eye exam, the kiosks do give the user a general idea of the quality of his vision and spotlights the dangers of conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. The EyeSite kiosk was developed via a partnership with Netkey and KIOSK Information Systems.
#2: Redbox and Universal Studios go head-to-head.
In August, representatives of Universal Studios showed up unexpectedly at the headquarters of redbox with an ultimatum: Sign a revenue sharing agreement limiting the types of DVDs that could be stocked in redbox kiosks, as well as the amount charged for them, or Universal would cut off sales of its DVDs by commercial distributors. Redbox refused to sign the agreement and in November, filed a lawsuit against Universal, alleging that the distribution company was improperly interfering with a business relationship.
The lawsuit highlights the dramatic effect DVD kiosks are having in entertainment industry. The lack of overhead means DVD kiosks are able to offer DVD rentals for $1 a day – a dramatically cheaper price than that charged by brick-and-mortar stores.
#1: Recession strikes the world economy.
There's no denying that the economic downturn that struck in the last financial quarter of 2008 will have a significant impact on the self-service industry. The jury is still out: Will companies turn to self-service in an effort to cut labor costs, or will they shy away, fearing the initial costs of new deployments?
"We're on the eve of, probably, the greatest financial crisis of our time. In retrospect, I don't think we've ever seen anything like this since World War II," said V. Miller Newton, president of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, while at KioskCom Self Service Expo in October. "Companies are definitely hunkering down. They're gonna cut costs … they're gonna be budget conscious … but I believe self-service is a critical component and a must-have in this economic downturn."
Tuesday, 09 December 2008
Ever since redbox planted its first DVD rental kiosk, self-service deployers have been jockeying for space in the competitive landscape of the digital entertainment industry. Much has been made of Blockbuster's announcement in August that it would use NCR's Express Entertainment kiosk as a platform in its attempt to compete against redbox. Jola Moss, NCR's entertainment industry and solution marketing director, demos the Express Entertainment kiosk and comments on the future of the digital entertainment industry.
Monday, 17 July 2006
People just prefer gifts from the heart. What better way to do this than personalize their memories and make gifts of them? Photo kiosks are now engineered to print everything from regular greeting cards to calendars and mugs.
The demand for these products grew as cameras (and camera-phones) became one of the fastest-selling consumer electronic devices ever, partly due to affordability and the proliferation of secondary industries like digital printing at retail and affordable home photo printers. Prices drop with each new model, paving the way for most households to own at least one digital camera. Upping the ante, camera manufacturers look to out-do each other not only on price, but on form and function as well, making the digital camera highly-appealing to consumers.
The ubiquity of digital cameras in almost every household and the rapid drop in flash memory dollars-per-byte mean that there is an amazing amount of pictures, and now video, taken at all sorts of events like weddings, graduations, birthdays and vacations.
Viewing JPEGs off of your PhotoCD and hitting the disc player’s ‘Next Track’ button repeatedly for about 30 photos may be tolerable, but beyond about 50 photos, you start to wonder if there is a better way to relive your Grand Canyon adventure.
Video, even the most amateurish homemade ones, has the ability to capture the ambience and excitement at any given event in a very different way from photos; from the moment of the kiss at the wedding, to a baby blowing out his birthday candles.
Added to this, the combination of abundant storage and the ability to “shoot and check” has created a generation of trigger-happy users who snap away and end up with hundreds of pictures at a single event, many of which may be pretty similar. We are now also observing, in that mix, a good measure of short video clips too. Many of these memories are precious and will end up being printed on a whole array of media. What’s sad is that these precious memories are often locked away after printing, or worse, incarcerated to a PhotoCD, never to see the light of day, nor shared and enjoyed.
Retailers and photo kiosk manufacturers are constantly finding ways to increase their revenue per square feet and per kiosk. Printing on T-shirts, mugs, calendars, greeting cards and other premium products and so on are all fine, but they all seem to lack some element of fun and interactivity. Photo Kiosk offerings must expand and video presents just such an opportunity
Kiosk users demand good quality prints, intuitive user interfaces and new innovative products that meet their evolving needs. In the younger demographics, we see video creation and public sharing taking off, in the likes of Revver and YouTube. However, the emotional satisfaction of sharing precious memories with loved ones in private will always be treasured, and video will increasingly be a medium of consideration as a complement to, not replacement of, photos. As people go to their neighborhood kiosks to process their photos, they are going to demand that the same kiosks be able to make something of their huge albums and also handle their videos too.
We are not spelling out the doom of photo printing. Users will always want to print some of their favorite pictures, but they will also want to archive all of the shots that they do not print for posterity. Burning these hundreds of pictures to a CD/DVD is a basic option, but to survive in an increasingly competitive photo kiosk space, kiosk operators need to provide greater value-add to increase margins. With the right choice of templates and music, these videos and pictures can be stitched into professionally created music videos. Once you have engaging user generated content, that’s when revenue generation will begin.
With video content, users can order a DVD to be burned, upload the video to a portal to be shared via the Internet, where their friends can place an online order for the same DVD and collect them in their neighborhood drugstore. Users can also opt to have this video saved in a more compressed format to be Bluetooth-loaded onto their mobiles, or PSP, or iPod video. This means that a single set of pictures and/or video can generate multiple products which can be ordered by more than one client in multiple locations, increasing throughput and of course, ROI.
We envisage more synergy between photo kiosks, the Internet and social networking sites. We strongly believe for the next few years, the inflexion point for photo kiosks’ growth will come from the increased demand for video solutions. Granted, there will be more photos taken and more prints ordered at retail kiosks, but margins for these products will be under a lot of pressure.
With the popularity of consumer portable video storage and playback devices, today, there are many places where users will want to fill up with their personal videos, so they can whip out that screen from their breast pocket to show a colleague a video of their baby’s first steps. We think the visionary kiosk maker will quickly jump in to be the centre of that ecosystem: take the photos and videos from users and create engaging content out of them, then repurpose it for the myriad devices where they can then be shared.
These value-added capabilities can benefit both the corner photo finishing shop and the large chain drugstores as they each fulfill this need on different scales and reach.
As a co-founder and chief opportunities officer of muvee, Terence See helped build muvee autoProducer, the world's first automatic video editing software. Terence is also instrumental in putting muvee's products on the world map, and negotiates licensing deals with other players in the consumer electronics space. In 2000, he became the 25th Singaporean to complete the grueling 226km Ironman in Langkawi.
Monday, 10 July 2006
In last month’s column, I asked why MP3 burning and ring tone download kiosks caught on in German McDonald’s, but not the United States. Murray Macdonald, the president and chief technology officer of Storefront.com, the company that created the software in those kiosks, explained his reasoning. We'll get to that in a moment.
But first, I pose another question.
Why don’t retail stores deploy systems in the aisles? Many of them, Target for example, have info kiosks deployed. Those units, already having a barcode scanner and sitting atop the same inventory database as the POS system, are just a card reader away from becoming little cashless sales devices. Handheld Products and VeriFone both now offer integrated mini-kiosks that can do this, but it’s been possible through other means for years. Corporate Safe Specialists manufactures a small-footprint kiosk just for this purpose, that unit includes cash acceptance.
I can think of two reasons why retailers might not be doing this: either they’re worried about security, or they think adding additional hardware, like card swipes and receipt printers, would be cumbersome compared to the savings realized by getting customers out of the store faster. What do you think?
The answer to last month’s question, “Why are MP3 and ringtone kiosks popular at German McDonald’s, when their U.S. deployment failed?”
In Germany, 24 separate order stations are built into the restaurant's tables and walls. They are located throughout the eating area making them almost impossible to avoid. Even patrons who have no intention of using the kiosks end up sitting within arms-reach while eating their meal. With the touch-screen devices located within such easy reach, they can't help but play with them. In such an environment, user engagement is a no-brainer. Once engaged, users create their order, then receive a printed ticket instructing them to proceed to one of the three nearby production stations to make an automated cash or credit card payment, and then collect their products.
For the U.S. pilot in Oakbrook, Ill., two large traditional free-standing kiosks were located beside the stairs on the main floor, while four futuristic sit-down stations were located upstairs. In both cases, a patron was required to stop at a non-traditional location and actively engage an unfamiliar device. Indeed, it was observed that the vast majority of patrons walked right past the kiosks with a tray of food in their hands, looking for a table. Once fed, most left the location without visiting the kiosks. The systems were largely ignored.
User engagement is critical. The same self-service application that succeeded in one environment failed in another largely due to hardware presentation and placement considerations. A kiosk environment must provide a practical setting in which patrons can comfortably engage the device. This was achieved at McDonald's in Germany, but not in the U.S.
Some customers are hesitant to engage new devices, and must feel comfortable before they do. As we have seen with photo kiosks, some customers do not want to stand out as the single user of an isolated standalone system, yet most customers will use the same system if multiple stations are available, or better yet, if everyone has one at their table. It would appear that there is a "safety in numbers" herd mentality at play. Once most patrons see others having fun tinkering with their tableside kiosk, they will follow suit.
Quick Service Restaurant patrons are willing to engage media kiosks while eating, but most are unlikely to go out of their way to engage.
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 email@example.com