The Perspective 
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.
 
Email Murray Macdonald at 
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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