Having spent over twenty five years guiding retailers and brands into self-service solutions, it has been fun to reflect at the various industry events this winter on how we got to this multi-screen Modus operandi, which is fast becoming second nature. We’ve witnessed the evolution of desktop to kiosk, kiosk to mobile and digital signage to mobile. Consumers move freely among devices in planned and impulsive ways.
At the same time we’re experiencing this technology evolution; we’re also encountering a broadening of the applications for self-service. We think this trend offers new opportunities for forward-thinking retailers, so there’s not much time for looking back.
A major self-service at retail theme is the enabling of shoppers to explore endless aisles and access the breadth of what the retailer has to offer. These are engagement solutions that empower customers in the store like shopping kiosks, gift registry kiosks, and interactive digital signage with expanded inventory visibility for categories from jewelry to shoes. They are all very intuitive uses for in-store self-service.
A second intriguing theme involves offering ancillary services that are a draw to busy, connected consumers. By providing frictionless ways for customers to accomplish life’s pleasurable and mundane tasks, self-service offerings can solidify the store as a destination and even encourage repeat visits. We think this aspect of self-service lends itself to some imaginative applications.
Here are three examples of how self-service can expand access, enable perpetual connection, and eliminate speed bumps for consumers:
Some big box retailers and pharmacies are recognizing the value of self-service health assessment like that offered by the SoloHealth Station® as a strategy for increasing footfall and sales. The value of certain Lifestyle types of screening, like weight and blood pressure is continuity, which plays right into traffic-building and loyalty-building objectives. Interactive, self-service kiosks are ideally suited to deliver targeted messages about Lifestyle brands in the store that have relevance to the assessments individuals are experiencing and can promote healthful living and incremental sales.
With the increased acceptance of the phone as a shopping assistant, there’s a realization that phone charging can be a real draw in most any retail setting. Consumers first encountered mobile charging stations like the Keo Connect charging and concierge kiosk in airports. Phone charging displays can come in many formats and their value can be extended when coupled with consumer information services, promotional programs, and advertising messages.
Retailers should also consider the traffic-building aspects of providing access to commonly used services. One of the early examples of this concept was self-service photo kiosks like the ones we produced for Sony and others. More recently we designed and produced a DMV in a Box kiosk for Intellectual Technology, Inc. that was placed in motor vehicle branches across the United States. It is not a stretch to think of partnerships that would place other kinds of convenient services in the retail environment.
Consumers form relationships with retailers that meet their needs and expectations in consistent and satisfying ways. Self-service has a role to play in helping stores with doors, deliver on that proposition not only for shopping – which we hope is mainly a pleasurable activity - but for services that make the store a logical and convenient destination to accomplish some of the mundane tasks that keep us all moving forward.
The ultimate test for the execution of self-service is being secured at retail presently. The connected consumers have made themselves heard and the majority of successful retailers are experimenting with ways to reduce their legacy silos, into Omni-channel solutions to offer their loyal consumers convenience, selection, and service when they want it, where they want it, the way they want it! In return retailers are finding consumers with a renewed exuberance for loyalty, bordering on evangelism for the retail brand!