Blog: Ron Bowers 

Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates

Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Given the increased importance of mobile as a shopping tool, and as our “concierge” for other essential tasks, it is natural to ask what this trend means for the future of traditional kiosks. Some have posed the question in headline-grabbing fashion.
It is a very human tendency to evaluate new technologies in a win/lose, either/or fashion given the pace of change. When the Digital Screenmedia Association issued its report Self-Service Future Trends 2011 almost a year ago, some industry watchers speculated on the demise of the kiosk with the ascendancy of mobile capabilities. At the time, I pegged the use of kiosks and mobile in combination as an adroit maneuver that could pay off for deployers and provide a better experience for consumers. Over the last year, I’ve seen plenty of evidence to back that up.
In the same way industries are aiming toward having all channels working together seamlessly, all forms of media need to work together to support marketing objectives. Kiosks can still stand alone, but mobile can point the consumer toward a kiosk, enhance the kiosk experience, and add portability to the concept.
Using Mobile to Point to the Kiosk
Mobile tactics can be used to attract users to a kiosk. In-store rewards program Shopkick allows shoppers to accumulate points via an application running on their phones. Shoppers can get points just for visiting different sites within a store and scanning items. With mobile check-in applications like Shopkick, a bar code can be used to increase awareness and trial of a kiosk.
Though in its infancy, the technology exists in various forms to send location-based messages to draw shoppers to a specific point in the store. That location doesn’t have to be a product; it can be an interactive solution.
Enhancing the Kiosk Experience
The proliferation of mobile usage makes the channel impossible to ignore. The development of customer-facing kiosk applications should increasingly call for consideration of a mobile strategy. Two industries where we see mobile and kiosks complementing each other are grocery and hospitality. Some grocery chains, for example, are integrating loyalty information and coupons that can be accessed on kiosks or mobile phones by allowing customers to use their mobile phone number as their loyalty number. The hospitality industry is exploring the use of kiosks for check-in and allowing guests to begin a process on their phones that culminates at the kiosk.
Making the Kiosk Portable
The consumer’s view of what constitutes self-service has expanded and is driving the solutions that get developed. It now seems intuitive that a wayfinding kiosk emails directions to a user’s smartphone. A health information kiosk enables users to access saved information on their personal account via smartphone. 
Frankly, we need to acknowledge that the definition of kiosk has expanded with the popularity of tablets for retail use. They can be incorporated into countertop units, affixed to walls and shelves, and mounted on tablet PC display stands that add portability. 
Customer-facing technology, whether available on a kiosk or a mobile device ultimately serves the same purpose – to provide information and drive decision-making. We’re much more likely to operate in a world where devices converge than in a single-device ecosystem. The real question is not whether one channel displaces another but how they can come together to meet the expectations of consumers.
Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 10:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  
Friday, 03 June 2011
A recent survey of U.S. consumers by MasterCard indicates 62 percent of U.S. mobile phone users would be open to using their device to make a purchase. MasterCard had a little fun with their survey and found out that 45 percent of women, versus 34 percent of men, would rather have their phones than their wallets surgically attached so they'd always remember them when leaving the home. If Near Field Communications (NFC) is as transformative as some speculate, it will make our mobile device an even more valuable appendage.

Much of the conversation about NFC revolves around the enabling of mobile payments and the cooperation needed among players to make the tap and pay option widely available. There was news in February that many international network carriers are driving toward standardization. More recently the three major U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile announced they will team up with MasterCard and Visa in the ISIS mobile payments venture.

New Blackberry and Android offerings are equipped with NFC and there has been much will-they-or-won’t-they speculation about whether it will be in the next iPhone. John Paczkowski, of All Things Digital, recently wrote in his Blog, that Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who believes Apple, will forgo supporting NFC on its iOS devices until consumer adoption is certain and it’s reached a critical mass with merchants. Sacconaghi went on to say, that currently, a very few U.S. merchant locations support NFC-based payments, which means the ramp-up to broad NFC infrastructure will likely be a long one. “NFC-based mobile payments require NFC-capable POS terminals,” Sacconaghi wrote. “Only 51,000 retail locations support contactless payments (per VeriFone’s 10-K); given that First Data alone deals with 4.1 million merchant locations in the U.S. this suggests current penetration of just over 1 percent of merchant locations. Sacconaghi concludes that clearly, a higher critical mass is needed before payments would take off!

Amidst this newsworthy backdrop, there is an opportunity to take a step back from the ecosystem and technology and think about the person doing the tapping. Andrew Berg, writing for Wireless Week, believes it will be customer focused benefits other than payments that will lead the way in orienting people to NFC and establishing the trust needed to gain a wide acceptance network of mobile payments.

NFC will facilitate a range of essential consumer activities. Right now most of the NFC trials in the U.S. involve payments. At the same time, Google is testing the use of NFC in certain cities for Places, its local recommendation service. and The New York Times will be delivering exclusive mobile content and offer Smartphone application downloads in a test of the out-of-home service mTag in San Francisco.

Most relevant to our industry is the targeted discovery it will enable. A tap of an NFC enabled phone can trigger offers and informative content at the point of decision, trigger an application download that promotes loyalty and ease the exchange of information. These are just some of the customer benefits that NFC will bring one day to the environment of kiosks, in-store merchandising and digital signage.

When all of the pieces are in place, NFC is a technology that can facilitate the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Consumers will decide if they want to be marketed to in this way. If they perceive real value, their early experiences will pave the way for closer engagement.

By 2015 iSuppli, a technology market researcher, estimates that 30.5 percent of handsets worldwide will be equipped with NFC. Will the readers of this blog incorporating NFC into their solutions help pave the way for consumer acceptance? Are we focused in on the Consumer Engagement possibilities yet? What do you think?

Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 10:36 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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