Although retailers have been steadily embracing informational kiosks for the past several years, they are now finding other innovative uses for them. Take Coinstar's new coffee kiosk, Rubi, that brews custom cups, or the new Let's Pizza vending kiosk that actually bakes pizzas to order. What those two concepts have in common is that they actually vend products.
In the past, kiosks have mainly been service- or information-oriented — allowing users to check in for flights or search for directions on wayfinding applications, for example. These days, kiosks and vending machines are more of a hybrid, Ross Elkin, vice president of sales and marketing at VIGIX Inc., recently explained in a free white paper published on KioskMarketplace.com.
"Convenience has been one of the fundamental consumer trends in the marketplace for the past 20-plus years. Consumers are saying, 'I want what I want, when I want it,'" said Elkin, whose company is the creator of a vending kiosk that takes up just 2 square feet of floor space.
Location, Location, Location
Because consumers are used to immediate gratification, they gravitate toward easily accessible vending machines. However, in the past the big, ugly machines weren't always welcome in higher-end settings, Elkin said. The compact, attractive kiosk is a gold mine for retailers, who may have wanted to sell products in places, including airports, malls, train stations, the lobby of an office building or even inside a retail store.
"Automated retail is about putting the product in consumers' hands when and where they need it," she said.
Try before you buy
Another way retailers can benefit from product-dispensing kiosks is the allowance of sampling, which usually leads to purchases
Although retailers could sell more products with sampling, most can't afford to do a lot of it because hiring staff and monitoring the process can be expensive and logistically complex, said Elkin, who thinks vending kiosks solve all those problems.
"A logical step is to remove the human element from the sampling equation and have a kiosk hand out samples to customers," he said.
The sample-dispensing machines must be small so as to not take up too much of the retailer's space and also must be easily fixed if a problem occurs. It should also be able to promote the products by delivering information via digital screens and printing coupons
Lastly, a solid automated retail kiosk should not only vend products, but it should also track consumer activity and serve as a loyalty or membership platform, Elkin said. Instead of spending extra money on other platforms or kiosks that run loyalty programs, retailers can now deploy vending kiosks that can also track consumer behavior and capture priceless customer data, such as email addresses and phone numbers.
Read more about retail kiosks.
Cover photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia