Another exhibitor, Dr. Sylvia Berens, co-founder of Apunix, talked about deployments for retail point-of-purchase, food and beverage self-ordering, hospitality, loyalty, travel and tourism and credit authorization. Berens said, “Apunix specializes in combining Linux (software applications) with solid state technology.”
Alex Richardson, managing director of Selling Machine Partners, described some of his work with Ralph Lauren on interactive storefront windows in the U.S. and elsewhere. The maker of Polo brand realized that the window shopping customer often wants to buy what is on display in the store window.
The interactive storefront window made that purchase possible – even after the store was closed. Richardson said, “Great retailers always understand their customers better than their competition.” This is a great quote – a point that should be the driving force for growing your business.
Richardson also said, “What you should do is watch your customers; it’s what a lot of marketers don’t do.”
Customers Choose Time Over Money
Clear Channel in Taxi Media is leading the initiative to deploy credit card acceptance and global positioning (GPS) systems in New York City taxis. The cost of deployment, at $3,000 per taxi, is being covered by NBC and Clear Channel Taxi Media – because the on-screen advertising will more than cover the investment. The system deploys functions with advertising, program content and credit card payment capability.
Tom Haymond, vice president and executive producer of Clear Channel Taxi Media, said, “Between having more money and having more time, people will always choose more time.” His research showed that paying by credit card allows taxi customers to pay more quickly – tipping was made much easier. The customer could simply select a percentage tip instead of calculating it mentally.
Here’s another example of where cards beat cash – and the retailer (a taxi in this case) makes more money because the tip is likely to be higher.
Key Issue: Customer Experience
New technology is not the only thing that self service system providers need.
V. Miller Newton, CEO of Netkey, another kiosk technology provider, said, “The customer experience is the new battleground.” You have to look at what you’re deploying and how well it will be accepted by your customer. If it’s not easy to learn and use, it might not have the desired impact – increasing sales, satisfying customers, and simplifying business operations.
The self serve kiosk industry is still fairly young and the players are still struggling to understand their customers. Many self service concepts that have been tested were not successful because they did not meet customers’ needs.
Kerry Bodine, principal analyst at Forrester Research, made this point during her keynote presentation at the expo. Bodine recommends that design teams think about and plan their work from the concept of personas – essentially live (albeit fictional) characterizations of the individuals who will be using the kiosk application. “Self service applications fail when they don’t support the users’ goals,” Bodine said.
As self service concepts emerge, there’s a good bet that some will find their way to the locations being served by vending operators. Can today’s vending operators afford not to be cognizant of this?
Only by observing our customers in the act of shopping will any of us – self serve kiosk deployers and vending operators alike – really learn what to do to improve and enhance the customer shopping experience. This is a rigorous research process – not something to be done casually.
This is the rationale for EthnoVend ’08, a retail ethnography study I am spearheading for vending, which I covered in the April 2007 Automatic Merchandiser.
Meanwhile, customers are changing.
Sarah Canepa Bang, CEO of Financial Services Center Cooperative, a service company for credit unions, said, “Gen Y’ers won’t stand in line at any bank or credit union.”
On-demand and Self Service Products Almost Everywhere
The current generation of stamp vending machines is already headed for the history books. Janet Webster of the U.S. Postal Service looked back at the Mailomat, the Post Office’s very first vending machine in 1939. The future will focus on Automated Postal Centers where a customer can do a transaction without a postal clerk.