All micro markets, big or small, white collar or blue, new or old, have one thing in common — a kiosk. It’s the heart of the “store,” at the very core of what makes a micro market a micro market. With these units there are features that offer unique benefits not available on the typical vending machine. The touchscreen provides a “wow” factor for the consumer, and the automatic hard sales data wins over the operator.
To date, there are at least eight suppliers of micro markets, all with different kiosks that offer different non-standard features. In the side-by-side comparison, you’ll see most of these kiosk features laid out in an easy-to-compare matrix that will allow you to make an informed decision. While you’ll see many unique and useful features for each kiosk supplier, there are also many that come standard in every market system.
What all kiosks have
All micro market kiosks sold in the vending channel are small, with under a 24-inch footprint. They are powered by plugging into a common wall outlet and connected to the internet. There is also a touchscreen on the kiosk, a barcode scanner for products and payment acceptance of both cash and credit/debit cards for loading prepaid market cards — traditionally used for payment. There is also a digital video recorder (DVR) installed in the kiosk to record surveillance footage.
The customer uses the touchscreen to interact with the micro market in very similar ways, regardless of the manufacturer. All the screens display point-of-sale information, such as identifying the item the customer scanned, giving the option to buy non-scanable items (ex: fruit or K-Cups), bundling the items together for a single purchase transaction, tabulating sales tax and displaying product marketing or promotional messages. Some markets also include audio speakers for verbal prompts, webcams for patron recognition and loyalty programs.
All kiosks accept payment via market cards. A single market card is also an individual account connected to an employee at the location. The card can be reloaded in multiple ways — cash and credit/debit cards are standard. Some markets also include additional, alternative payment options the consumer can use, including online market card reloading. Kiosks also include a printer that ejects a receipt after payment is complete, with some offering the option of an electronic or e-receipt instead.
Sales data reporting comes standard on all kiosks and is one of the greatest assets for a micro market operator. It provides reports on best-selling products and inventory replenishment lists (prekit lists) for the micro market driver. Kiosks also allow operators real-time tracking of the market, such as up-to-date purchases and individual account reviewing. Being able to access a single account allows operators to remotely give refunds or add value to a market card account when needed. Real-time tracking also allows operators to see if all devices on the kiosk are running normally, or if something is down. Some suppliers have the capability to add text messaging for operators of any anomalies in normal operations so operators know to check the micro market system.
This reporting and tracking can be part of a software package from the supplier downloaded to the operators’ computer system or cloud-based. There is often an ongoing monthly software support fee charged to the operator. The price varies by supplier.
Another important feature in micro market kiosks is technical support. When a problem with the kiosk occurs, micro market suppliers can remotely pinpoint most issues and reset the device on the kiosk remotely. Many suppliers provide this technical support around the clock.
Power and internet
An AC plug is used to power all micro market kiosks, although some have a battery back-up system used to run when the power goes out. Additionally, an internet connection is required by all micro market installations and the kiosks use a category 5 ethernet cable with standard RJ-45 connectors. Many offer an offline queuing feature, which allows the kiosk to operate properly even if an internet connection is lost. This lets the kiosk hold the purchase transactions in queue until the online connection is restored.
Choosing a kiosk
The look and feel of each micro market kiosk differs. Therefore, it’s important to know what you can expect from all the kiosks and what you can choose. This allows you to establish the best customer experience as well as ensure the operational systems that work best in your organization. More information allows you to make an educated decision, so read on for the specific non-standard features available on the most popular micro market kiosks out there.