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Enhance ROI and Customer Engagement with Multifunction Kiosks

Source Technologies
November 2009

Multifunction kiosks can increase the return on investment (ROI) by helping organizations streamline operations, educate customers and explore new revenue vehicles. By automating everyday tasks, the implementation of self-service kiosks will free employees to focus on more critical needs—ultimately to improve overall customer service and satisfaction.  Combining multiple applications at one customer touch-point will optimize the benefits of the self-service kiosk within an organization. 

Organizations striving to streamline their operations enable customers to drive their own experience. Through the implementation of multifunction kiosks, retailers provide customers with an independent way to manage loyalty accounts, gift card purchases, price checking, way-finding and so much more.  Customers desire the luxury of independent shopping. However, they expect immediate assistance and information when they want it. Single application kiosks no longer meet the needs of today's consumers.

"While many organizations consider implementing a kiosk solution with only one application in mind, it's in their best interest to examine the possibility that multiple applications can be supported," says Sarah Burkhart, director of product marketing, Source Technologies.

Retail organizations know that 74% of buying decisions are made in-store.  Some retailers have already installed price checkers on end caps and in the aisles where shoppers can interact with the devices to obtain pricing information. Turning these single-function units into multifunction kiosks strengthens the customer connection and provides retailers the opportunity to deliver valuable, in-store marketing initiatives through digital signage.

Why can't those units, already installed on the end caps and in the aisles, be used as part of the multifunction initiative? Wouldn't the solution bring more value by offering not only price checking, but also gift card purchase, loyalty account management, product locator and marketing initiatives on one single device?

"Function" essentially means 'application' when it comes to self-service kiosks", says Bryan Jorett, Source Technologies' director of business development.  "As history has shown, there will always be a newer, better, more flashy application that an organization will want to adopt," Jorett said.  "A multifunction kiosk will be able to accommodate this evolution.  And, many current kiosks sit idle for a large portion of the day because they are dedicated to only one application.  It just doesn't make sense to have a single-function unit in most situations."

Self-service kiosks are widely deployed, but chances are the processors and operating systems in many current devices lack the horsepower required to run multiple retail applications including digital signage and in-house marketing.

Cutting corners on hardware can initially seem like a cost saver.  However, it can limit the functionality of the device. Adopting multifunction kiosk solutions early on will ensure that the device is flexible and can adapt with the growing needs of an organization.

Deploying a variety of applications and shopper marketing initiatives on multifunction kiosks creates a single point of interaction for customers, including a more focused and less intrusive shopping experience. Some in-store marketing initiatives have been deployed on wide-screen televisions mounted over shopper's heads.  While this can be an effective general branding initiative, many shoppers feel as though these screens are simply talking at them.  Marketing initiatives can be incorporated into a multifunction kiosk solution without degrading the shoppers' experience. 

Organizations can improve their ROI by implementing multiple applications on one device.  Additionally, forward-thinking retailers have taken multifunction a step further by expanding their in-store marketing initiatives to include vendors that create outside advertising revenues to offset the capital expenditures required to install these devices.  The ability to sell advertising space on self-service kiosks can help to bring in extra revenue by utilizing on-shelf marketing tactics to up- and cross-sell products.

"Sometimes, when retail organizations begin to consider digital signage, which complements virtually all kiosk applications, they start by learning about the intended user of the kiosk. Organizations that deploy multifunction kiosks need to have a deep understanding of the customer's needs and expectations," Burkhart advised. "With that understanding, organizations will be able to determine which self-services applications are best suited for their retail environment. Knowing in advance that a kiosk will support multiple applications will help the application development process remain on-track and within budget.  Nothing affects a budget more than changing the scope of a project!"

In addition to understanding the customers' needs and expectations, there are other important questions to consider:

• What applications are being considered?
• What operating system will drive the kiosk?
• Where will the kiosks be located?
• What is the form factor?
• What type of hardware is needed?

Early recognition of the answers to these questions will allow organizations and their kiosk deployers to avoid the need for changes during the design, development and implementation of their self-service solution.

While the economy remains stagnant, retailers can automate their retail interaction to streamline operations.  By engaging and empowering customers via one touch-point, retailers can optimize staffing models while providing excellent service and increasing customer spend per visit. 

Every dollar counts. Therefore, retailers should consider multifunction self-service solutions. Instead of implementing a unit that only serves as a price checker, consider a multifunction kiosk that offers a plethora of services to fulfill their customers' needs.  Augmenting that functionality with digital signage will provide a solution that improves the customer experience and offers organizations a new revenue stream.