Monthly Archives: October 2013

Anyone starting a kiosk business, please be aware…

By Mike Masone – Sales Director, Slabb, Inc.

“Because of our position as a top tier OEM, Slabb urges anyone starting a kiosk business to read the story below carefully. Essentially a self-service solutions provider, American Entertainment Distributors (AED), has been forced to repay over $4 million to customer who purchased their DVD rental kiosks. The reason as stated by the FTC:

 

 
‘(AED) deceived consumers into paying $28,000 to $37,500 apiece for video rental vending machines by telling them they could expect to earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, or recoup their initial investment in six to 14 months. In fact, according to the FTC, the defendants had no reasonable basis for their claims and all investors lost money.’

 

 
We work with many customers who package our kiosks along with other components for self-service solutions and then offer the total package for sale to consumers and operators. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened with any of our customers. Remember though, whenever there is a wildly successful deployment (in this case Red Box) there will always be customers willing to invest or to jump on the bandwagon. There are complex reasons why sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. Unless you are in a position to control all of these factors take care in your marketing and sales efforts to protect yourself against these types of actions.”
Read more about the case here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/08/aed.shtm

 

 

Slabb has no relationship or affiliation with AED or any of its customers

 

How will new technology affect the kiosk industry?

Over the past two weeks, I’ve come across some interesting technology articles on various newsfeeds. Three in particular stood out, especially because they have the potential to change the options available when it comes to kiosk customization.

 

 
The articles were:

 
Venture Beat’s HP’s first 3D printer could come as soon as next year
c|net’s Electronic makeup lets you control gadgets with a wink and along the same lines, two YouTube videos demonstrating Kinect for Windows (the Toy Store Scenario and the Retail Clothing Scenario)
Business Insider’s Researchers Have Discovered A Way For Us To Feel An Object’s Texture Through A Screen

 

 
Let’s examine each in more detail:

 
3D printers
You may wonder why this is on the list, as they’re currently a lot of players in the 3D market, however, HP is not only a household name but is well trusted by consumers and would more or less be the first well-known consumer printer company to enter the market. They have officially announced that there’s the possibility of them providing a 3D printer option as soon as 2014. HP’s reputation may have more businesses and consumers inclined to try the product.

 

 
What is 3D printing?
Short for three-dimensional, 3D is used to describe objects with depth; unlike a flat object that only has two dimensions that occur on the X and Y axis, just as on a graph, 3D objects also occur on the Z axis, which represents depth. 3D printing is therefore, the process of laying down successive layers of material using an additive process to make a three-dimensional object from a digital model.

 

 
The possibilities are endless with a 3D printing kiosk and interestingly, it already exists! Enter the DreamVendor – a 3D printing kiosk at Virginia Tech. It’s made up of four 3D printers with a system that can read designs from an SD card. Imagine being able to create just about anything and just dispensing it from the machine. Think of the marketing possibilities! A movie theatre with a ticket kiosk can, along with dispensing traditional tickets have the added bonus of a promotional item related to the movie like an action figure. It would definitely be an interesting concept.

 

 
RFID technology
Imagine controlling gadgets with the blink of an eye or with your nails. That’s what computer scientist, Katia Vega has been able to do using RFID technology. Her Beauty Technology, as she refers to it, includes the Blinklifier which allows users to turn devices on and off by just blinking, while using metallized false eyelashes and conductive eyeliner. Twinkle Nails uses false fingernails that allow the user to play a virtual piano. Each nail is coded with a different note using an RFID tag.

 

 
What is RFID technology?
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, wirelessly. It allows the automatic identification of objects with tracking tags that contain electronically stored information.

 

 
RFID technology has been around for quite some time and is already used in kiosks and other devices. A perfect example would be a barcode scanner. What makes the technology interesting is that its use is becoming quite extended, as with the example above. Imagine being able to go to a kiosk or a bill payment machine and completing your transaction with the blink of an eye?

 

 
A similar type of technology is the Kinect sensor which uses gestures to control electronic devices. We’ve all played the games, and I can admit that I’m still amazed by this technology. The Kinect videos depicted on YouTube allow users to experience products prior to purchasing. It’s a great concept that would be a great fit for retail outlets that use self-service options such as kiosks.

 

 
Texture on a screen
Business Insider reports that researchers are discovering new ways to enhance touch-based devices by enabling users to feel textures on them. The technology works using electric fields that mimic the feeling of ridges, bumps and edges, generating the illusion of touch in midair.

 

 
Disney has already announced that they have been able to recreate the feel of various surface textures on a smooth object using electrostatic forces. This can be recreated on any smooth surface – a wall, monitor, and tablet or phone screens.

 

 
Imagine being able to feel the texture of clothing when purchasing online. It’s another great feature that can enhance the self-service experience.

 

 
These are just three examples of new technological discoveries. These discoveries, along with other advancements, will continue to provide us with alternatives to the way we currently use devices. This can only be a plus for the kiosk industry as some of these new technologies can be incorporated to enhance the overall user experience.

In-store Kiosks: A Happy Medium for Traditional Shoppers?

Earlier this week, I recall skimming through an article which indicated that there were still some shoppers (I can’t remember the percentage) that hold fast to the “brick and mortar” experience, even to the extent that they are totally averse to any form of online shopping.

 

 
This is surprising, considering that Forrester’s US Online Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017 predicts that online retail in 2013 will reach $262 billion — a rise of 13% over last year’s sales. Looking forward, it is expected that “eCommerce will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9% between 2012 and 2017”. It is evidence that, contrary to the article I read, customers are getting more and more comfortable with online purchasing whether it is via their phones, PCs or tablets.

 

 
Despite these statistics, I do imagine that there are still a number of shoppers that prefer the traditional shopping experience that includes being able to hold and examine potential purchase items, converse with a sales associate and browse for items that may be of interest. It makes me realize that the term “retail therapy” now comes in many forms and one should not discount the peace of mind that strolling through a mall or shopping center, maybe grabbing a bite to eat, or interacting with others in this social setting can bring whether purchasing items or not.

 

 
The percentage of shoppers that fall into this category are still customers, and maybe businesses can create a happy medium by providing them with the option of using online services through an in-store kiosk. In-store kiosks date back to the ‘80s when the Florsheim Express Shop was introduced to all Florsheim retail stores. This innovative in-store computer kiosk allowed customers to order any shoe from the entire Florsheim line, rather than rely on what the physical store had in stock, creating more purchasing options for shoppers.

 

 

 

Some additional benefits of in-store kiosks include:

 

 
The best of both worlds – customers have the option of seeking the assistance of a sales associate or they can make their purchases on their own (whichever they choose).

 

 
A lesson in online shopping – for traditional shoppers it’s a great opportunity to experience how online shopping works within their comfort zone, knowing that assistance can be provided, if needed, while using the kiosk.

 

 
Enhanced shopping experience – Due to the ability of in-store kiosks to store customer data, including purchasing habits, with every use customers have an enhanced experience, as the kiosks can be programmed to highlight promotions, offer options and provide coupons based on customer preferences.

 

 
Say goodbye to illusive items – ever saw an item being advertised online and you couldn’t locate it at the store. This problem is eliminated as the kiosk can provide the item’s physical location at the store. The kiosk may also have items that are out of stock at the store or provide more color and size options.

 

 
Knowledge is power – a kiosk can provide product specs and details that often aren’t apparent by sight. It can also include warranty information, with product and price comparisons.

 

 
Added features – kiosks give retailers the opportunity to provide affiliate services, online gift registries, loyalty card programs and an avenue to provide customer feedback or apply for vacant positions.

 

 

In-store kiosks can provide a self-service experience for those who prefer this method of shopping, while still allowing others to enjoy the personalized service that comes from interacting with a customer representative, while still having an opportunity to try an online option if desired.

The Advantages of Self-service Checkout Systems

One of Slabb's Self-service checkout kiosks at an Avanti Markets display

One of Slabb’s Self-service checkout kiosks at an Avanti Markets display

In our blog, Self-service Kiosks Offer a Convenient Twist to the Office Lunchroom, we highlighted the new trend of micro markets at the workplace which have become an alternative to the traditional lunch room. It’s not only a convenient, efficient way for employees to get their meals, but it also offers a healthy alternative because of the meal options that are made available.

 

 
One of the unique features of the micro market is that it is based on a self-service model, that not only allows the customer/employee to choose the items they want, but also uses a payment system that relies on the honesty of users to pay for the items they have selected without having a cashier or any personnel to oversee the process. This model is also found in several grocery outlets where customers can scan and pay for items via a checkout machine.

 

 
It’s not a perfect system and there are some users who will not abide by the ‘honor system’. Last year a British report that surveyed grocery shoppers that utilized self-service checkout, found that almost a third of those that used the machines admitted to stealing by trying to take extra items without paying or tricking the machines by inputting incorrect information; while a quarter of those that did not steal admitted that they didn’t do so because they were afraid of getting caught.

 

 
Despite this, there are many advantages of a self-checkout system, many users embrace the convenience it offers and therefore use the service in the way it was intended. Some may even argue that it’s a system that is more suitable for an office setting, with co-workers that know each other and already abide by both written and unwritten codes of conduct which they agreed to when hired. Here are additional pros to self-service checkout systems:

 

 
Did we mention convenience?
There is often a need to have an option that is quick and convenient at the workplace, especially when there’s a project to be finished or deadlines to meet. A micro market with a self-checkout option eliminates the need to leave the office.

A self-checkout lane at a grocery store, reduces checkout wait time and creates a more pleasant shopping experience.

 

 

 

They’re cost efficient
It eliminates the need to have a manned station, thereby reducing labor costs. These cost savings are sometimes passed on to customers and reflected in the cost of some items.

This may not be as obvious in an office setting, but the system reduces employee downtime due to extended breaks and lunches, and encourages a more productive workforce.

 

 

 

A great source of information
Businesses can use self-checkout kiosks as an opportunity to update customers on new merchandise, prices or general company information. It can also suggest offers based on the customer’s purchasing habits.

At the office the kiosk can promote healthy food options or provide reminders about products that might be offered in the future.

 

 

 

• Multiple payment options
No cash? That’s no problem with a self-checkout system, as they are often set up to take multiple forms of payment including debit and credit cards.

 

 

 

No limit
Before self-checkout lanes, the fastest checkout at the grocery store was usually the ’10 Items or Less’ lane; with self-checkout there is no limit to the number of items you can scan.

 

 

 

There are many merits to self-checkout systems but they seem to work best in the office setting where there is more control and a greater likelihood that ‘the honor system’ would be respected. This system in an office is also complemented by the healthy alternatives provided, timely replenishment that ensures freshness and 24/7 security.

But there are also measures that can be put in place, if implemented at a grocery store or retail outlet such as surveillance cameras or employees on the floor that can monitor the stations from time to time.

 

 

10 Benefits of Donation Kiosks

Slabb's X6 Kiosk

Slabb’s X6 Kiosk

You may have heard them referred to as ‘Giving kiosks’ or even ‘Charity kiosks’ but whatever name they are given, they serve the same purpose – they provide a unique, secure and confidential way for members of a church or group to donate or contribute to their communities. Here are 10 benefits of implementing a donation kiosk in your community.

 

 
1. Ease of use
Donation kiosks are similar to ATMs and can provide an interactive element that makes them easy to use.

 

 

 

2. Convenience
Donation kiosks, depending on where they are located can be accessed at any time so donations are no longer limited to during a service or meeting. Members have the option of giving at any time that is convenient to them.

 

 

 

3. Cash is not the only option
There have been many occasions where I have opened my wallet to find just my credit and bank cards staring back at me, with not even a cent to put in the donation basket during a service. This is no longer a problem, as kiosks can be customized to accept multiple forms of payment including, credit and debit cards.

 

 

 

4. It’s always good to have alternatives
A kiosk can be just one of many donation alternatives that a church or group can provide for their members. It can complement the traditional method of collection of tithes during a service along with online methods of contributing or even via mobile payments. Having a variety of options increases the opportunities to give.

 

 

 

5. Thinking ‘outside the box’
A kiosk can contain many components that can facilitate multiple uses that go beyond the collection of donations. They can provide information about community events and other relevant topics and can be used to generate additional revenue through the sale of church merchandise including books, CDs and DVDs, t-shirts, etc.

 

 

 

6. Collects more than just donations
A kiosk can facilitate the registration of new members and updating of information for current members through personal membership log ins. This will allow members and church personnel to access reports that provide accurate data of the amounts donated and items purchased. Members can also register for events.

 

 

 

7. What’s in a name?
If you’re interested in getting your name out there, showcasing your brand would be a way of doing that. Kiosks provided an ideal opportunity for this and can be easily branded with the church or group logo and colors.

 

 

 

8. Provide and incentive for first time givers
Because of the convenience of a kiosk, the fact that donations can be given at a time when no one else is around thereby allowing the giver to maintain anonymity, this along with security of giving via the kiosk provides an incentive to give, especially for first time givers. Dr. Marty Baker of Stephen’s Creek Community Church in August, Georgia found that 27% of kiosk donations at his home church were first-time givers.

 

 

 

9. It creates a ‘giving trend’
It has been found that both kiosks and online donation options create a trend of giving, simply because they provide the option of scheduled donations that can be debited directly from the member’s account at a specific time.

 

 

 

10. Simple implementation
Most importantly, kiosks are simple to implement, are cost effective and have low transaction fees. Kiosk management is also very straightforward and data can be accessed from any computer through an administrative portal.

 

 

 

Slabb's X5 kiosk

Slabb’s X5 kiosk

The benefits of donation/giving kiosks are reflected in the fourth annual ‘State of the Plate’ survey which showed that “1,360 congregations revealed that 51 percent of churches saw giving increase in 2011, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009.” Author, speaker and founder of the “State of the Plate” research concluded that “A better economy, more Bible teaching on finances and generosity and a growing number of online giving options are helping many churches rebound financially.”