Category Archives: In-store Kiosks

Tax Nexus – Everybody’s Elephant in the Room

Mike Masone - Sales Director, SlabbKiosks

Mike Masone –   Sales Director, SlabbKiosks

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Six years ago a huge online sales company had a plan where I would build kiosks for them to collocate in physical stores across the country to act as a sort of “endless aisle”.

I flew over for a meeting to review some of the pilot programs that had been showing success. One of the VPs asked me whether a kiosk in-store would generate Nexus. After a moment of hesitation I informed him, in no uncertain terms, that I had no idea what he was talking about and would get him an answer.

I assumed we had an easy answer internally – there was not. I assumed there was something to be had on Google – there was not.

The best I was able to do was to track down an interstate sales tax firm and discuss the issue with them. I was lucky enough to run into Brian Greer at Tax Connex.

tax nexus

He spent several hours with me working through some issues specific to kiosks, online business, automation, and specifically which cases were pending and keeping the tax forces at bay. The result of these conversations was a whitepaper we published on the matter….where is the link you ask? NO LINK FOR YOU! In this short time the law has changed in fundamental ways. The paper is wrong, as is a lot of the ‘advice’ floating around out there.

Amazon is no longer providing cover through resistance and litigation. The line between what is and isn’t ‘presence’ can change with a single purchase. This is a dynamic area of the law with immediate and significant consequences.

Understanding the nuance of tax law and compliance is not a part time job.

Brian and Tax Connex have the best information and experience out there. Please read their site and posts, try their surveys, consult with them if confused. Just don’t ignore it.

Mind the Air Gap – Part 2

Mike Masone - Sales Director at SlabbKiosks

Mike Masone – Sales Director at SlabbKiosks

We’re happy to share the second part of an interesting article by our Sales Director, Mike Masone – Mind the Gap – Part 2. The article was originally published on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Gravity LessonsIn the last post I discussed the importance of an air gap for security and anonymity.

Of course nothing is free, and that security comes at the cost of data exchange & collection. Anonymity is good, unless it is your customers who are unknown to you!

Don’t let your customers fall into the air-gap and out of your electronic systems.

Companies sometimes ‘solve’ this issue by creating a mobile app for customers to use. Unfortunately, customers aren’t leaping to install un-trusted apps on the most important possession many of them have just for your benefit.

We want to hold the customers by the hand and take baby steps that benefit both parties. Of course it would be great if customers installed an app that gave you unfettered access to their digital world but that happens less and less as users become more savvy and retake their privacy. This holds especially true at the start of your relationship with them.

Putting ‘apps’ aside we have seen one strategy most adopted and successful. It requires a bit of back and forth with your customer and requires a piece of technology from each of you, a good start to your relationship.

  • You provided customer a code to scan – such as QR from a micro site or printed a bill,coupon, or off of a website. An ID can be scanned to start the process for unknown customers.
  • Customer takes the action of scanning that code on your kiosk.
  • Your kiosk screens lead the customer through the desired process on the kiosk.
  • Optional – You provide the customer another scannable code via SMS or printout to close the transaction.
  • Customer uses that code on their next transaction.

You, them, you, them this back and forth will build trust if done correctly. Using the right equipment will ensure that this process is fool proof and efficient which is important as well. USB cameras are cheaper but lack the performance, flexibility, and upgradability of dedicated scan engines. When possible, we use high quality dedicated scan engines from Dolphin Data Capture for many of our projects, leveraging their expertise especially during software development is important.

Maintaining some distance between you and your customers isn’t a bad thing as long as you have a mechanism in place to lead them through the steps you need to take together to build a stronger relationship.

How Kiosks Make Our Daily Lives Easier – Part 1

Kiosks have been mentioned quite often in the news lately, from Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) like Panera and McDonalds adopting the technology, to New York City’s conversion of their iconic phone booths to Wi-Fi Kiosks. These are just a few examples, but for a long time, interactive kiosks have been in use or could be found in many places we go to everyday and have been making our lives a lot easier; you just may not have realized.

 

An Information Kiosk providing internet services

An Information Kiosk providing internet services

One of the basic uses of kiosks is to provide information, whether about a company, a service, an event or location. Information kiosks can be used anywhere information needs to be disseminated, but many are used in museums, malls or lobbies. They can also be used to provide internet access or Wi-Fi to patrons or customers. They often take the form of interactive signage that utilize wayfinding applications. (We will discuss wayfinding kiosks in more detail in Part 2 of this blog). A great example is the information kiosks at Frankfurt airport that read boarding passes and direct passengers to where they need to be.

 

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Companies often use information kiosks to communicate with employees. These human resource kiosks, in addition to providing company information, give employees access to administrative forms such as leave requests, employee manuals, insurance information or even internal training sessions. They can also be used to access the company’s intranet. A great example of the use of human resource kiosks can be seen here.

 

The use of kiosks to provide human resource services can also be extended to job applicants as kiosks provide a convenient way to accept job applications. Prospective candidates can enter their information at kiosks placed at the company’s head office or in the case of retail, at the location with the job vacancy.

 
The popularity of kiosks is probably as a direct result of their self-service applications. In a world where time is precious and consumers are more ‘hands on’, many users prefer having the option of conducting business or paying for services via a machine. It is one of the reasons kiosks can be found in many retail locations.

 

A Loyalty Card Kiosk

A Loyalty Card Kiosk

Retail kiosks, which are often confused with Retail Merchandising units which can also be found at malls with novelty items for sale, are manned units and can be considered mini stores. The retail kiosks we are referring to are electronic units that can be used at stores to accept payments, issue gift/loyalty cards or provide a catalog of a store’s inventory, making it easier for customers to peruse available items and request out of stock items or additional models and colors that may be available at other store locations. It eliminates the need for them to drive to other branches, as orders can be delivered to the location of their choice. It also provides a great opportunity to collect customer data via surveys or purchase history to inform future marketing campaigns or offers.

 
These kiosks can also be used to offer additional services including payment of store credit cards or utility bills, sale updates and coupons or a gift registry. It often eliminates the need to have additional staff for these services and are conveniently accessible after store hours. Some of these services can provide operators with additional revenue through transaction/service fees.

 
Many of the retail self-service applications mentioned above, can be used in other industries including hospitality, healthcare, airports and airlines and restaurants. Hotels and airports use kiosks to provide a more efficient way of checking in, allowing travelers to avoid the frustration of long lines.

 

A Patient Registration kiosk

Patient Registration kiosk

Self-service check in has also now been extended to the healthcare industry to assist in patient management. Patients are now allowed to check in on arrival at a doctor’s office or medical facility allowing front desk staff to easily access their information while eliminating the need for excessive paperwork.

 

 

 

A Self-Service Checkout kiosk at a micro market location

A Self-Service Checkout kiosk at a micro market location

Self-service checkout kiosks, as mentioned in our opening paragraph, are also gaining popularity at restaurants. The goal is to make ‘fast’ food even faster by allowing customers to place their orders via a kiosk, ensuring they get exactly what they want on their order, without standing in line. It still remains to be seen if they truly provide a faster service, as orders still have to be fulfilled by servers which still leaves room for human error as well as variations in the speed of service.

 
Self-checkout kiosks are not only used for fast food, but also for food purchases at supermarkets and micro markets. Both allow customers to access goods and scan and pay for them at the kiosk. It eliminates the need to stand in line and in the case of micro markets, provides a healthy, quick lunch option for workers.

 
Kiosks provide many benefits to both the businesses that operate them, as well as to end users. Hence the reason they are so widely used. Some of the benefits of kiosks include:
• An enhanced customer service experience
• They facilitate the collection and management of customer data
• They provide value-added services
• They allow extended service beyond standard store hours
• They almost always provide a positive Return on Investment (ROI)
• They decrease wait times for customers
• They assist in reducing employee hiring and training costs
• They provide a great avenue for product marketing and company branding

 
These are just a few of the benefits of kiosks. We will continue to explore additional services available via kiosks for various industries in Part 2 of this blog.

 

 

Business Owners Continue to Benefit from Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks provide many benefits to businesses

Self-service kiosks provide many benefits to businesses

Last year we ended with a blog entry on the benefits of self-service kiosks, especially during the holiday rush (The Joy of Self-service Kiosks and Holiday Shopping). The article focused mainly on the benefits to customers, which should be the goal of any business – providing an enhanced service experience for their customers. However, on the ‘flip side’, self-service check out kiosks also have many benefits to business owners. We thought we would explore some of them in today’s blog.

 
Increased Customer Loyalty
Customers enjoy having a convenient, hassle-free shopping experience. This is even more crucial now with the advent of the various forms of technology that involve interactive self-service functions. Many shoppers are extremely familiar with these, to the point of expecting it as the norm for their shopping experience. Customers who value these services are more likely to shop at businesses that provide them with the convenience they seek, including self-service check out.

 

Knowledge is Power
Kiosks not only provide a straightforward checkout option, but they also provide a great opportunity for businesses to collect data on their customers. This can take the form of short surveys upon checkout or transaction statistics that provide purchase history for customers. This information can allow businesses to better forecast sales and create a more effective marketing plan by providing offers and incentives for particular products during a specific season or shopping period. Once permission is sought, the data can also be used to do further marketing to specific customers via emails or mail outs.
The kiosks can also be used to update customers on new merchandise, prices or general company information.

 

Cart abandonment isn’t only an e-commerce problem
We’ve heard about e-commerce sites having to deal with ‘cart abandonment’ – a situation where a potential buyer places items in their online shopping cart, but never proceeds to check out. The same can happen in a store, and many times the reason may be simply avoiding the hassle of long lines. A kiosk is a great start in preventing this, as they allowing customers to purchase their items in a more efficient way.

 

An additional advertising opportunity
What business does not appreciate any additional opportunity to advertise? Businesses can physically showcase their brand by using company colors and strategically placing their company logo on the kiosk unit, as well as have short ads playing via an overhead screen or on the kiosk’s main screen when not in use. It’s a great way to highlight the company’s products and services or provide company updates.

 

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.

 

Increased Return on Investment (ROI)
Kiosks eliminate the need to have a manned station, thereby reducing labor costs as well as overheads. Business owners can also increase their returns by providing additional services via the kiosk including online gift registries, loyalty card programs and an avenue to provide customer feedback or apply for vacant positions.

 

An article in businessbee.com highlighted the pros and cons of self-service checkout kiosks. In the article they cited statistics from Self Service World, which stated that “27,000 self-checkout terminals were shipped to businesses around the world in 2012. This growth is projected to steadily rise and 60,000 terminals will be shipped in 2018. Consequently, more businesses are choosing to integrate this system.”
This is no surprise, as over the years, more businesses have enjoyed and continue to appreciate the benefits of implementing self-service check out kiosks, while their customers benefit from the greatly improved service experience that they provide.

 

The Joy of Self-service Kiosks and Holiday Shopping

christmas shoppingIt’s that time of the year when your fingers tingle from the cold air (depending on where you live) and/or from the pure excitement this season brings, no matter how old you are. However, despite the warm and fuzzy feeling that the holidays bring, unless you’re super organized and complete your shopping online by the end of November, let’s face it, most of us dread what awaits us at the shopping malls and retail outlets, starting the day after Thanksgiving.

 

 
Wouldn’t it be great to maneuver through the crowds, select our items and not have to stand in a long lines? While self-service kiosks may not be able to lessen the crowd, they certainly can make the shopping process a little easier. Here are some benefits of using self-service kiosks during the holidays.

 

 
They’re easy to use
‘Easy’ is exactly what most of us look for while shopping during the holiday season – uncomplicated deals along with ease of access to products and services. Self-service kiosks provide an easy alternative to purchasing your items.

 

 

 

They provide additional services
Our lists seem to multiply during the holiday season, including our ‘to do’ lists. During the excitement of the season, it’s easy to forget that they are still bills to pay, coupons to redeem and gift cards to access. Many self-service kiosks provide these extra services allowing you to top up prepaid credit cards or gift cards, pay utility bills and even access loans. Some of these, such as the gift cards and prepaid cards are great, hassle-free gift options, as well.

 

 

 

No Cash? No problem
Self-service kiosks provide various payment options so you can purchase your items with credit and bank cards or cash. There is no longer the need to look for an ATM before purchasing your items.

 

 

 

They’re convenient
This goes without saying, as any device that allows you to avoid long lines when you have a long ‘to do’ list, is always convenient.

 

 

 

They enhance the shopping experience
If you’re a frequent shopper at a store that has a loyalty program, based on your past purchase patterns, the kiosk can highlight promotions, offer options and provide coupons based on your preferences.

 

 

 

They can help you get exactly what you want
Doesn’t it sometimes seem that particularly during the holiday rush, you see the item that you want advertised, but can’t locate it at the store? A self-service kiosk can locate it for you. It can also provide additional information about the store branches that have the item in stock, along with details such as color and size options.

 

 

 

They may assist you in making a final decision
If you are uncertain about a product that you wish to purchase, a kiosk can provide you with product specifications and additional details that may not be apparent by just looking at the item, including warranty information, along with product and price comparisons.

 

 

 

A Slabb X6 self-service kiosk at a mall

A Slabb X6 self-service kiosk at a mall

Self-service kiosks provide many benefits, benefits that are great throughout the year, but are even more appreciated during the holiday rush. The great thing about self-service kiosks is that they simply provide an alternative; so if you’re one of those exhilarated by the rush and long lines, or simply feel more comfortable with face to face contact, the option of interacting with a sales representative is always there. The choice is yours.

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.