Category Archives: Micro Markets

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.

 

 

Self-Service Kiosk Solutions for Micro Markets

Just yesterday we shared an article via Twitter from businessinsider.com – An engineer solved the most annoying problem with ordering lunch at work. It’s an amusing article because of the seemingly inane problem the engineer sought to solve – making the lunchtime delivery process more efficient. The article was referring to lunch orders being placed and the time it would take the person at the front desk to find out who placed the order. Well, I guess when you think about it, it probably wasn’t as amusing or frivolous to the person at the front desk.

 
Especially when you consider that the company received between 50 to 75 lunch deliveries every day, which would entail front desk staff sending out company-wide emails to find out who placed the order. According to an employee at the company, “Stopping everything you’re doing to respond to an email notification takes more time and mental energy than most people think, and when the email has nothing to do with you it’s a waste of precious time.” This employee, Travis Kaufman created an app that allows employees who ordered lunch for delivery to subscribe to lunch alerts, eliminating the need to send emails to the entire organization.

 
Voila! Problem solved. Even the company’s co-founder and CEO was pleased, “Overall, it’s a way for us to maintain productivity and help our employees work efficiently”.

 
I think this is something that all companies hope to achieve – greater productivity and efficiency. This company found the answer in an app. But what if the need to order lunch or leave the building to go out to eat was completely eliminated? Wouldn’t that significantly increase productivity levels? Companies that incorporate micro markets as part of the office lunch/break rooms have definitely found this to be the case.

 

 

An Avanti Markets micro market

An Avanti Markets micro market

Over the years, we have worked with many micro market solution providers, by providing easy-to-use, self-service kiosk options for their operators. The design of the kiosk is similar to those found in other industries, but they must also have the following components:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A self-service kiosk at a micro market

The kiosk can be customized to accept various payment options

• Cash acceptors , debit and credit card readers to facilitate various payment options including cash (bills and/or coins), credit and debit cards
• Card dispensers and issuers that can provide company-sponsored membership cards. These are usually used as loyalty cards where employees can accumulate points and is an incentive for them to make healthy choices
• Low end thermal printer to provide receipts to users

 

 

Some optional components can also be used to provide added services including:

 

 

 

 

Loyalty programs can be incorporated at the micro market

Loyalty programs can be incorporated at the micro market

• A Keyboard and trackball – kiosks can be a great tool for administering surveys or providing general information
• A secondary overhead monitor can be used for advertisements, marketing, or for user instructions.
• Scanner – for coupons or promotions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micro market kiosks should also be durable and vandal resistant, especially if placed in a high traffic area, and with over 2500 kiosks in the field, we use the feedback we receive to provide the most suitable options for our clients. Our kiosk options include the X6 or C7E kiosk and our recently introduced executive countertop kiosk model, the X2S.

 

 

Our X6 Kiosk model customized for a micro market client

Our X6 Kiosk model customized for a micro market client

The SlabbKiosks X6 Model
This model is ideal for high traffic locations due to its rugged, vandal-resistant, stainless steel enclosure. There are various size options for the standard LCD screen – 19″, 22″, 26″ or 32″ LCD (vertical or horizontal), with or without a touch screen. Protective glass can also be used if a client forgoes the touch screen option.

 
An additional overhead screen, as mentioned before, can be used to provide company updates, nutritional benefits, instructions or any other relevant information.
The X6 model is fully customizable, with a variety of options to suit the needs of any organization or business.

 

 

 

 

Slabb's C7E Kiosk

Slabb’s C7E Kiosk

The SlabbKiosks C7E Model
The C7E kiosk is simple and functional yet rugged, making it perfect for a micro market location. Made with stainless steel, it is vandal-resistant and can easily be used in high traffic locations. There are two screen options for this model – 19″ or 22″ LCD, with or without touch screen. As part of our lower cost kiosk line it is also an affordable option for micro market operators.

 
This model can also be customized to suit the needs of any business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The X2S Executive Countertop Kiosk

The X2S Executive Countertop Kiosk

The SlabbKiosks X2S Model
This kiosk is a great, cost effective alternative for locations with fewer users or floor space limitations. Due to its size, this kiosk model gives operators the option of using it as a second payment station at a high volume location or as a standalone with some additional features at smaller locations.

 
The X2S comes with a 15” LCD with Sound Acoustic Wave (SAW) touchscreen, a bill acceptor, swipe card reader, barcode scanner, stereo speakers and an active cooling system, with optional components available including a DVR and webcam, headphones and microphone.

 

 

 

 

 

Micro markets have definitely become an option that more employers are considering. A direct result of implementing a micro market is a reduction in employee down time as the hassle and time wasted getting lunch out of the office is eliminated. It is one of the numerous benefits of having a micro market location. Learn about some of the additional benefits. 

Making the Choice: Micro-market Vs. the Traditional Vending Machine

There’s a new productivity trend developing. It might be considered an inevitable result of the increased demand on an employee’s time with the expectation of high productivity levels to ensure that deliverables are completed in a timely manner and to a preset standard. This new development is not ominous in any way, but actually quite practical. It’s called a micro market.

 

 

An Avanti Markets micro market

An Avanti Markets micro market

A search of the word may result in an economics-based definition, but the micro markets that continue to crop up in various work spaces can be described as a ‘convenience store at the office’, one that provides freshly prepared lunches, healthy snacks and drinks that employees can purchase. What makes micro markets so unique, is not only the convenience of an accessible and healthy lunch option, but the fact that they utilize a self-service model – one that relies on an ‘honor system’ where employees are expected to pay for their purchases with cash, credit or even via their cell phone without an attendant or cashier on-site.

 

 
So why a micro market vs a traditional vending machine? Brad Bachtelle of Bachtelle & Associates, in an article on vendingtimes.com stated it in one sentence – “We’ve created a new channel [that’s] driving more sales, pleasing customers and exciting our industry.” Research done by his firm predicts there will be approximately “13,000 micro markets on location by 2015 and 35,000 within a decade.” The number of micro market locations in 2012 (2,642 active locations with 2,724 active kiosks) represented a sales volume of $90.74 million. Micro markets are becoming a more lucrative investment opportunity because they provide additional benefits than the traditional vending machine:

 

 
• Micro markets tend to attract 18% more visits per day with an average of 1.2 sales per day per visit, as compared with 0.7 sales in a vending area. This figure may be higher depending on the location.

 

 
• The inventory management system is usually web-based, making inventory evaluation much easier, ensuring fresh inventory and up-to-date regulatory practices.

 
• Components can be customized to fit different locations which is a major selling point, especially when there are space limitations.

 

 

• It allows operators to focus on providing an enhanced customer experience with enticing layouts and products that will ultimately increase profits. Operators use retail tools and techniques to ensure the strategic placement of add-on purchase items near to the check-out kiosks.

 

 

• There is less maintenance and downtime of machines and the kiosks provide an easier transaction process especially for multiple items.

 

 

• There is also some pricing flexibility allowing operators to collect sales tax on items purchased unlike a traditional vending machine.

 

 

• The use of prepaid user accounts at micro markets represents a shift from the traditional vending model. Accounts are funded and money collected before goods are purchased which radically shifts the cash flow requirements of operators.

 

 

• Portions of these accounts can be funded by HR, Wellness, or other workplace programs with a mandate directed at healthy eating and increased productivity.

 

 

 

Loyalty programs can be incorporated at the micro market

Loyalty programs can be incorporated at the micro market

Micro market products are often priced higher than products found in a traditional vending machine. They are typically 15% to 20% higher, with sales tax added to that. Pricing is usually set to offset the cost incurred due to theft of items, product spoilage, and the additional equipment, software and supplies that are needed. However, many employers often provide their employees with cards that give subsidized prices for healthy food options – a small price to pay for great convenience.

 

 
So, “build it and they will come…” The benefits mentioned make it seem easy enough, but it takes a little more than that. There are a few elements that should be in place to be successful in the micro market business including:

 

 
• Products that are attractive to the customer – As a society we are more health conscious than ever and providing healthy, fresh food options, restocked daily is one way that micro markets set themselves apart from the traditional vending machine.
• The right layout – Most micro market operators can work with any space to provide a customized, attractive and functional setting that will make movement and payment within the location as easy as possible. Access to a power supply for the kiosk system, coolers and freezers is also required, along with an internet connection.
• Self-service with a difference – And we don’t mean inserting your money in a slot and hoping that the item you want doesn’t get stuck (as is sometimes the case in a traditional vending machine). We’re referring to self-service with options including, type of payment that can be used, level of interactivity (dependent on the interface and software used); choice of loyalty programs (as mentioned above).

 

 

 

A self-service kiosk at a micro market

A self-service kiosk at a micro market

The key element that makes the self-service option possible, the ‘face’ of the micro market, is the self-service kiosk. Unlike the traditional vending machine, the kiosk must allow the user to scan or input items as well as pay for them. There are kiosks that even allow the input of coupon codes and vouchers at the time of purchase. The checkout system must be capable of handling multiple transactions as well as track and record data to provide accurate inventory and revenue reports.

 

 
The design of the kiosk is similar to those found in other industries, but at Slabb, we design our kiosks with the end user in mind. One of our major clients commented that their customers particularly like the look of our kiosks, the low maintenance required and their ease of use for end users.

 

 
Fast becoming another segment of the retail industry, micro markets focus on enhancing the customer experience. It’s the added elements that count, so micro market operators can also consider providing additional services at checkout such as bill payment options, payday loans and check deposits. All of which can be provided through a kiosk. All it takes is partnering with the right institution (bank and/or utility company) to provide a secure link to the company’s system. The micro market then becomes an even more convenient option allowing employees to do so much more in the comfort of their office.

Our Year of Kiosks

Every year brings a spate of resolutions, promises and hopes for the twelve months ahead. I think it’s a great opportunity to look back at the year that has passed – the highs, the lows and most importantly the lessons learned. It’s one of the best ways to move forward, learning from past mistakes and setting new goals.

 

 
Here at Slabb, Inc., we’re no different. So I’ve decided that for this blog, I will look back at some of our great moments from 2013 so that we can start out 2014 on a positive note. We’ll focus on four of our major projects for the year:

 

 
Clark County

Customized X6 Clark County Kiosk

Customized X6 Clark County Kiosk

In April, we provided customized kiosks, based on our X6 model that would assist in delivering an essential service to the County’s residents and visitors. The kiosks allow users to request certified copies of marriage certificates, thereby eliminating the need for these customers to engage county personnel for this repetitive task. There have been over 1,000 transactions completed at the kiosk, to date, saving over 350 hours of staff time. Due to the success of this pilot project, the County hopes to have additional kiosks installed that can provide similar services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHRM 2013 with Avanti Markets

Avanti Markets Booth at SHRM 2013

Avanti Markets Booth at SHRM 2013

We continued to work with Avanti Markets, one of the leaders in the micro-market industry, and joined them at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference and Exposition, held in Chicago, Illinois in June. Avanti Markets showcased one of several models of its self-checkout, unmanned kiosk systems at the conference, which included our X6 kiosk model. The booth received a lot of traffic at the event, not only because of its promotional wheel that gave participants a chance at winning great prizes, but because of the many HR executives wanting to learn more about the product, as well as those that wanted to share their experiences of having Avanti Market’s micro-market solutions at their own workplace. It was a truly successful event.

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas Department of Community Corrections

Arkansas Department of Corrections Customized Slabb X6 kiosk

Arkansas Department of Corrections Customized Slabb X6 kiosk

July saw the installation of customized X6 kiosks to forty one (41) offices of the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections. The interactive, self-service kiosks are located at probation offices throughout the state and are being utilized by selected minimum risk clients to check in with their probation officers at stipulated times throughout their supervision. We partnered with Marquis Software on this project to provide the specialized interface which would facilitate payments to the Information Network of Arkansas (INA) as well as the software which would enable the recognition of the user’s fingerprint and capture their signature and photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Joseph’s Pilot Project with PatientWay

Customized Slabb X6 patient registration kiosk

Customized Slabb X6 patient registration kiosk

Throughout the year, we continued working with PatientWay ,a provider of emerging technologies for the healthcare system, utilizing our hardware to support their self-registration and way finding solutions. In October, a self-registration kiosk was installed at the heart failure clinic of the St. Joseph’s Ambulatory Care Centre. The kiosk, based on our X6 model, provides a more efficient registration process through an intuitive, check-in process for patients. This has resulted in shorter wait times, not to mention satisfied patients. We look forward to additional projects with PatientWay for 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT Solutions

Customized X6 Payment Kiosk

Customized X6 Bill Payment Kiosk

We ended the year on a great note with our reseller based in Mexico, IT Solutions, by providing over 80 customized X6 kiosk units to the corporation that controls the largest television network in Mexico. The software for the units was provided by IT Solutions and will facilitate the receipt of payments from over 3 million subscribers. It is the first such venture in Mexico that will ultimately change the way the cable industry serves its customers. This was the second phase of the project which began with two pilot runs in specific areas of the country over a month long period, the success of which prompted the corporate wide rollout. Additional kiosks will also be deployed this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s definitely a wonderful way to start the year and we hope it reflects a trend that will continue throughout 2014. Our positives are only possible because of our great clients and we take this opportunity to thank them for their business and look forward to the new relationships that will be developed in the future. Happy 2014!

Micro Markets – Convenience with a Positive Return on Investment

An Avanti Markets micro market

An Avanti Markets micro market

Brad Bachtelle of Bachtelle & Associates (Tustin, CA) once said in an article, “Micro markets are taking us to tomorrow.”

 
It is a statement that is not only supported by the increasing popularity and emergence of micro market locations, but also the return they provide to owners. It can be argued that micro markets offer a “win/win” result, not only for owners but for customers as well. The advantages they provide for end users are well-documented in many vending articles, including our own blog items such as Self-service Kiosks Offer a Convenient Twist to the Office Lunchroom and The Advantages of Self-service Checkout Systemsthe businesses that implement them into their office locations and to those who purchase products from them.

 
• Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. The concept offers a store at the office with a wide selection of choices.

 
• Users can examine items prior to purchase and get the items they pay for, as opposed to losing their money if the item gets stuck, as often happens in a traditional vending machine.

 
• Fresh products, restocked daily that provide healthier options.

 
• Reduced travel time/time out of the office resulting in extended breaks. It’s a great incentive for increased productivity.

 
It is no surprise that the industry has grown so rapidly over the past two years. Research done by Bachtelle and Associates showed that micro market locations in the US rose 170% between 2011 and 2012. In December 2012 there were 2,642 active micro market locations with 2,724 active kiosks, with some high traffic locations having more than one kiosk. This represented a sales volume of $90.74 million. It is predicted that this number will increase within the coming years. Slabb supplied a little over 2,000 of self-service kiosks to micro market clients between 2011 and 2012.

 
Micro markets are becoming a more lucrative investment opportunity because they provide additional benefits than the traditional vending machine:

 
• Micro markets tend to attract 18% more visits per day with an average of 1.2 sales per day per visit, as compared with 0.7 sales in a vending area. This figure may be higher in some environments.

 
• The inventory management system is usually web-based, making inventory evaluation much easier, ensuring fresh inventory and up-to-date regulatory practices.

 
• Customized units can be created to fit different locations which is a major selling point, especially when there are space limitations.

 
• It allows operators to focus on providing an enhanced customer experience with enticing layouts and products that will ultimately increase profits, including the strategic placement of add-on purchase items near to the check-out kiosks.

 
• There is less maintenance and downtime of machines and the kiosks provide an easier transaction process especially for multiple items.

 
• There is also some pricing flexibility allowing operators to collect sales tax on items purchased unlike a traditional vending machine.

 
There is no doubt, however, that micro market products are often priced higher than products found in a traditional vending machine. They are typically 15% to 20% higher, with sales tax added to that. Pricing is usually set to offset the cost incurred due to theft of items, product spoilage, and the additional equipment, software and supplies that are needed. However, many employers often provide their employees with cards that give subsidized prices for healthy food options. It’s a small price to pay for great convenience.

The Self-service Kiosk – The Backbone of the Micro Market concept

There’s a new trend developing in offices and it might be considered an inevitable result of the increased demand on an employee’s time and the expectation of high productivity levels, ensuring deliverables are completed in a timely manner and to a preset standard. This new development is not ominous in any way, but actually quite practical. It’s what is termed as a micro market.

A search of the word may result in an economics-based definition, but the micro markets that continue to crop up in various work spaces can be described as a convenience store at the office, one that provides lunch, snacks and drinks that employees can purchase. What makes micro markets so unique, is not only the convenience of an accessible and often healthy lunch option, but the fact that they utilize a self-service model – one that relies on an ‘honor system’ where employees are expected to pay for their purchases with cash, credit or even via their cell phone.
It can be argued that the key element that makes the self-service option possible, thereby adding to the effectiveness of the concept, is the self-service kiosk that is required to take payments. Unlike the traditional vending machine, the kiosk must allow the user to scan or input items as well as pay for them. There are some kiosks that even allow the input of coupon codes at the time of purchase.

Just as important as choosing the right layout of the micro market to suit the space available is the choice of a kiosk which will be unmanned but must still be capable of handling multiple transactions as well as track and record data to provide accurate inventory and revenue reports . The design of the kiosk is similar to those found in other industries, but they must also have the following components:

 

 

• Cash acceptors , debit and credit card readers to facilitate various payment options including cash (bills and/or coins), credit and debit cards
• Card dispensers and issuers that can provide company-sponsored membership cards. These are usually used as loyalty cards where employees can accumulate points and is an incentive for them to make healthy choices

 

• Low end thermal printer to provide receipts to users.
Some optional components can also be used to provide added services including:
• A Keyboard and trackball – kiosks can be a great tool for

administering surveys or providing general information
• A secondary overhead monitor can be used for advertisements,

marketing, or for user instructions.
• Scanner – for coupons or promotions.
Micro Market self-service kiosks should also be durable and vandal resistant, especially if placed in a high traffic area/office. Slabb has been providing kiosks to several micro market solution providers for the past four years; with over 2500 kiosks in the field we use the feedback we receive to provide the most suitable options for our clients. We primarily utilize our Slabb X6 or C7E kiosk models (see below) because of their durability, and customize them to customer specifications. Both models provide a user-friendly platform and are ideal for high usage sites.

 

Slabb X6 - note the optional overhead screen

Slabb X6 – note the optional overhead screen

 

 

Slabb's C7E Kiosk

Slabb’s C7E Kiosk