Category Archives: Self-Service Checkout Systems

A Few ABC’s of OEM Kiosks

“If you want to be truly successful invest in yourself to get the knowledge you need to find your unique factor. When you find it and focus on it and persevere your success will blossom.” Sydney Madwed.

 

I think the same can be said for business success as well – every organization should find their ‘unique factor’, focus on it and nurture it, in order to be successful. We’ve seen this work time and time again. Apple, Facebook, Amazon and so many more other successful companies. The common thread with them all is that each have a unique business proposition that they continue to improve on daily.

 

The same can apply to the kiosk industry. There is still definitely a need for standard models, but the success for businesses that utilize kiosks, is in how it is customized. It is an important factor to ensure that the kiosk not only achieves the goals of the business, but also the needs of the customers/end users of the kiosk. It’s one of the reasons that the industry is seeing a chage or a ‘merging’, so to speak, of the traditional kiosk with the traditional vending machine, resulting in unique units or what the industry terms as OEM kiosk solutions.

 

A recent article on KioskMarketplace.com, titled Vending kiosks: the latest trends cited “new kiosks [that] are offering products that range from cars to cannabis”. It’s considered new because many of these products were never sold via machines. This means that the kiosks being created to facilitate self-service sales must be uniquely designed to accommodate these products while ensuring that the kiosks can be easily used by consumers.

 

Self-Checkout OEM Kiosk

Self-Checkout OEM Kiosk

OEM or custom solution kiosks allow organizations to get a kiosk that is built to suit their specific requirements as opposed to a standard kiosk that is reconfigured as best as possible to perform specific functions. Because these designs are unique they often cost more than a standard kiosk. Despite this, many organizations choose to purchase custom solutions, because it ensures that it accommodates or delivers a specific product or service in a more convenient way. Most would agree that the unit ultimately pays for itself, as end users now have a self-service option to purchase products they never could via this means, before. It enhances their service experience, resulting in increased use of the unit.

 

Automated Vending Kiosk

Automated Vending Kiosk

We continue to see a few of these OEM units in the retail industry, so that traditional brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers can extend their physical presence at locations where a physical store might not have been feasible or cost effective such as at indoor shopping malls, airports and many other high-traffic locations. The accessibility of the units, coupled with the growing trend of customers embracing self-service technology, make these units a great alternative for many businesses.

 

ReduceReuseRecycle-Educational-1-220x300

Recycling Kiosk

The retail industry is not the only one adopting this new technology. Many educational facilities use units to provide printing facilities for students, or administrative management services coupled with wayfinding applications, allowing for a multi-purpose unit. The healthcare industry also uses wayfinding units that may also provide check in or registration services.

 

 

The beauty of these units is that they can be customized to provide locker systems or be placed outdoors, or for payment, printing or self-checkout services. They also incorporate many of the new technologies including EMV capabilities and biometric verification including fingerprint scans and signatures. The units allow businesses to use customized software or applications to provide precise functionality along with the appropriate components that ultimately will determine the size and dimensions of the kiosk. The financial investment and time taken to create these unique units may be substantial, making it extremely important for businesses to choose the right kiosk provider that is able to work collaboratively with them from concept to creation.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

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.