Thinking About Selling Kiosks?
Learn more by reading this interview with BSM’s Mike Monocello and Source Technologies' Bryan Jorett.
Monocello: What type of specialized knowledge is needed for a POS VAR to begin selling and implementing kiosk solutions?
Jorett: The specialization required is based heavily on the applications VARs look to provide. While there may be a wide range of kiosk applications they basically fall under two broad categories: interactional and transactional.
Interactive kiosks would be those that speak to/from users. Examples would be way finding applications, price check applications, expanded inventory applications, digital signage, etc. A “traditional” POS VAR who understands item files, store controllers, in-store communication issues, how to work with an enterprise’s store operational departments, etc should find the addition of a kiosk solution a logical extension to their offerings. Where a POS VAR may encounter some challenges is dealing with kiosks that facilitate an application outside of their traditional comfort zone. An example would be a POS VAR who is now looking to work within the digital signage space. This takes the POS VAR from typical interaction with store operations and IT into the marketing world. In this scenario an understand of an enterprises’ marketing department would be of benefit. However, the knowledge that this “new” department will be involved in the process is typically enough as they will know content providers, creative resources, etc. Also ISVs or network providers can greatly assist with these concerns.
Transactional kiosks perform functions that tender and transfer funds such as a bill pay kiosk or ATM type device. As the transferring and management of funds is integral to this application an understanding of back ends, credit and funds processing issues will be important. However, as many VARs know, the level of their involvement is dictated, in large part, by the size and resources of the enterprise they are working with. A large “shop” will have in-house resources to facilitate a great deal of the ground work, interfacing, etc. The VAR should, however, know what questions to ask in order to establish need and to perform basic discovery meetings in order to scope the project correctly.
Monocello: What are some of the benefits associated with kiosk solutions?
Jorett: Again drawing on the two types of kiosks: Interactive kiosks allow enterprises to increase sales lift without addition resources. An example would be the benefit kiosks provide regarding compelling information pertaining to high margin, complex product/solution sales. Cell phones are an ideal example as they are a relatively complex product/solution that requires an understanding of not only product but rate plans, coverage, accessories, etc. And these products/services change constantly. Via customer input an interactive kiosks can form an understanding of customer need and formulate a suggested solution purchase. This suggested purchase is now framed by current and well worded feature/benefit information that has been disseminated by corporate marketing, the manufacture, provider, etc. By this method, the message provided to the customer, is transmitted in a way that has been sanctioned by a marketing entity that knows the products intimately and has, at minimum, a base understanding of customer behavior. Sales lift reported by some retailers who have deployed sales assist kiosks such as this has been significant. And while measuring something as dynamic as sales lift is difficult (due to the fact that at any point in time there are numerous marketing related variables at play) in most instances retailers who have deployed well thought-out self service proof of concepts initiatives move quickly to deploy the entire chain.
In more than one instance we have witnessed an enterprise reconsider the sale of a complex solution based on a kiosk deployment that can provide the management of information in a fashion that does not command the labor and resources associated previously with marketing this type of product.
Another example is within a supermarket/grocery/C-store environment pertaining to self-service deli. Currently self-service deli provides an expeditious method for customers to order from the deli counter. This application also allows the retailer to provide suggested buys (i.e. sales lift) This application is also able to optimize labor since a clear understanding of peak times can be assimilated from the system. Currently retailers who have installed deli kiosks are looking into additional sales lift and potential advertising revenue in the form of couponing or targeted advertising based on the items selected by the customer. Example would be if you are using the deli kiosk to order 1lb of thinly sliced Black Forest ham, the system could generate a coupon for spicy mustard or advertise on the margin of the screen that spicy mustard is two for one on aisle 7.
Transaction kiosks provide a host of benefits. By allowing customers to quickly and easily make payments via a self-service device, staff is made available to assist with customers looking to purchase new products/services. In many cases customers enjoy the ambiguity these devices provide. Someone late on their account would rather “speak to” a machine than be subject to a human interaction. And as with any self-service device it can provide 24/7 service and can incorporate best practices throughout the enterprise.
Monocello: Are there any special considerations VARs need to be aware of when implementing kiosk solutions?
Jorett: There are federal and some local mandates that VARs need to be aware of. Typically ISVs who specialize in a particular application usually understand the market and the particulars that surround the market and the environment.
Monocello: One barrier to entry for many VARs is creating and serving up the content displayed and accessed on a kiosk. What resources are available to VARs without these specialized skills? (partner with an ISV? if so, which?)
Jorett: As the adage goes “Content is King”. And it cannot be truer than in the kiosk world. A device that provides compelling, current and relevant information will, in turn, also provide the ROI required to make it legitimate. Unless a VAR has expertise in a certain discipline it is recommended they investigate and formulate an alliance with professional ISVs who are well versed in the market the VAR looks to approach.
ISVs whose application(s) have been born from the need of an industry have an acute understanding of the pains of that industry and how automation can assist/benefit that an “outsider” could not. Most ISVs also understand the ROI “hot spots” and can help drive the sales process to its logical conclusion.
A good method of sourcing ISVs is via association and trade publications. Associates such as RSPA, DSA and the Self-Service Kiosk Association have, as members ISVs. And the numbers of ISVs within these organizations is growing on a steady basis. Publications such as selfserviceworld, retailsystems.com and others are also a good source of exposure to ISVs.
Monocello: What are some common pitfalls VARs should avoid when implementing kiosk solutions?
Jorett: VARs need to do their homework on the market opportunity of the vertical they look to address with their kiosk solution(s). Too often the “good idea” is not saleable and this idea becomes a good idea for only a very few. A self-service car parts look-up kiosk is a good application. But not for a VAR with no reach into the auto after-market world and only a few car parts stores in their marketing area.
Other issues to address:
- Is the size of the opportunity large enough to warrant the investment?
- Is there an ROI that prospects can buy into?
- Does the VAR have the in-house expertise of the vertical or is there a 3rd party resources that understands and can provide the application right for the vertical?
- Does the VAR have an existing relationship with an entity that can benefit from the kiosk application the VAR is presenting?
- Does the provider of the application have the resources to facilitate the ongoing attention to the market in order to appeal to the current and future needs*?
- Most, if not all, successful applications will require fixes and upgrades. Without the in-house expertise, or via an ISV, the required fixes and modifications will be a strain on the VARs resources and hinder the relationship and thus the all-important referrals.
In conclusion the kiosk opportunity has all the makings of a viable one. It has been proven by the largest providers of products and services. To start now with kiosk marketing, sales, service, and support is similar what getting started in the point-of-sale business was when it emerged from the cash register era. There are current opportunities within this space, and there will be countless new opportunities. However, as with any new endeavor caution, research and well thought-out planning play a major role in the success of the venture.