Digitalia: ratings and ravings

Interactive kiosks are usually associated with mall directories, not youth interaction. But with retailers pushing for innovative sales techniques, and everyone else looking for new ways to deliver content, they may soon be something consumers can't live without....
October 1, 1999

Interactive kiosks are usually associated with mall directories, not youth interaction. But with retailers pushing for innovative sales techniques, and everyone else looking for new ways to deliver content, they may soon be something consumers can’t live without.

As a medium, kiosks are attractive for several reasons: first, they can store and deliver a large amount of robust content; second, they allow users to navigate easily through a host of menu options; third (and most importantly), they can be customized for virtually any location.

For the most part, kiosk applications have been limited to relatively insignificant tasks and duties-like tickets sales-but integration at a retail level is pushing the growth of the niche.

New York-based Muze is the proprietor of the largest on-line interactive entertainment database in the market. For those entering stores like Tower Records or Virgin Megastores, Muze kiosks are there, providing encyclopedic content on music, videos, books and magazines. Jump on-line to CDNow, Excite, Amazon or Blockbuster, and you’ll find Muze-powered archives as well. With kiosks in 14,000 stores, the objective is to be the most comprehensive source of entertainment information to influence consumer purchase decisions. With over a million sound clips, users of kiosks with Muze content are pretty sure to find what they are looking for.

San Francisco’s Digital On-Demand (DOD) is working in conjunction with a host of entertainment companies-EMI Music, Sony Music Entertainment, the Virgin Entertainment Group and Transworld Entertainment-to distribute music in retail environments. Already in American Disney theme parks, as well as about 25 Disney retail outlets, the kiosks enable kid music fans to find, preview and select albums for purchase. The most attractive element of the DOD offering will be the consumer’s ability to choose different formats, including downloads into portable music devices like MP3s, as well as CDs and e-mail. The primary drawback of the system will be that only entire albums are available, a major blow in the age of music singles. T-shirts, concert tickets and CDs enhanced with videos are also planned, as well as video games, software and movies.

Kiosks are also the ultimate JIT (just in time) solution. They not only circumvent the need to maintain a huge inventory, but also generate immediate gratification for the consumer by creating product at the point of purchase.

Another common kiosk application allows shoppers direct access to company Web sites, letting them explore upcoming events and promotions and shop for merchandise on-line. This is the case with the new Levi’s store in San Francisco, which has six terminals on two store levels built to enhance the shopping experience by giving access to and its on-line affiliates. Levi’s kiosks allow young customers to browse the Levi’ site alone. The terminals let kids and teens order the coolest clothes Levi’s has to offer from around the world, including Europe and Japan (sourcing colors and sizes they might not otherwise be able to get their hands on). The site will also link consumers to keeps kids up to date on Levi’s-sponsored tours and events. In the months leading up to the MTV Music Awards, event sponsor Levi’s touted the show’s components on the in-store kiosks.

The site also allows kids and teen shoppers access to specific band information, album details and tour specifics for the likes of Jamiroquai and the Fuse Tour (including Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray and Fastball). The main benefit of kiosk application is its ability to act as a virtual salesperson, allowing the development of applications across content, promotions, retail, licensed offerings and advertising. Just imagine licensed copies of football games, Hall of Fame dunks or the greatest catches of all time-all generated at point of purchase and linked to company Web sites, ticket offers and on-going promotions. Fully integrated offers become a cinch.

Other kiosk advantages include: the capture of demographic information, printing coupons and highlighting product promotions, projecting high-quality video content including detailed product descriptions, and the development of loyalty applications (like redemption awards).

According to a report by Carlsbad, California-based independent research company Computer Economics, the number of kiosks in the U.S. will increase year-over-year by 88,000 (from 210,000 to 298,000) from 1999 to 2000. By 2004, Computer Economics project 785,000 Internet kiosks will be installed throughout the U.S. These won’t just be stand-alones-expect to see them built right into retail store fixtures. While retailers may be in a bit of a panic now because of increasing Internet traffic, with end-user acceptance continuing to grow, they may be able to relax a bit with kiosks on their side.

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