November 16, 2009

Self-service kiosks boom all over

Do-it-yourself customer service continues to creep into everyday life via kiosks, smart-phone applications and the Internet. Consumers are using touch-screens everywhere from supermarket delis to hospital check-in stations. There are even machines that give vision exams and scan feet to produce custom insoles. Kiosk transactions are expected to surpass $775 billion this year, up from $607 billion in 2008, according to IHL Group, which tracks the self-service industry. The total could hit $1.6 trillion by 2013.

Source link

It's not surprising that kiosks are rapidly taking hold in the movie rental business. Six years after the first Redbox DVD rental kiosk test in Denver in 2004, kiosks could account for nearly 30 percent of the U.S. market in 2010, according to NPD Group.

Blockbuster Inc. said this month that it would close as many as 960 unprofitable stores by the end of next year and install 10,000 kiosks in their place.

The tipping point for kiosks came in 2001, when Kroger and Home Depot installed self-checkouts, said Lee Holman, lead retail analyst for IHL Group: "After some hand-holding, consumers have embraced it. Now there's a perception ... that 'I can do this quicker.'"

But it took a long time for Americans to make the leap, starting with ATMs and paying at the pump in the 1980s.

Airports were next, with carriers offering ticket check-in. Hertz first put a kiosk, fluent in several languages, at Orlando International Airport in 2007, and now about 80 percent of the car rental firm's transactions there take place at kiosks.

In Dallas, Kroger has installed kiosks at deli counters where consumers use a touch-screen to select the product, thickness and quantity, then keep shopping until they're ready to pick up their items.

To be sure, self-service options are adding to the millions of jobs already lost to automation. The average Blockbuster store has 10 employees, so the mass closures will have an impact, even if the company shifts some workers to other locations.

Dining self-service counters and tables could be the next frontier.

It's a rare family whose members all want to order from the same vendor at a food court, so NCR is pushing touch-screen tables that let each person order from a different eatery. The family then picks up all the food and pays in one transaction at one place in the food court.


- Check out at a grocery store
- Rent DVDs
- Get cash or deposit a check at an ATM
- Pay at the pump for gas
- Reload prepaid phone cards
- Weigh a letter or package and buy postage at the post office
- Call home or play a video game after a day of soldiering in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Turn a piggy bank's contents into a gift card at a Coinstar machine
- Buy movie, ski lift, museum, train and bus tickets
- Apply for a job at Target
- Print documents at Staples
- Browse additional, off-premises inventory at some J.C. Penney stores
- Rent a car from Hertz

Posted by staff at November 16, 2009 08:02 AM