Kiosks Help Consumers Help Themselves
Interactive in-store advertising provides consumers with expert advice at
the point of purchase.
By Julie Dalton
Everyone is in a hurry these days including consumers. Consumers want
information quickly, and sales clerks cant always provide the information
they need. Thats why many retailers have turned to interactive kiosks to
provide customers with problem-solving tools. This month, we examine two point
of sale kiosks that are helping customers help themselves while allowing
retailers to sell their products more efficiently.
"One of the key trends taking place in the healthcare industry is that
consumers are taking a more active role in their healthcare," says Emmett
Burns Jr., president and owner of Issaquah, Wash.-based MA Network. This trend
is the driving force behind the LifeInfo HealthCenter, a kiosk that uses
touchscreen technology to educate consumers about health-related issues and
products while promoting products from the healthcare industry.
MA Networks LifeInfo HealthCenter is a kiosk designed to center around the consumer.
MA Network worked with a design and manufacturing company, to center the unit around an
ergonomically contoured chair, designing a seat that accommodates the HealthCenters
main user, women, as well as men up to 6'4" in height. The HealthCenter is an 11-sq.-ft.
freestanding unit, standing up to 7 1/2 feet high.
"Traditionally, kiosks were big bulky boxes," says Rey Sabado,
creative director at MA Network. "We were looking for different packaging
that would bring a certain amount of product identity. The design is very
unique and does two things: It makes the kiosk more user-friendly, and it also
disguises the fact that its a kiosk. Its not just a box with a
computer in it."
The LifeInfo HealthCenter offers four main services to its users. The
Magazine section of the touchscreen features current articles, quizzes and news
items on health and lifestyles and includes special sections for diabetics,
women and those with heart-related problems. The Health Condition, Drug and
Herbal Guide offers information from a database of reference information. A
Health Monitor feature measures weight, heart rate, body fat and blood pressure
and a Product Center includes a product catalog, coupons and promotions.
When consumers sit down and use the touchscreen, they can find information
about healthcare issues and products that can help with purchasing decisions.
They can print out just one article or a whole database about a particular
subject, and by touching banners and buttons, users can view advertising
messages and receive coupons for products. Other features of the kiosk are
interactive as well. The seat acts as a scale, which registers weight even
though it barely moves. A special cuff measures blood pressure, heart rate and
body fat using the latest technology. And consumers can use handsets to
"Todays consumer has been oriented toward receiving as much
information as possible as quickly as possible," says Burns. "Most of
the alternatives out there have historically been more textual. While some
people like that, we feel theres a higher percentage of people who want
to get the information quickly through a high-fidelity video, audio and
"We noticed that the mentality in a lot of kiosks was pretty
simple," says Sabado. "We figured the people using it would probably
be a little more Web-conscious and aware of new technology. So we wanted to
design a more sophisticated interface that would allow them to view the Center
as a resource."
MA Network has worked to develop relationships with public and private
professional healthcare providers in order to provide qualified health
information to consumers in an integrated, easy-to-understand format. New
information is downloaded remotely via MA Networks Intranet so retailers
dont have to worry about keeping the HealthCenter updated.
Another plus for retailers is that the unit is multi-functional. John Hughes,
a consultant for MA Network, explains, "You can see other units out there
in the marketplace that either dont have the functionality that this unit has
or that have only one of the functions that this unit has. So integrated into a
single unit are a lot of applications, which means that it consumes a lot less
floorspace than six or eight units performing singular functions."
Another unique aspect of the HealthCenter is that it is integrated within
the pharmacy itself. "Most kiosk companies drop a kiosk into a space and
say, Here it is. But were incorporating in-store promotions,
posters, three-sided danglers and shelf talkers that help drive customers to
the system," explains Sabado. For example, danglers hanging throughout the
store might read, "How does your blood pressure rate? Check the LifeInfo
HealthCenter," and posters advertising the HealthCenters features
greet consumers as theyre entering the store.
Advertisers sponsor the HealthCenter program, communicating their messages
to potential customers in a number of ways. Customers who choose to view more
information about a product can push a button on the touchscreen and receive
messages through a mix of text, audio, animation, video and graphics.
Advertisers can also sponsor click-through banners or relay messages through a
large video display located on the top of the unit to attract customers to the
"Id say everything from the HealthCenters identity [a
"heart beat" logo meant to signify life] to the way we deliver
healthcare information, is consistent with the overall position of the LifeInfo
health system," says Sabado. "The design of the kiosk, the interface,
the promotion and the information being delivered to the consumer all has a
consistent look to it which enhances the HealthCenters branded
MA Network created the HealthCenter with the idea that the technology
provides a way to implement quick, consistent and cost-effective updates to the
kiosk across all a retailers locations. "Many of the services the
LifeInfo HealthCenter and MA Network plan to offer in the future will allow the
brick-and-mortar retail establishments to effectively compete against the
online, electronic pharmaceutical sites," says Hughes.
Pilot units rolled out to select stores in the Seattle area in June. A
market research firm will survey consumers and store personnel about their
experiences with the HealthCenter, and MA Network will make any necessary
changes before a national rollout to pharmacies, independent stores and
grocery/drug stores begins around September.
Solving Drink Dilemmas
So youre planning a dinner party. You have enough to worry about with
getting the meal cooked, the house in order and all the arrangements taken care
of. But what about the beverages? There are so many choices. And how many of us
really know which wine goes best with lamb cuts with cream sauce?
Katonah, N.Y.-based Beverage Marketing Technologies and Atlanta-based NCR
Corp. have teamed up to create ChoiceMaster, a new kiosk that makes choosing
alcoholic beverages a little easier for customers. The touchscreen kiosk,
installed in wine, liquor and beer aisles in retail stores, gives customers
information about beverages at the point of sale. With the touch of a screen,
consumers can compare brands, find food and drink recipes and even plan a
A typical scenario might be as follows: A consumer is throwing a cocktail
party and needs to know how much and what kind of alcohol he should buy. Using
the touchscreen, he would touch the "Plan Party" button and would be
asked to choose from a list of parties including barbecue, wedding, dinner,
cocktail, etc. He would then be asked the length of the party, the number of
guests and the drinking habits of the guests. For example, what percentage of
guests are non-drinkers, light drinkers, moderate drinkers or "party
animals." Finally, the consumer would input the percentage of guests that
will be drinking beer, wine and liquor.
When all the information has been entered, ChoiceMaster computes the data
and tells the customer how much of each type of alcohol he should buy along
with a suggested assortment of brands available at the retailer. The consumer
can then print out the results and look up additional information about brands
available at the store before making a purchasing decision.
"We get as many as 3,000 customer inquiries per month per
location," says Jim Greaves, president of Beverage Marketing Technologies,
who reports that the Food Matches and Drink Recipe sections are the most
frequented sections of the kiosk.
The program is also very retailer-friendly. The kiosk uses little or no
floor space because, depending on retailer preference, it can be mounted to a
wall or pillar
or sit on a shelf or a small pedestal. Retailers can feature in-store
promotions through the program, which is tied into the stores POS system.
The kiosk also serves as a permanent salesperson. Retailers dont have to
worry about sales clerks being unable to answer questions about particular
brands or party planning.
"Our primary targets are tier-one and tier-two grocery stores that sell
alcoholic beverage products, because there is no element of service and the
customer comes in and has no clue as to what to buy," says Greaves.
"Our target market is shoppers in the grocery stores looking to make a
purchase decision. And 7075 percent of their decisions are made in that
"Recently, a shopper in our store approached me for advice on
wine," says Mary Ellen Ciccone, manager of the A&P Liquor Store in
Wallingford, Conn. "She was planning a small party and wanted to know what
varietals would complement a chicken dish she had in mind. Like many shoppers,
she was anxious about the possibility of choosing the wrong wine. I directed
her to the ChoiceMaster kiosk in our store. In minutes, she was departing the
aisle with four bottles of Merlot and a satisfied smile."
Nearly 750 different alcohol brands have participated in the ChoiceMaster
program, which is sponsored by brands available at each retail establishment.
Advertisers sign up for a package enabling their brand to be featured in
certain menus throughout the kiosk. Various levels of sponsorship are
Beginning this month, customers will also be able to use the ChoiceMaster on
the Internet and will have access to the entire master database. According to
Greaves, customers will eventually be able to order products from the Web site
and then pick them up at a local ChoiceMaster retailer.
Beverage Marketing Technologies is working with several other industries and
hopes to implement the ChoiceMaster kiosk in other food aisles as well.
"With retailing under the pressure that it faces, this touchscreen
technology and interactive capability is something that a lot of retailers are
going to need not just in the wine, liquor and beer industries but in a
lot of industries because you cant find qualified
salespeople," says Greaves. "So for the salespeople you have, the
technology makes them more efficient at a very affordable price."
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