Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Product Trend: Will Kiosks Be Key?

Seems like everywhere I go lately there’s a brightly painted metal box with mechanical stuff inside teasing me with an offer I almost can’t refuse.

I walked into Lowe’s six weeks ago to have keys made. You know what happens next: Go up to the counter in the hardware department, wait on line (always!), hand in your keys, and wait patiently while the gent behind the counter whips them up with a machine that makes lots of noise.  The big exchange? Purchasing two keys = One half hour of my life.

This isn’t what happened. Meandering  down the wide front aisle I came open a large green kiosk with a big blue and white sign proclaiming “Keys in one minute” towering above.  A “key-osk”! Feeling curious, I inserted my credit card.  Carefully reading the instructions, I inserted my key and selected the number of copies. I watched through a glass window as the mechanism within stirred to life and grinded and whirled. It was fun to see; almost as fun as playing an arcade machine at the Jersey Shore.

When the keys were completed, the machine asked for my email address. I punched it in and immediately received a receipt via email. The whole process for two keys took maybe seven minutes. For a short video, click here.

And today I found an ID tag engraving kiosk in a pet department. Didn’t try it, however, I suspect it would be just as fun as the key machine.

While traveling in Europe last year, I marveled at the airport kiosks where you could casually buy yourself a new iPod (perhaps you lost yours on the plane?) just by inserting credit card and hitting a button. Other items in the $100 to $200 range were available as well.

Last year in Las Vegas I even found a beauty product dispensing machine in a busy mall. Sorry, but Jessica Simpson was nowhere to be seen.

Now, while all of these examples are rather interesting, here’s one that truly “takes the cake”. On a nostalgic level, it perhaps harkens back to the days of Horn & Hardart automats. Think about it. You’re in a swanky city in sunny Los Angeles and you’re jonesin’ for something sweet as you stroll along. And there it is, all in pink, sweetly embedded in the wall; cupcakes dispensed in an ATM! Yum! See the video here.

How creative will businesses get with this concept? Judging by what I’ve seen so far, anything is possible and opportunity is ripe both for small businesses to put a fresh twist on their marketing to start ups with a product that hasn’t been available in an automated fashion yet.

Will these self-serve ATMs / kiosks create jobs or take them away? It may be a trade-off between jobs in the lower paying fringes of the service sector such as working behind a counter ringing up sales and new positions ranging from marketing of these devices to manufacturing them.

But will the shift in types of jobs at the very least balance out as we embrace purchasing products without human interaction? And, it’s certain we will, otherwise online giants like Amazon or Zappos, simply put, wouldn’t be giant. We seem to enjoy a shopping  experience lacking a real person’s involvement.

And perhaps the biggest advantage to these kiosks is that the purchaser receives almost instant gratification. Is that enough to purchase a cupcake from a sidewalk ATM rather than enter a shop and enjoy human contact and a pleasing atmosphere?

A most interesting trend. Let’s see how far out-of-the-box, uh, kiosk, it will go!


Shannon Grissom said...

I love the choices...Sometimes I want human contact and sometimes I just want to "get er done".

Gerry Wendel said...

Our everyday living is customized, different for each of us; many companies recognize this and cater to that fact. With more effort through different channels, the end result for them is an increased audience which equals more purchases and an overall happier consumer because of the ability to choose. Yay!

maneesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.