Rich-content mini-kiosks proliferate at retail, Frost & Sullivan reports

Retailers seeking to enhance this holiday’s in-store shopping experience are rolling out increasing numbers of point-of-decision (PoD) kiosks, also known as mini-kiosks, reports industry analyst group Frost & Sullivan in a study released this fall. One major advantage to the technology over larger-screen interactive displays: much lower cost per unit.

PoD kiosks – stand-alone or networked interactive self-service devices with touch-screen or programmable interfaces – have a diagonal screen size between 5in and 9in, resolution no less than a quarter VGA, and possess multimedia capabilities including moving pictures and sounds. The Frost & Sullivan report, “U.S. Point of Decision Kiosk Markets,” indicates this market generated revenue of $36.4 million in 2004.

In a climate of converging positioning strategies among retailers, the focus on in-store experience as a differentiator is being renewed, said Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Vineeta Kommineni, adding that PoD kiosks are meeting the need for cheaper and smaller alternatives to the standard full-form factor kiosks.

Legislation is one factor driving proliferation of mini-kiosks, the analyst group said. Amendments to item pricing laws (IPL) are ushering in a wave of growth in this industry. Nine U.S. states now require most items sold in a retail environment to have a price label attached to them in addition to price labels on shelves. In 2003, Massachusetts amended its IPL to exempt retailers from this requirement if they install at least one electronic scanner for every 5000 sq ft of store selling space. Retailers and supermarket associations in other states such as Michigan and California are appealing for similar changes.

To capitalize on their investments in price checkers, retailers are showing interest in PoD kiosks that enable customer-facing applications other than mere price verification – for example, guided selling, loyalty programs, and paging of sales associates for assistance, said Kommineni. The analyst also says mini-kiosks must carry compelling content to motivate use by customers – for instance, full-motion content and short selling messages designed specifically for the PoD kiosk.

Because this is an emerging market, content providers have yet to develop best practices for optimum message length, number of messages to be strung together, and so on. Issues of content control also abound, said Kommineni, who concludes that these challenges will be quickly overcome.

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