In the days of yore, it was commonplace for grocers to gussy up their store lobbies with gumball dispensers, claw machines and mechanical ponies. Fast-forward to present day, when retailers are phasing out these quaint, kid-centric contraptions to make room for the latest technology that offers convenient, in-demand, profitable products and services—not only in the lobby, but also all around the store.
Instead of random add-ons, retailers should focus on playing up “delightful interruptions” in the shopping experience, says Ron Hughes, senior manager of shopper strategy and innovation for The Coca-Cola Co. Kiosks that merchandise beverages, food and other amenities should be placed throughout the store to remind shoppers of key occasions.
Kiosks provide retailers with the opportunity to remind shoppers of tasks they need to accomplish via a compact, turnkey means of doing so. For example, many grocery stores place Rug Doctor rentals in the front end to remind shoppers “that should be my next task now that I have finished my grocery shopping.” Jim Weaks, VP of Prospect, Ill.-based currency-handling technology company Cummins Allison, says strategic placement of coin machines can help give customers the idea to come back to the store and use the service.
“It’s really important to have the machine located where everyone that comes in the store sees it,” Weaks says. “People use these machines because they see them in the store and they register in the back of their mind, ‘Hey, the next time I come in, I’m going to bring my bucket of coins.’”
Shoppers expect grocery stores to offer basic services such as coin machines, and placing them in low-traffic areas or not having them all can be a missed opportunity.
“When people come in to convert their coin, around 40% of them are also buying groceries when they’re in the store,” Weaks says. “Retailers are not only losing revenue they get from the coin volume—they’re also losing the potential revenue from the grocery sales.”
Stores such as Safeway have also picked up on the “friendly reminder” strategy by placing gift card redemption kiosks such as Cardpool in its stores so that shoppers will see them and remember gift cards to a clothing store or restaurant that have been gathering dust in a drawer for months.
Engaging the Senses
The boom of in-store digital kiosk technology provides another way for these “delightful interruptions” to attract shoppers. Hughes advises that stations providing sensory experiences using lighting, video and motion are most likely to garner the attention of shoppers. For example, the Arctic Coke cooler keeps beverages cold enough to be on the verge of freezing. When consumers select a beverage from the Arctic Coke cooler, they place it on a Coca-Cola proprietary device that initiates the formation of ice crystals.
“As grocery retailers reinvent their store footprints and deliver a new kind of guest experience, we’re seeing the need to offer more immersive product experiences, such as recipe-generating solutions supported by food and beverage merchandising solutions,” Hughes says.
In this vein, Cummins Allison is rolling out coin machines that catch shoppers’ attention with digital screens featuring an instructional video and spinning coins. Even getting a simple cup of coffee has become an interactive experience that can be had right in one’s neighborhood grocery store. After acquiring Rubi coffee in 2014, Feniks Inc., which also owns popular kiosk brands Coinstar and Redbox, has introduced self-service machines to numerous grocery retailers. The single-cup brewing technique allows shoppers to get a hot cup on demand with plenty of flavors and styles to choose from.
Convenience, Convenience, Convenience
Kiosks should add value to the shopping trip instead of simply providing information that can easily be found on a mobile app, says Kent Savage, founder and CEO of Mason, Ohio-based Apex Supply Chain Technologies. He believes that retailers can give customers more reasons to shop with them by shifting the order-and-pay process to a mobile app and leaving the order pickup to kiosks.
“Customers value their time more than ever and have multiple pressures in their busy lives,” Savage says. “Self-serve, automated order pickup caters to the customers’ want-it-now mentality and eliminates the obstacles ordering kiosks and checkout lines can create for them.”
Savage says that research shows offering customers more convenient ways to shop and helping them save time increases the number of times a customer will shop with a certain retailer and deepens their connection with the banner, ultimately resulting in more share of the consumer wallet being spent at the store.
Employees at Grafton, Wis.-based kiosk manufacturer Frank Mayer looked back on the trends they saw in 2017 and offered predictions for 2018 in a blog post with similar insights. Among the hottest topics on its radar: customer personalization, which is poised to be a major driver of kiosk development in 2018. Retailers will find success in integrated personal shopping experiences that have been “woven into the fabric of the store,” the blog says, which plays into the growing overlap between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce grocery shopping.
“This is where point-of-purchase displays come into play. In-store displays, particularly interactive kiosks, act as a medium between digital merchandising and a brick-and-mortar retail,” Frank Mayer officials wrote. “Companies will be looking to connect the convenience of online shopping with the physicality of the in-store experience.”
Additionally, connecting with a new generation of shoppers through personal empowerment is slated to be a significant trend. According to Frank Mayer officials, today’s grocery shoppers prefer self-service options, and offering services such as self-checkouts can be an advantage.
Made-to-Order Is Made to Win
Steve Dombroski, sales manager with Troy, Mich.-based Nextep Systems, has noticed a growing trend in made-to-order food programs, which he says allow grocery stores to compete with limited-service restaurants. “Brands are fighting for relevance and foot traffic in this space. The solution, in a lot of cases, is creating a restaurant in a store, or a ‘grocerant.’” He says kiosks are a great answer because they empower the customer to order without the attention of staff. And due to automatic upsell and good photography, shoppers tend to order more at a kiosk than with a cashier.