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Versatility Rules.

Byline: Michael Garry

While in-store kiosks have had a checkered past in grocery retail, leaving a trail of kiosk carcasses across the industry, there are a number of examples of store-based consumer-interface machines that have survived and are delivering value to consumers and merchants.

PEAK CONDITION

SoloHealth's in-store kiosks enable shoppers to assess their overall health.

Generally, the success stories fall under the rubric of "transactional kiosks" where consumers interact with the machine and get some palpable benefits in return: coupons, cash or gift cards in exchange for coins, DVDs, deli orders taken in lieu of waiting in line, or medical information about themselves. Interest in these kiosks is sparking increased competition among their vendors; in the coin-counting arena, for example, market leader Outerwall (formerly Coinstar), based in Bellevue, Wash., is facing a challenge from Mt. Prospect, Ill.-based Cummins Allison, which introduced its Money Machine 2 last year.

Kiosks that offer just product information - recipes, directions to products, nutrition info - haven't fared as well. "Product information kiosks have a novelty effect, and then they flatline," says Juan Perez, president and CEO of Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based ADUSA, which has more than 600 deli-ordering kiosk installations.

Store transactional kiosks are bolstered by a booming culture of self-service, notably at airports, banks and gas stations, as well as at stores themselves with self-checkout lanes. Moreover, consumers have become increasingly enamored of using a portable computer/kiosk - their mobile phones - to handle more and more tasks.

The digital revolution is also beginning to reach into the traditional store kiosk. For example, retailers are extending deli-ordering capabilities to the web and mobile phones, and some have augmented their deli kiosks with iPad tablets that store employees can use to collect orders. Others have employed tablets as the kiosk itself, with fewer technology requirements than a typical kiosk. In addition, some kiosk providers are leveraging the cloud to support in-store kiosks rather than requiring processing power in the store.

Food-ordering kiosks, such as those used to order deli items, continue to be a mainstay of the grocery business. According to the 2013 kiosk study by Franklin, Tenn.-based IHL Group, the number of installed food-ordering kiosks (including those used by fast-food chains) grew 6 percent last year and is expected by grow by that amount each year through 2017.

Randazzo Fresh Market, a Michigan chain with three locations in Macomb Township, Clinton Township and Warren, installed a deli kiosk in each store just before the 2013 holiday season. The kiosks, from ADUSA, come with a queue management module that conflates orders from the kiosk users and from shoppers waiting at the counter into a first-in, first-served arrangement, so that neither party feels underserved.

The queue management module gives me the reassurance that our associates are working efficiently and giving equal attention to counter orders and orders coming from self-ordering devices."

- Sonny Randazzo, Randazzo Fresh Market

"The queue management module gives me the reassurance that our associates are working efficiently and giving equal attention to counter orders and orders coming from self-ordering devices," says Sonny Randazzo, owner of Randazzo Fresh Market. He adds that the functionality in the new kiosk outpaces that of the stores' previous unit, and as a result, "our associates and customers quickly acclimated to it."

A WELL-ORDERED DELI

Deli kiosks, like those offered by ADUSA, streamline the ordering process in the department.

Last year, ADUSA started deploying parts of what it called its Omni-Channel Fresh-Foods (OCFF) strategy. The program encompasses the self-ordering kiosks for all manner of deli items, as well as bakery, meat and seafood; the order-taking tablets; the queue management system; an option of using cloud-based hosting; and a thin-client platform using the Windows Embedded Standard 7 operating system. The queue management system includes a queue manager touchscreen for deli employees, a ticket dispenser for shoppers, and an LCD queue viewer screen that shows shoppers the number being served, the numbers in the queue and the estimated wait time.

ADUSA plans to add online and mobile self-ordering, order management and production management, along with a digital menu board.

Randazzo expects to go live with the deli-ordering tablet in one of his stores, according to Perez. One retailer that has already employed the tablet is Brookhaven Marketplace, which operates three stores in the Chicago suburbs of Mokena, Burr Ridge and Darien. "We intended the tablet to be used like a line buster when there are 30 to 40 people on line at the deli on a busy Saturday," says Perez. But Brookhaven uses it differently at its Mokena location, which also has a standard deli kiosk.

"The store manager walks up and down the aisle," Perez notes. "He knows many of the customers. He asks them if they're getting deli and if he can take their order." Brookhaven recently installed a kiosk in another store and will bring the same tablet to that location, Perez adds.

Perez acknowledges that deli kiosks aren't suited for underachieving delis. "Kiosks do well in delis that are thriving but have problems with long lines such that people are walking away," he explains. Declining to disclose cost figures for his kiosks, he says the average kiosk order is $11 to $12, or about twice the average counter order.

Health Check

Another kiosk type gaining traction in the grocery sphere is the medical kiosk, which allows shoppers to assess vital aspects of their health at no cost. For example, the SoloHealth Station, from Duluth, Ga.-based SoloHealth, measures blood pressure, body mass index and visual acuity, and offers an overall health assessment as well as a list of local doctors. A recently added feature is an Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) education module that offers information on the health insurance exchanges, according to Kioskmarketplace.com.

The SoloHealth Station, which began in 2008 as a vision-only kiosk, is now in almost 3,500 locations, including 700 Safeway and Safeway-affiliated stores, 45 Schnucks locations, 2,200 Walmarts and 563 Sam's Club outlets, according to Bart Foster, founder and CEO of SoloHealth. Many of the kiosks are in stores with a health clinic, but virtually all are in stores with a pharmacy.

"We're getting 30 to 35 uses per day [at the SoloHealth Station], which is pretty good," observes Mike Juergensmeyer, VP of pharmacy at St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets, where blood pressure is the most frequently measured health metric. On average, users spend about four minutes with the kiosk, according to SoloHealth.

The Schnucks kiosks are generally found in the pharmacy department, though they may also be located in the front of the store if room is lacking in the pharmacy, Juergensmeyer explains, adding that Schnucks pays an undisclosed "ongoing cost" for the kiosks.

Juergensmeyer observes that the SoloHeath Stations seem to be used more in stores located in lower-income neighborhoods "underserved by the medical community." That trend holds nationally for the kiosks, says Foster. Across all regions, a small percentage of users load their health information into a personal account, which is hosted in the cloud by SoloHealth, and can be accessed from any computer.

Besides charging retailers, SoloHealth generates revenue by selling video and banner ads that are viewed in the kiosks. The ads can be geared to particular users, based on personal information they provide. "If we know your age, ethnicity and gender, then while you're in the blood-pressure cuff, you can watch a 30-second video specifically for" that category, says Foster. Advertisers include Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and Novartis.

The rationale for a health kiosk, note Juergensmeyer and Foster, is that it can burnish a retailer's service credentials and help maintain a shopper's loyalty. That's a minimum threshold that any successful kiosk implementation would have to cross.
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Author:Garry, Michael
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2014
Words:1407
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