Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Walgreens adds burn-on-demand DVD kiosks

You have to give it up to Walgreens. First they reach outside of their relatively unexciting image as a drugstore in order to start a promotion along side Live! With Regis and Kelly, and now Yahoo! reports that they'll be installing kiosks that will enable costumers to download movies and burn them onto a DVD right at the store.

Burn-on-demand technology isn't exactly new, but what makes this deployment unique is that Walgreens is trying to use the kiosks to reach new customers stores as well as expand their reach and broaden their image with existing ones. From a business perspective, the idea of having thousands of products available for sale in a condensed space is excellent. Studios don't need to ship DVDs in bulk to the stores and Walgreen's doesn't need to clear out large portions of the store to accommodate them. It's win-win. It also allows the stores to carry hard-to-find titles that may not sell as fast and would waste valuable shelf space if they were physically in a store.

By going the burn-on-demand route, Walgreens is also aligning itself with the future of film viewing. Ever since Netflix came along, traditional film rental outlets like Blockbuster and Hollywood have had to scramble to compete. Since then, people have also started becoming more reliant upon downloading media instead of renting a hard copy. So the whole rental business is becoming about meeting viewers halfway between controlling content and making things convenient. And talk about multitasking: if a customer can pick up prescriptions and groceries and then burn a movie to DVD while they wait, chances are it will make their day easier than making another stop at a video store.

Of course, the one thing Walgreens really needs to keep in mind is that their customers tend to skew a little older and therefore may not always be tech savvy. This means they'd better spell things out pretty clearly on the kiosks unless they want to create some severely confused customers. In addition, they'll also need to make it cheaper or at least competitive in price to other DVD sales outlets right from the start. It's never wise to underestimate the willingness of people to go completely out of their way to save money.

Once again, the fact that Hollywood is going to be taking advantage of the kiosk as a method for both promotion and distribution bodes well for the future of this platform. It'll be a while before DVD kiosks can take a sizable chunk out of the profits of more conventional outlets like Blockbuster and Best Buy, but as long as they move towards streamlining the process, making it affordable and making it convenient, they'll have a shot at taking a piece of the pie while letting once niche-retailers expand into a new and profitable product category.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MediaMouth expands onto Facebook

This piece of news came out a little while ago, but it's still worth a mention:

MediaMouth (previously known as Digital Kiosk Technologies), a company known for retail kiosks which allow users to download music to a CD, is expanding their operation onto the hugely successful social networking site Facebook. According to this article on Yahoo! Finance, "MediaMouth's new Music Gifts(TM), brand music application for Facebook, is the first and only music store application on Facebook that allows users to buy and gift individual music tracks and create custom mix CDs directly from their profile page, as well as share music clips and playlists with their Facebook friends."

This is a great move on the part of MediaMouth, even if it does take them away from their self-service roots. Facebook really is one of the best places to reach younger audiences, and it is arguably more powerful than MySpace (at least until the new phenom site comes along). Young audiences are a notoriously fickle yet very desirable crowd to gain the attention of, so gaining visibility via one of the Internet's irising stars is a very savvy approach. Additionally, this is a shining example of how kiosk companies can expand their brand into other technologies in order to reinforce their recognition. My guess would be that joining with Facebook will draw people to their in-store kiosks (or at least make the kiosks more visible) more than the kiosks will bring people to the Facebook feature. Either way, it's win-win for MediaMouth.

If MediaMouth can show success with this project, it opens doors for other companies to think outside the box and pursue similar advancements. Don't be surprised if others (e.g RedBox, DVDPlay, etc.) start to look for an angle they can take in order to establish some kind of Facebook, MySpace or other social media network tie-in in the near future.

Although, given how long social networking sites are hot these days, the wisest decision may be to look for the next Facebook and work towards joining forces with that :)

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does self-checkout reduce impulse buys?

Over a year ago we first heard rumblings that shoppers who routinely used self-checkout lanes were less likely to make impulse purchases. Whether it was because people who use the lanes are inherently less likely to make impulse buys, or that the lanes were causing regular shoppers to become a little too efficient is still a matter of much discussion. But only just recently the topic resurfaced when research firm IHL Consulting Group noted that, "impulse purchases among women drop 32.1 percent and men 16.7 percent when self-checkout is used instead of a staffed checkout."

This time, though, the group suggests a few possible causes, backed up with real data. The first cause is simple enough: not many retailers that have installed self-checkout lanes have bothered putting the racks of chewing gum, salty snacks and other popular impulse items nearby. Similarly, while the science of arranging racks of impulse goods near traditional checkout lanes is fairly well understood, the same can't be said for self-checkout, so it's possible that stores will have to re-arrange items near these aisles to make them more eye-catching.

Second, and problematic for the industry, is that customers do appear -- for one reason or other -- to make fewer impulse buys even when the items are nearby. Again, there's no new info on whether it's due to the self-selection effect, some property of the environment, or a surplus effect of the self-checkout lanes themselves. One thing's for sure, though: if retailers find that same-store sales of impulse products fall after the installation of self-checkout lanes, that drop needs to be considering when determining the true cost -- and ultimate ROI -- of self-checkout systems.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Flytech introduces new all-in-one unit

There's been some noise in the all-in-one space lately, what with IBM launching an updated version of their popular AnyPlace kiosk and this new product getting released by Taiwanese hardware vendor Flytech. According to the (admittedly limited) product website, the "K790 series is an advanced metal Panel PC. Its ultra slim and exquisite metal enclosure catches most eye contacts (sic). [The] K790 series includes four different display sizes, 12”, 15”, 17" and 19" equipped with high brightness TFT panels and resistive/SAW touch screens." Additionally, the units are rated NEMA 3 / IP 55 dust and water proof, and are thus suited for industrial applications as well as more mundane retail, government and transportation-oriented self-service applications.

Thanks to Gadgettastic for the much better-looking images than the manufacturer has on their site :)

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Friday, October 12, 2007

High Tech Carts Inform Shoppers Of Unhealthy Choices In London

ABC News has reported that shoppers London may soon be pushing around "trolleys" (that's shopping carts for us Yanks) that have the ability to warn them when they are buying too much unhealthy food at the supermarket.

According to the article, "the high-tech model will be fitted with a computer screen and barcode scanner. It will read each product's individual code to give customers information about calories, nutrition, ethical sourcing and the environment." This is definitely an interesting concept and it opens up the possibility for other similarly themed technologies that can provide shoppers with useful information (ill-fate of the Shopping Buddy be damned). It's also a potentially great way for customers without in-depth knowledge of the foods they eat to maintain a healthy diet.

However, the system is not without its drawbacks, the first of which obviously being that there are tons of products in any supermarket that are not healthy (in fact their numbers probably easily outweigh the healthy options). What will the folks at places like Frito Lay feel about a machine attached to a cart that essentially tells shoppers not to buy their product? My guess is they won't be making any contributions to EDS, the U.S. based company responsible for the technology. Plus, it could also cause a lot of overly crowded shopping aisles as customers stop and read information about various products.

This kind of technology is probably better suited to specialized health food stores where people are making the conscious decision to eat an entirely healthy diet, and are willing to take the time to learn about the different options the store offers. In mainstream supermarkets, the systems simply have too much potential to do more harm than good, at least from a business perspective.

Tags: kiosks, smart cart, marketing at retail