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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