The popularity of kiosks has skyrocketed during the pandemic as retailers look for ways to provide the service customers expect in a socially distanced, low-touch environment.
With retail bankruptcies seemingly everywhere in 2020, a “sky is falling” lament has pervaded conversations around in-store retail. However, the pent-up, post-pandemic desire to get back out there is predicted to boost in-store retail sales, though it remains anyone’s (educated) guess as to what degree versus years past. That said, pre-pandemic more than 80% of shoppers enjoyed in-store events, from sales and product demos to parties and competitions, and there’s no reason to think they won’t return to at least some of their old habits when it feels safe to do so.
In fact, shopping in person remains the way most people prefer to buy. According to the National Retail Federation, the vast majority of Baby Boomers typically make less than half their purchases online (even with COVID-19 considered). For younger generations, the ability to tune out social media for a while with a tactile experience is a big reason they shop in person. That said, the definition of “in-store” may be changing permanently as people find out they like some of the workarounds retailers have put in place during the pandemic.
The in-store environment
The popularity of kiosks has skyrocketed during the pandemic as retailers look for ways to provide the service customers expect in a socially distanced, low-touch environment. Let’s take a look at some trends and how sophisticated retail kiosks fit into them.
Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) got a big boost from the pandemic as shoppers turned to online shopping to avoid lingering in stores. “Lingering” is the operative word here. More than half still go inside the store to pick up their products, and about a third go for curbside pickup. That’s a great opportunity for store owners and brands to connect with customers. Boomers are driving this bus, with 66% having tried it; that’s far more than any of their younger peers. And, they liked it.
With BOPIS, simplicity is key. People aren’t there to hang out, and they have different levels of technical savvy. Easy-to-use screens with clear graphics and intuitive navigation make for the best customer experience. Kiosks can shorten the time it takes to pick up their order. They can also function as an upselling tool that takes advantage of shoppers’ natural inclination to buy “just one more thing,” with customers using the kiosk to look up products online, purchase them then and there, and have them in hand a few minutes later.
Convenience is a big deal — nearly all consumers are more likely to choose a retailer based on it. From groceries and clothing to electronics, personal care and pet supplies, anywhere from 41%-63% of shoppers rank it as “very important.” BOPIS has improved the shopping experience for almost three-quarters of them. From an in-store perspective, they want convenience at checkout — looking at all shoppers, 78% pick their purchases up at the register when using a BOPIS option, and almost nine in 10 want to try it.
Kiosks save time
Today’s kiosks feature several time-saving features. Credit and debit cards, along with iPay technologies, can be used to purchase right at the kiosk, whether people are picking up pre-orders, bringing items to the “register” or requesting that a sales associate fetch products for them. Many come with receipt printers, barcode readers, and even top-mounted cameras that enable personal interaction with store associates.
Gen Z’ers, most of whom are in their teens, are having a lot of influence on the way their parents shop, and 80% wish retailers would make it even easier to involve kids in purchases, whether online or in-store. Some big retailers are already on it—Disney is opening “retailtainment” micro-shops inside of Target stores that offer merchandise, interactive displays and photo stations. And pre-pandemic, NRF found — wow! moment coming — that three times as many Gen Z’ers shop in a store most of the time compared to online.
They’re still using their phones to find items in the store, show them to their friends and look up comparable items — which makes introducing a kiosk into the environment a natural extension of what they’re already doing. If they want something that’s out of stock, they can order it. If they want to explore how a product works or customize something, they can do both at a properly outfitted kiosk. There is even technology available that puts the “touchable” surface of a touchscreen in mid-air above the actual screen itself — no actual touching required.
Millennials — now the largest portion of the U.S. workforce — are into companies actively supporting worthy causes that have a positive impact on the world. They’ll pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds will go to charity. And despite the fact that they’re big social media users, more than two-thirds of them prefer to discover new products in a store rather than online. They’re big on impulse buys, too — 82% will buy something the very first time they see it. Almost all of them have been influenced by someone they follow on ads or Instagram.
Marry the four — cause, social, discovery, impulse — and you have retail magic. Imagine a large, experience-driven display (almost like a fancy trade show booth) that draws shoppers to it via a familiar face touting the brand’s higher purpose, and incorporating a kiosk that enables them to try, personalize and buy products then and there. Because kiosks are software driven, they can be programmed in infinite ways, and the point of sale can be anywhere in the store.
POS partnerships emerge
The point of sale can also be in someone else’s store. Partnerships between brands are popping up everywhere as retailers seek new ways to reach customers and prospects without having to add new locations. Case in point: Nordstrom and Tonal, a smart home gym company, have inked a partnership that will put a 50-square-foot Tonal demo concept into the women’s active department of 40 Nordstrom stores in 20 states. Visitors to this experience can watch a demo and try a workout firsthand—and, of course, purchase products — even in states where they don’t have a retail store yet.
Jabil’s 2020 survey of retail decision-makers reports that half of today’s retailers are already implementing or are considering specialty kiosks as a way to engage customers, improve the customer experience and boost sales — even for high-end products. As you’re considering how best to invest in your store, a kiosk can provide a customized experience at a fraction of the cost of a new location, more square footage or more employees.