HP unveils loyalty card-enabled in-store sales kiosk
Consumers in the US may soon find an increasing number of in-store marketing kiosks in shop entrances as a growing number of technology providers develop personalised, relevance-based marketing kiosks - the latest among which is HP's new loyalty card-enabled sales and service kiosk.
Developed by HP Labs, the Retail Store Assistant system includes an in-store kiosk that customers can access with their loyalty card, or by typing in their phone number. The kiosk is linked directly to the retailer's back-end IT systems that provide details of stock lines, inventory, sales information, and customer purchase histories. The unit provides information in text, audio, and video formats, and is capable of providing a customised full-colour printout on demand.
'X' marks the special offer HP says that the new kiosk could potentially allow a retailer's customers to swipe their loyalty card when entering the store and receive a printout that includes a personalised shopping list (largely based on past purchases), a number of relevant coupons, alerts about relevant in-store discounts and sales, and even a map showing where the suggested items can be found in the store.
This scenario, while already technically possible with other in-store marketing systems and kiosks in the marketplace, is more likely to become an everyday reality for consumers as time goes on. The HP Retail Store Assistant is, at the moment, an experimental system that was designed to help enhance the consumer's overall shopping experience and to improve efficiency by bringing online data and communication to bricks-and-mortar store customers.
Win-win situations By better connecting consumer data and store data, the concept works to the advantage of both customers and retailers. For example, if a grocery store noticed that a customer buys yogurt every time it was on offer, the system might offer that customer the sale price on a more regular basis - perhaps even in return for redeeming a few loyalty points (which in itself would help to drive the customer's engagement with the loyalty programme). Or, if the store finds it has an unexpected excess inventory of onions, the system could provide shoppers with recipes for home cooking using onions - such as onion soup - while alerting them that onions are on offer and showing customers where to find them.
According to HP Labs, the level of personalisation provided by systems like the Retail Store Assistant means a better shopping experience for the consumer, and is likely to become a key factor in closing the "intention-action gap". According to Mohamed Dekhil, manager of retail applications at the digital imaging and printing lab at HP Labs, "Instead of sending consumers advertising and coupons and hoping they'll come in to buy, it's better to reach them when they're actually in the store, where they're more likely to make the purchase."
Other possible applications The system has other more seasonal applications, too. For example, for Father's Day, graduation time, or any other gift-giving holiday, retail stores could (with the appropriate permissions from customers) maintain registries of what they have bought as gifts.
As a bonus for the consumer - perhaps even restricted to store loyalty card holders - stores could use the system to manage gift wish-lists or run a gift registry service to help eliminate the common problem of receiving duplicate gifts or items of the wrong size, colour, or style.
As HP Labs points out, the grocery sector is not alone in wanting to improve customer service and shopping experiences. Customers of books stores could use the kiosks to register interest in their favourite authors, genres, or subjects, and to be alerted about forthcoming works that match their interests. Similarly, music and video stores could allow customers to register their favourite artists, film categories, music styles, and other preferences in other to be notified when relevant new releases come out.
Internet-like convenience In particular, the HP Retail Store Assistant has some key advantages for retailers, in that it brings internet-like convenience into physical stores. For example, it could provide product information about items for sale, including third-party reviews from other consumers, as well as offering recommendations for related products (such as the Amazon.com-style "People who bought this product also bought...").
The kiosk can also provide shoppers with price and availability of products and, if the item isn't available in the local store, it can also recommend another branch nearby that has stock.
Taking bricks-and-mortar online Interestingly, HP has created the system with the ability to publish the kiosk's content and functions on the internet, so the key features are available to consumers at home and in the store.
Finally, apart from the consumer benefits, the system is also likely to benefit the retailer by providing real-time reporting and analysis of marketing and sales campaigns, allowing individual store managers and company-wide marketing executives to adjust marketing initiatives mid-cycle. Another potential use of the kiosk is to provide in-store multimedia training for staff when the store is closed.