Magazine Article


The Kiosk Continuum

Keep your customers happy by following some simple ground rules. Mitch Goldstone

One of the most sparkling promotions I ever held was to get customers to smile-literally. In-store point-of-sale posters encouraged people to do so. The promotion was very simple: "Free Film, Just Smile."

Smart marketers understand that the key selling proposition is convenience and a favorable ordering experience. Today, my "Free CDs, Just Smile" is an occasional promotion we use to forge customer excitement for our in-store automatic photo kiosks. We periodically include a free CD or DVD with their order for archiving their memory card images when they use our Kodak Preview & Select System, Kodak Picture Maker kiosks and our newest customized photo kiosks. The latter system creates a seamless ordering experience by networking our online and in-store services together. Photo kiosks are becoming a catalyst for broadening sales and making customers happy-even getting them to smile.

Focusing on Your Customers

Let me introduce you to Jessica, today's model customer. As the primary mass-market consumer, Jessica is a mom who is also the gatekeeper of the household. She is in charge of most purchasing decisions, and now she has a digital camera and is thinking of also buying a camera phone for nonstop picture-taking. We tell Jessica to always have a camera with her, especially for special events. When her eldest son, Ruben, turned 13, we explained that his birthday was really a full-day event; memories would be made from when he awoke until the last candle on the cake was blown out. Instead of a few birthday party pictures, she now has a keepsake photo album from the entire day, including photos of their hometown friends, pets, house, what his room looked like, and images of all the special happenings in his life on that day. A day-in-the-life scrapbook is an ideal way to preserve memories.

After taking the pictures, we then helped Jessica order photographic prints and enlargements. Her options included 1) ordering from our nationwide online service and sharing the pictures with others at; 2) dropping off the memory card at our retail photo center, just as she was accustomed to doing with film; or 3) using our in-store kiosk service. Jessica could make prints at home, but because she has four children and little spare time or money to waste, this is the most convenient and practical option. This time Jessica brought in her memory card, inserted it into our Kodak Picture Maker kiosk, pressed "Print All" and within seconds had completed the order. While she was paying for the entire order, the prints were transferred to our Noritsu digital photo lab, printed and handed to her. Jessica smiled and also got a free CD to digitally archive Ruben's special day.

Over these summer months, consumers will be establishing their new digital printing habits and figuring out the best way to preserve, share and print their pictures. This is a critical juncture in our industry's history, and retailers must be prepared for these new channels and new target customers. Are you ready for Jessica?

After taking her pictures, we then helped Jessica order photographic prints and enlargements. Photo credit: ©2004 Bryan Robinson,

In the past, Jessica's only option was to use film and wait for the prints. Now her choices have multiplied. The complexity and inconvenience of digital output solutions has dropped-and this has changed everything. Today we need to earn and re-earn our customer's business every time they walk into the store. With all these options and choices, the in-store consumer experience becomes paramount-even critical. You need to assess the current customer experience in your stores. Ensure that you are delivering a high-quality product and impeccable in-store execution; also make sure you are driving awareness that digital printing is available at your retail site.

This is a "high-touch" environment-meaning a high level of customer service, making sure you are category experts to provide hand-holding and guidance. Photo specialty retailers will especially benefit because we understand customer service. We can best deliver flawless in-store execution to provide high quality and quick ordering of products while promoting awareness for and acceptance of our in-store photo kiosks.

To improve the in-store photo kiosk experience and minimize the risk of forfeiting traffic, revenue and customer loyalty, we must understand the results of a recent Kodak study. It identified convenience and experience as the two leading factors affecting the buying behavior of picture-takers.

The Convenience Factor

The number-one factor affecting buying behavior is convenience. Convenience is king! It is by far the most important aspect for determining how photo consumers shop-it makes up almost half of the decision about which retailer to visit. The physical location and in-store experiences are important. Make sure your customers can get in and out quickly. Are your kiosks conveniently located? Are they turned on? And is the workspace user-friendly with lots of room to spread out their work? One retailer I know has swivel signs above each kiosk station asking: "Are you OK? No" and "Are you OK? Yes." When a beginner customer walks up to the kiosk, the sign says "No," which invites a clerk to ask how they can be helpful. Regular customers know to rotate the sign to "Yes."

Part of the convenience factor is 1) making certain your equipment is always operational and well-maintained, 2) locating your kiosks in highly visible areas of the store, 3) providing an inviting, well-lit, uncluttered space for work and 4) making sure your entire physical set-up and staff training is geared to offer a great printing experience.

Experience is a combination of trust, service and quality. It is perception, but it also is about picture quality and extends to the professionalism and attentiveness of your sales staff. It is about how valued the customer feels when he or she walks up to the in-store kiosk. This is where the photo specialty retailer really shines. Essential to delivering a positive experience for consumers is making sure your staff is friendly, well-trained, knowledgeable and helpful. Think of a Disney employee for direction on grooming and attire.

Where Does Price Fit In?

Trailing convenience and experience in the decision hierarchy is price. The Kodak study identified that price considerations amount to less than 20 percent of the customer buying decision. Furthermore, the research showed that price specials, deals and coupons have limited influence on retailer selection and on in-store purchase decisions. The relative lack of importance of price, especially when compared with convenience and experience, shows the futility of engaging in price wars that spark a destructive and irreversible trend-and eventually erodes profitability.

The leading kiosk options are either free-standing units with built-in printers or countertop order stations connected to digital labs. Because today's digital camera owner is most interested in maximizing the quality of their pictures and because they have substantial issues with printing at home, kiosks are booming. They boast a lower-cost and hassle-free solution. People like Jessica get their completed photos in minutes or seconds. Trust is important, and that is why the retail channel is seeing solid growth again. People trust the photo lab for their photos. Could you imagine a returning vacationer handing over his memory cards to a clerk at a chain store who then presses the wrong button and ruins all those memories?

All it takes for shoppers to rethink the print-at-retail model is a single unsatisfactory experience. Maybe it's a cluttered store environment or an out-of-order kiosk. Whatever the vulnerability, a gap in service or convenience is enough to shake old loyalties.

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