Magazine Article


It Is Now Official: Digital Replacing Film

I went to each store, popped in my SDs and went through the kiosk’s program ordering two or three prints each time. A few observations and suggestions I can make from my survey:

One Kiosk Is Not Enough: Most retailers seem to be pretty timid in their commitment to digital and have only a single kiosk for the consumer. Yes, Walgreen and CVS had a Kodak Picture Maker in addition to their Kodak G-3 kiosks, but the consumer has caught on that getting a print from a G-3 or Fuji Aladdin for 29-cents each is a lot cheaper than an 8x10 sheet from a Picture Maker at $6.99. Not many people hanging around that machine.

Most of my visits were mid-week. Yet, I had to wait for someone already at the kiosk at three sites. (At Wal-Mart we waited 25 minutes for the one Aladdin to be available and there were folks waiting for it when we finished.) Customers who came in while someone was on the kiosk would either ask how long the user would be there or just walk away—maybe never to return to that store’s kiosk. Some waited and eventually quit with a scowl. Moms with kids kept going.

The best equipped store was Wegmans supermarket. They had two G-3’s and a Picture Maker. Ritz had two Aladdins connected to their Frontier, one with, and one without a scanner. A third model was incorporated on a Fuji Printpix system that was out of order. At Kinkos I walked up to the Sony PictureStation to find two people hanging out waiting for prints to drop out of the on-board printer. One was waiting for 19 8x10 prints and might still be there.

Maybe the retailer relates the kiosk use to a customer dropping off a roll—fast and easy—and that one is enough. It’s not. A customer’s first experience for making digital prints via the kiosk can set the stage in the consumer’s mind for a long time to come. Will it be a positive or negative one.

One kiosk is not enough if the on-site lab owner expects to replace his diminishing roll count with digital print business. A retailer cannot afford to let a customer walk out in frustration. What will happen at the Christmas holiday when customers simply don’t have the time or patience to wait for a kiosk to open up? The investment in a second unit is relatively small. Vendors should consider 2-fer deals on kiosks as encouragement for labs to have at least a pair of kiosks in place.

A Comfortable Setting: At Wal-Mart, the Aladdin was stacked on top of the scanner which was placed on top of the counter. My wife is below average height and simply could not deal with the touch screen monitor at that height. I commandeered a small stool for her to stand on during the 90-minute picture selection process—not something Wal-Mart’s liability insurance carrier would have been pleased to see. I worked beside her and though the time went by quickly, we were both tired of standing.

The only store that figured this out was Wegmans—again. They had built a desk-height counter adjacent to the working counter and had placed a chair in front of one of the kiosks—but not the other. Since I stayed at the G-3 for only about five minutes, I didn’t care. The man in the chair looked real comfortable, though. He was there when I arrived and still there when I passed by 30-minutes later.

(Many may not be aware of Wegmans since their 66 stores are located mostly in upstate New York with a few in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is privately held with sales over $3 billion and is 9th on the current Fortune magazine list of "100 Best Companies to Work For." Obviously, they work as hard to please their employees as they do their customers. To my knowledge, Wegmans was the first supermarket chain in the country to have seen the value of on-site processing and had Noritsu labs in their stores in the early 1980s.)

My survey convinced me that a kiosk is NOT a device that should require a customer to stand at it. The more comfortable the customer is, the more likely he/she will not be in a hurry to finish the ordering process. I’ll take bets that Wegmans, with their chair, yields more revenue per order than a stand-up kiosk at Stop & Shop. Cheap investment. Besides, a chair creates a lap for a youngster to share the monitor experience with mom.

Store management should provide for a sit-down plan for a customer to use the kiosk. Or, how about the kiosk manufacturer designing the pedestal with a seating element to make it more customer-comfortable?

Work Stations Don’t Work: Before there were kiosks there were computer work stations. Forward thinking independent lab management, in their haste to get into digital, set up work stations. Installed with Adobe Photoshop and other software, the trained employee could render magic with the wave of the Photoshop wand.

Unfortunately, some labs are using work stations as a substitute for a kiosk. It doesn’t work. The two independent labs I visited had work stations on the counter. One, with Adobe software, required the employee, who was not well-trained, to use it along with me, and by clicking the wrong icon all my images were wiped from the media. A disaster scenario that can’t happen on a kiosk. It’s worse than ruining a roll of film which can have only 36-images. The other store allowed me to sit at a desk behind the counter and work on the Agfa Pixtasy software with a mouse. Not an ideal situation.

Much to my surprise I was faced with the same situation at Eckerd Drug. This store once had a Pixel Magic kiosk which they say was pulled out some time ago. Current personnel didn’t know why. I had to stand at a work station whose monitor was turned 90 degrees away from me so the clerk could work it along with me, using Pixel Magic software and a mouse. My body could handle only a few minutes of that contortion.