Who remembers the clunky kiosks that Argos was playing around with in its stores years ago? Not that many people probably. Not just because it was years ago but because of the fact that they just weren’t any good.
The technology was rather primitive – there was none of today’s (supposedly) ubiquitous broadband and seamless wireless connectivity. And all the content was out of date as soon as you loaded it up into the terminal.
But kiosks also suffered from a fatal drawback – people were terrified of using them. Boots had the same problems as Argos and other retailers when it first installed its Advantage card kiosk into stores. Broad swathes of the population simply didn’t use keyboards and screens as part of their everyday lives, certainly not outside the confines of their offices.
They couldn’t even be dragged kicking and screaming to use these kiosks. Needless to say they pretty much died a death in most stores – with intermittent returns as new iterations came to market. But they never enjoyed much traction.
Things are very different today and many retailers are playing around with introducing interactive technology into stores and as a key part of this movement kiosks are enjoying something of a renaissance.
As an indication of how they are now widely accepted by shoppers just take a look at Marks & Spencer that is in the early days of rolling out kiosks into the fashion and home sections of some of its stores.
What is interesting is that today the public’s acceptance of using technology outside the office – via iPhones and iPads etcetera – means that kiosks in-store now seek to replicate this personal non-work experience. To the extent that M&S has designed its kiosks to look like large iPhones – placed on plinths – and the user interface mimics many of the interactions and gestures developed for the Apple devices.
The one problem for kiosks is that as they replicate so much of consumers’ own mobile devices and the adoption of these technologies becomes increasingly widespread through the population there is an argument that kiosks in-store will simply be replaced by the mini kiosks that we are all now carrying in our hands.
It will be interesting to see how things pan out for the kiosk and maybe some of the answers to where the future lies for the technology might be found at a forthcoming event Kiosk London Expo 2012. One thing is for sure we are in an age where technology is having a massive impact on how retailers’ deliver an experience in their stores.