Magazine Article | July 18, 2008

Sensible Time For Self-Service?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Spending is up on tech that helps customers help themselves.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2008

Global shipments of self-service and interactive kiosk solutions were more than a billion dollars last year, and according to VDC,  that figure is growing rapidly. The technology market research and strategy consulting firm's report, Kiosks for Self-Service and Interactive Applications: Technical and Vertical Market Analysis, predicts the global market for complete kiosk systems will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21% through 2009, when the market will approach $1.6 billion.

Self-service is one area of tech spending that hasn't been hampered by a slowing economy. According to Lee Holman, lead retail analyst at IHL Group, self-service devices are seen as a hedge against increasing expenses during a tough economic climate, allowing retailers to more strategically schedule labor resources for high-volume periods. The recent 2008 North American Self-Service Kiosks study from IHL corroborates the findings of the VDC study but from a consumer's perspective: it predicts that this year, $607 billion in merchandise will be transacted through self-service kiosks, and that figure is expected to more than triple to $1.7 trillion by 2012.

Self-Service Empowers Customers, Associates
While labor management strategy (associates during peak times, kiosks when it's slow) should be a driver of self-service technology adoption, labor expense shouldn't be the only motivation for such solutions. In fact, few retailers adopt self-service solutions to reduce associate headcount. Most laud self-service solutions not only for their customer-facing value, but for their ability to empower associates with information that assists customers. Technology tools as information enablers often make the difference between customer dissatisfaction and the sale, and the one-two punch of self-service technology coupled with human interaction can often seal the deal.

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Virtually every retailer and retail solutions vendor professes to be 'consumer-centric.' But self-service kiosks and self-checkout are among the few retail technologies that are truly synergistic between corporate strategy and customer satisfaction. Reduced bottlenecks at departments and checkouts, automated upsell prompts, and happier customers and associates are a few reasons why self-service technology adoption makes sense in a slow economy. The survey results from IHL offer you 1.7 trillion more.