Stately Pleasure Domes

Not too long ago, if you had a kiosk, it was probably a dusty old cardboard box lurking in a dark corner of your store (a far cry from what the word signified in its original Persian — kushk, or palace). But so much has changed in the world of kiosks that they have become research subjects in their own right. In the first annual kiosk benchmark study, titled “A Market Reaches Critical Mass” and released earlier this year by Kiosk Business magazine, Gartner Dataquest analyst Jeff Roster predicts that “kiosks are poised to take advantage of key trends in retail and will experience a dramatic increase in use over the next five years.”

A key reason for this is that kiosks are now transactional rather than merely informational; as such, they can generate additional revenue and drive down operating costs, according to the 105 retailers surveyed for the report. For example, the Title Sleuth kiosks that Borders Books and Music installed in its 300-plus stores two years ago have helped to reduce store-level inventory costs. The kiosks have also enhanced customer service by enabling inventory searches across stores. Orders placed through kiosks can automatically update inventory — more than 80% of the survey respondents say their kiosks transmit inventory information to and from their back-end applications. Other data management functions include content updates, e-commerce transactions, and credit card processing.

Among the tasks that kiosks can successfully perform without human intervention, Roster says, are gift registry, self-checkout, bill payment, labor recruitment, ticketing, and inventory extension. Throw in glitzy, consumer-friendly technologies such as touch screens and multimedia video, and all of a sudden you have a compelling new way to do business.

For more information, contact Mary Carlin, editor, Kiosk Business, at (973) 252-0100, or visit