CHICAGO (FNS) — The department store division of Dayton Hudson Corp. has begun testing interactive kiosks in tabletop departments to make it easier for customers to review the patterns available. The kiosks also contain the store’s tabletop gift registry.
“The gift registry has always been one of our best areas,” noted Darcie Conran, who manages the kiosk program for Dayton Hudson’s department store group.
Applying kiosk technology to that business is one of the areas being explored by “a new group in the department store division focusing on electronic shopping” and other technologies, Conran said during a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s RISCON ’95 conference here recently.
Dayton Hudson began working on the tabletop department kiosks in February and installed the first units in stores in early September. Two or three kiosks are being used in each store so that customers can browse through the offerings available, Conran said.
Dayton Hudson worked with MarCole Enterprises, Walnut Creek, Calif., whose executives also appeared on the panel, to develop the tabletop system.
Manufacturers in the tabletop industry provided the photography used in the kiosk presentations and paid a fee to be carried on the system, noted Ronald D. Coleman, MarCole president and CEO. Dayton Hudson paid software costs.
The photography on the kiosks can be updated “as often as manufacturers have new products,” typically twice a year for the tabletop industry, said Coleman. Text describing the products and pricing information can be updated whenever manufacturers or Dayton Hudson wish.
One of the advantages of kiosk technology is the ability to show customers a wide range of product that is available for order but not stocked by the retailer, thus increasing selection without incurring additional inventory costs, noted Jim Brennan, MarCole director of sales.
In the Dayton Hudson test, the chain already had 80 per cent of the items being shown on the kiosks in their system, if not necessarily in stock, said Coleman. “We only display product on the kiosk that is in their central system.”
Customers can use the kiosks to select tabletop patterns, reviewing available patterns by a number of criteria — formal vs. informal, style, color or price, noted Brennan.
Customers can also make purchases through the kiosk, which includes gift registry capability.
In the initial Dayton Hudson tests, the kiosk prints out a sales slip which the customer takes to a register. In the future, said Brennan, customers will be able to swipe their credit card at the kiosk, receive a printed receipt and have the merchandise delivered directly to their homes or to the recipient, gift wrapped with a card, if desired.
In the first weeks of the kiosk use, Dayton Hudson has been able to fulfill tabletop orders within five to seven days, said Conran, who also pointed out the units have the potential to be “very productive in capturing customer information” for the chain’s database.
The Dayton Hudson kiosk use, said Brennan, fits a couple of what he termed key criteria for the success of an interactive kiosk.
First, the kiosk serves a specific, targeted purpose rather than just an opportunity for general browsing. It fills a customer need by presenting photographs of product not visible on store shelves, including serving and accessory pieces for patterns that are displayed only in place settings.
In addition, it is located in an area of “high volume but slow traffic” and in the relevant department where customers are already predisposed to look at the product and, therefore, use the kiosk, said Brennan.
For most products, he added, experiments with kiosks in such locations as airports have shown poor results because, while traffic is high, it is also fast-moving, and people are not in such locations to shop.
In-store kiosks, said Coleman, provide retailers with a way of expanding the assortment they can offer customers, and manufacturers with a way of providing accurate, consistent product information to consumers and store employees.
Experimenting with kiosks now provides experience and knowledge to help a retailer move toward other technologies, including in-home shopping, he claimed.

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