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Intel developed technology that allows self-service kiosks to act as “super associates” that offer information about products in the store or comparison items, recognizes customers, and suggests appropriate products for each customer.

Most current kiosks just print tickets at the train station or airport, snapshots, or coupons. A traditional kiosk offers benefits for businesses because it fulfills customers’ simple requests at little cost to the company. However, tomorrow’s kiosks promise to be much more sophisticated.

Kiosks that can emulate checkout counters, maintain personalized information, and display comparative products might be valuable for retailers, especially if they interlink within chains. For example, cosmetics departments could use them to show customers how they would look with different beauty products and various hair colors. Department stores might enable customers to scan price tags and then recommend complementary items.

Kiosks also might enhance the customer experience by offering more information than customers otherwise could find easily. With modern technology, customers could pay for their purchases by waving their cell phones near the kiosk. Other kiosks might include a screen that allows customers to manipulate the images, just as users of the iPhone can on their touch screens.

For certain retailers, more sophisticated kiosks will be valuable as a means to check a price or offer a promotion on a similar product. Others will enjoy the benefits of checking out customers and enabling them to pay faster and avoid lines. However, retailers need to be sensitive to how much technology customers want; a store with only kiosks and no sales associates might drive a customer away from the robotic, dehumanized environment.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can the newest generation of kiosks do that earlier versions could not?
  2. Would you use these kiosks? Which ones?

Anne Eisenberg, “Thinking of Going Blond? Consult the Kiosk First,” The New York Times, March 29, 2009.