Now more than ever, retailers are focusing on the customer experience at the point-of-sale in order to provide the best service possible to increasingly demanding consumers. Savvy retailers are looking to technology to give the customer control over the checkout experience through self-service kiosks. Not surprisingly, the presence of kiosks in retail locations continues to grow as a way to deliver great customer service and provide a competitive advantage. According to Summit Research Associates, revenue from the sales of hardware, software and integration services in the kiosk industry was just under $374 million at the end of 2008 in North America. By 2011, that number is projected to hit $565 million, a 51 percent increase over 3 years.
While self-checkout kiosks are nothing new to retial, the use of RFID technology is. RFID equipped checkout solutions can allow companies to provide even more choices and improved service to enhance the customer experience.
Sterling Services for example, a metro Detroit Food Service company, worked with Freedom Shopping and 365 Retail Markets to break new ground creating self-service convenience stores that employ RFID technology. Sterling Services wanted to offer food service to their third shift employees without affecting their first and second shift employees’ current cafeteria. In working with 365 Retail Markets to develop and deploy a self-checkout RFID based kiosk system with item-level tagging, they created a solution called SmartShop™. Adding SmartShop into their cafeteria allowed Sterling to enhance their employees’ experience by offering a much larger variety of products than vending machines with the convenience of 24/7 operations in addition to multiple payment options.
Here’s how it works: customers bring their items to one of the checkout kiosks. An RFID reader automatically senses the tag-equipped items and totals the costs. Customers then pay with cash or a credit card – all in about six seconds. By creating a more efficient and cost-effective self-checkout experience, Sterling is able to provide its employees with more value and variety. Sterling uses a Zebra RZ400 printer to print and encode rich information on the RFID inlay of each tag, which gives customers more complete information about price, food ingredients and expiration date.
In another example, Charlotte-based specialty bike store Uptown Cycle tapped Digital Retail Solutions and Freedom Shopping to help improve store operations by converting to an RFID system and self-checkout kiosks. In doing so, Uptown Cycle was able to free up store personnel to spend more time consulting with high-transaction customers – ones buying cycles - while providing customers who want to make low-transaction purchases – like energy bars or performance beverages - with options for a speedy checkout rather than making them wait for a sales associate to pay.
The self-service, automation, data collection and tracking capabilities of kiosks utilizing RFID result in increased efficiency and reduced costs for companies, which ultimately translate to resources and time that can be spent enhancing the experience of customers.