Category Archives: Retail Spending

Workforce Management and Employee Kiosks: Perfect Partners

Aberdeen Group has released a Research Brief that further explores its December 2009 findings that 56 percent of Best-in-Class retailers are integrating their store-level workforce management processes.

The Research Brief shows that retailers using an integrated store-level workforce strategy that includes scheduling, time and attendance, and other human resource management technologies are much better able to respond to pressure to control labor costs, improve workforce productivity, and provide the customer with a seamless in-store shopping experience. Eighty percent of the above 56 percent, for instance, have increased same-store sales and 46 percent have raised customer retention rates.

Self-service kiosks can help streamline such integration by offering a convenient and effective interface between employees, an automated workforce management system and managers. For example, we wrote about one retail chain that found that after rolling out employee-facing kiosks as part of its labor management update, store managers spend 75 percent less time scheduling employees, and they can ensure the optimum number of customer-facing associates are on the floor.

Read more about how the chain benefited by employing self-service for employees. See white papers and other resources about kiosks and kiosk printing here.

As you face changing consumer demands and the pressure to deliver customer-centric service, is your store moving towards integrated workforce management? Do you see a place for kiosks in your workforce management processes?

Advertisements

RFID Growing Too Big for Its Britches?

RFID Growth Spurt Leads to Tech Shortages.

We’ve been talking about the growth and ROI benefits of item-level RFID, particularly in retail.

Supply Chain Digest reports that WalMart’s new apparel tagging program has helped lead to a supply drop in RFID EPC Gen 2 inlays, and that mobile RFID readers are now also in short supply. Why so? Lots of investment in RFID initiatives, including WalMart’s recent order for 20,000 Motorola mobile RFID readers, combined with “supply constraints that have lasted for months in basic electrical components that have cause delivery problems in a wide number of high tech gear, including mobile devices.”

In fact, Supply Chain Digest says that analysts at a major financial investment firm are predicting 300 percent market growth in RFID asset management for 2011.

Do you expect to join that growth, and invest in RFID for asset management and inventory visibility in the next year?

Read the Supply Chain Digest article.

See more about RFID printing/encoding here, where you can find resources such as our white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”

Hardware Considerations for Kiosk Design and Implementation

Previously, we’ve written about fundamental best practices that apply to designing and deploying any kiosk program, as well as tips that apply to specific retail kiosk applications. Following are things to consider when choosing hardware components for custom kiosks.

Zebra Kiosk Print Station

Housings

  • Size: The kiosk should fit easily in the available space without blocking aisles or interfering with displays; compact interior components can help minimize housing size.
  • Usage and environmental factors: Exposure to dust, moisture, and changes in light or temperature require suitable peripherals; for example, in dirty or high-usage environments, touchscreen input is preferable to a keyboard.
  • Physical security: Locking cabinets and rugged construction can help secure the kiosk and its components.

Displays

Match the environment and application. For example:

  • For outdoor kiosks, choose a display that can self-adjust to lighting conditions and remain readable in bright sunlight.
  • For promotional applications, you may want high-end audio and video capabilities, while these would be overkill in a deli-ordering application.
  • Ensure touchscreens are durable enough to withstand operation by untrained customers using keys or other surface-scratching objects to press the screen.

KR403 kiosk printer

Printers

In addition to ensuring printers can physically fit into the kiosk design, it’s important to ensure printers are reliable as they are a major variable in overall kiosk reliability.

  • Print method: Thermal printers have few moving parts, and unlike laser and other printer types, direct thermal printers don’t require downtime to restock toner or ink.
  • Jam-prevention features: Some printers will cut the printout so users won’t tear or pull on it as it’s printing.
  • Remote management capabilities: To minimize downtime, choose printers that automatically send low-paper or paper-jam alerts and that allow support staff to remotely troubleshoot printers, change settings, or install software.

For more guidance in kiosk implementation, check out these white papers: Understanding Kiosk Requirements: Optimizing Design, Placement and Component Selection and Kiosks are Here—Are You Ready? What You Need to Get Started with Kiosks.

For more about kiosk printing, click here.

If a Four-Store Retailer Can Profit from Item-Level RFID, Couldn’t You?

Item-Level RFID ROI a Shoe-in for Florida Retailer

Giants like Wal-Mart aren’t the only retailers using item-level RFID to improve inventory accuracy and reduce inventory-related labor costs. An article in RFIDJournal.com explains how “Florida shoe retailer Peltz Shoes has saved approximately 1,500 man-hours in the past year by applying a passive RFID tag to every box containing a pair of shoes at each of its four stores.”

Just so happens the store is using RFID printers from Zebra Technologies to encode the RFID labels and print each with a price, description and bar code. 

Check out the article.

What do you think—do you foresee your own stores implementing item-level RFID anytime soon? Do you think you could achieve the level of return on investment Peltz Shoes has?

For more about item-level tagging benefits, read this white paper. The paper also explores how “on-pitch” RFID printing and encoding technology can ensure data encoding accuracy while helping to improve ROI by reducing the cost of RFID label media by as much as 10 percent.

Discover more about RFID printing/encoding and Zebra RFID printer/encoders.

Application-Specific Tips for Kiosk Design and Implementation

Previously, we explored fundamental best practices that apply to designing and deploying any kiosk program. Now, let’s look at considerations specific to the following common kiosk applications.

Self-Checkout

  • Ease of integration is key for self-checkout kiosks, which must interface with POS systems and peripheral devices such as bar code scanners and scales.
  • Application designs and peripherals should support fast transaction processing.
  • Minimal downtime is also a key consideration. The receipt printer, as a key component, should have a large paper capacity so it require less-frequent reloading, and should safeguard against jamming when customers pull on the receipt before printing is completed.

Coupons, Promotions and Loyalty

  • Positioning is key. Place coupon/promotion kiosks near the front of the store or the promoted department to maximize use. Deploy kiosks supporting loyalty programs in convenient locations to encourage use on every visit—or, install them in low-traffic areas to draw more customers there.
  • Include a loyalty card reader to capture kisk user information, which can be used to tailor promotions to customer preferences.
  • Ensure coupons/certificates reflect your store’s image: Integrate a printer that supports quality materials and sharp graphics.

Product Information

  • Place kiosks near products, so customers can readily get the product after learning about it.
  • Use video or other multimedia to describe products when the product line is complex or confusing.
  • If content (how-to tips, project materials checklists, product descriptions) is fairly static, the kiosk can hold it in memory and may not need to be networked.

Ordering

  • Choose a high-quality screen and printer that produce sharp images and order tickets or receipts, and that support high levels of throughput.
  • Consider security if the kiosk will also accept payment, particularly if wirelessly networked.

Gift Card

  • System security and reliable receipt printing are essential, since self-service gift card kiosks almost always accept payment.
  • Improve customer satisfaction by install kiosks near customer service counters, to divert customers who might otherwise stand in line to engage a store associate.

Registry

  • Include registry kiosks on the network to ensure the registry is updated when items are selected or ordered.
  • If you like, set the application to print a ticket directing users to the item’s exact location, or to alert an associate to go to the kiosk to interact with the registry shopper.

For more guidance in kiosk implementation, check out these white papers: Understanding Kiosk Requirements: Optimizing Design, Placement and Component Selection and Kiosks are Here—Are You Ready? What You Need to Get Started with Kiosks.

Read more about printing from kiosks.

Walmart Announces Item-Level RFID. Will You Be Next?

Walmart has officially launched an item-level RFID initiative requiring some suppliers to tag such apparel items as jeans and socks. You may have seen the report in the July 23 Wall Street Journal.

In RFID Journal’s report the same day, Myron Burke, Walmart’s director of store innovation, explained, “We are focused on items that require a more complex purchasing decision by the customer. With denim, the customer has to make a decision based on brand, style, size and cut, in addition to price, of course. There are other areas of the store where we sell items with similar attributes. Tires are one. Some electronics items, such as TVs, are another.”

RFID Journal also points to an Aberdeen Group survey that shows 57 percent of retailers use or plan to use RFID item-level tagging.

How about you? Do you see enough ROI from item-level tagging that you expect your stores to implement it anytime soon? If so, what sorts of items would you tag?

Read more about the ROI benefits of retail item-level tagging in our earlier blog article, and in the white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”

Six Best Practices for Kiosk Design and Deployment

While retail kiosk applications and configurations will vary according to your business goals, you can still count on certain basic best practices to help guide your design and deployment decisions. Following are six fundamental requirements to make any kiosk solution more successful. 

  1. Maximize reliability. Out-of-service kiosks risk reducing customer satisfaction instead of raising it. Hardware should be built to perform under constant use and tough environments—and without the need for extensive hands-on staff support.
  2. Monitor operation to minimize downtime. Remotely monitor and troubleshoot internal components that issue alerts regarding error conditions over your network. And if your kiosks are compatible with applications you already use to monitor POS and other IT assets, so much the better; you’ll enjoy better ROI and streamline monitoring resources.
  3. Simplify support. To further minimize downtime, ensure your staff is both adequately trained and able to easily access the kiosk to perform routine support tasks like loading printer paper.
  4. Integrate kiosks with information systems and enterprise software applications. It only makes sense to tie a kiosk supporting a customer loyalty program with a CRM application, for example, or to integrate kiosks with POS, inventory, order management and data mining applications as needed. Kiosks must also support enterprise security standards, and are subject to PCI regulations.
  5. Ensure the kiosk is easy for customers to use. Applications should be as intuitive as possible, with help available via on-screen instructions or a nearby employee. And transactions shouldn’t take more than six steps or screens to complete.
  6. Promote kiosk usage. Use promotions, signage, demonstrations, and kiosk placement to increase customer satisfaction and utilization rates.

For more guidance in kiosk implementation, check out these white papers: Understanding Kiosk Requirements: Optimizing Design, Placement and Component Selection and Kiosks are Here—Are You Ready? What You Need to Get Started with Kiosks.

 Learn more about printers as a kiosk component here.