Automated Retail and the Future of Interactive Vending and Dispensing Kiosks

Interactive vending is not a new concept. Brands such as Apple, Proactive and Benefit have made their products available via automated dispensing for years in airports and malls, where space is at a premium and the cost per square foot to open a physical store is high. What’s most interesting about automated retail has more to do with how it’s changing and adapting within a consumer culture that demands quality, convenience and high levels of available customization from their purchase interactions.

For example, vending machines have long been considered the home of, at best, food that will keep one from starving when nothing else is available. Pretzels, cheese crackers, candy bars, chips, various cold bottled and canned beverages; possibly stale coffee or 3-day-old ham sandwiches. Definitely not gourmet selections. No one really wants to eat out of a vending machine, right? But this is rapidly changing. Take Los Angeles’ Sprinkles Cupcakes bakeries — they’ve opened 24-hour cupcake vending machines that are attached to their stores, allowing them to create a ‘round the clock revenue stream. Or automated pizza-baking kiosks like Pizza ATM, which has been around for well over a decade in Europe and is now ready to expand its presence into the American market.

Brands like Lego, that may not seem like an obvious choice for interactive vending are jumping on the bandwagon with high-tech machines that attract both children and their parents, if for different reasons: kids are pulled in by the Lego Movie playing on the integrated screen, while parents are happy that they can quickly purchase that birthday present they needed to pick up and get on with their day. Lego benefits from the ability to highlight certain products or product categories by price point or theme, easy data collection and lower costs, both in terms of overhead (no cashier needed, less expensive per square foot to operate than a traditional store) and losses due to theft (the machines are far more secure than open shelving).

Even health and wellness companies are getting into the act. Besides the cosmetic and cosmeceutical brands like those mentioned previously who have adopted interactive vending as a sales channel, RedyRef recently completed an automated dispensing solution for a biotech company. The consumer-facing product is aimed at health-conscious individuals who are concerned with avoiding germs while on-the-go, and it will be deployed in airports later this year.

As an industry leader in end-to-end leader in the design and production of interactive kiosks, RedyRef knows that the market for automated retail will continue to grow exponentially over the next decade.

If your company is ready to make the leap into high-tech dispensing kiosks, our experts are available to assist businesses of all sizes in developing a program that fits their specific needs; just give us a call at (800) 628-3603 ext 525 or submit a request for proposal online and our team will be with you every step of the way.

Digital and Interactive Signage in the Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry has long relied on very specific service aspects in order to ensure guest satisfaction. From amenities (pools, spas and dining, for example), to the warm and efficient assistance of staff members, to the use of high-end bedding and toiletries in guest rooms, successful hotel chains and independent establishments have learned to keep visitors happy and willing to come back.

For the most part, technology has taken a backseat to personal assistance in hospitality-driven environments. With the exception of very high-end hotels that have integrated “smart rooms” into their offerings (remote-controlled blinds, lighting and entertainment systems), most have focused their attention on updating rooms and increasing the number and quality of services or amenities offered over all else. However, a sea-change is at hand; travelers want not just personal service, but convenience as well. Business travelers in particular are concerned with efficiency and convenience, and this key demographic (41% of hotel bookings) is both important to please and exceptionally loyal when satisfied by their experience. Less concerned with cost, they are willing to pay to get what they want, and therefore generate more profitable stays.
How are hotels creating the opportunity for more convenience without losing the level of personalization travelers have come to expect? Interactive digital signage is one avenue. Some early adopters, such as Courtyard by Marriott, began integrating large “smart screens” into their lobbies almost a decade ago in order to communicate information directly with their customers, from restaurant specials to weather reports to meeting room locations. One of the key value propositions of digital signage is how easily it can be adapted to target specific consumer bases; one set of messaging can be displayed during the week for business customers, and then changed out on the weekend for information that is more relevant to those traveling for leisure.

The next generation of digital hotel signage is now at market, and rather than offering only static images and a carousel of rotating screens, it is interactive and self-service, with a range of available use options. Offering everything from personalized directions and movie listings to the ability to make reservations at area dining establishments, these interactive displays essentially serve as a type of e-Concierge for those guests who value convenience over personal attention.

In addition to signage, some hotels, such as the Aria in Las Vegas, have taken digital technology a step further and introduced in-room tablets. These allow guests to browse lists of available amenities and restaurant menus, order room service and even schedule appointments for massages or book conference rooms directly from the tablet, as well as control in-room technology from a built-in app.

As an industry leader in digital signage hardware and software, RedyRef knows that these technologies are set to continue to grow rapidly within the hospitality industry, and beyond. Follow us as we continue to explore their futures in additional settings over the coming weeks. Already know that you want to take the plunge into high-tech wayfinding kiosks and digital signage? RedyRef’s experts are available to assist organizations of all sizes; just give us a call at (800) 628-3603 ext 525 or submit a request for proposal online and our team will be with you every step of the way.

Digital Signage and Interactive Kiosks in Airport Environments

For most of the history of commercial flight, airports have been, at best, a way-station on travelers’ journeys, be they for tropical vacations or business travel. However, over the last 20 years, airports have been slowly making the transition from a mere passthrough to a destination in and of themselves. The last five years in particular have seen major change come to airports the world over. Airport executives have realized that they have a captive audience who is more than likely to have a level of affluence exceeding the average. For example, a 2001 NHTS study showed that American business travelers’ household income was well above the country’s average, and 27% were over 100K. While these passengers generally have more disposable income to spend, they are also quite discerning, having often experienced and seen more of the world.

Because of these circumstances, it stands to reason that airports would want to find ways to make their facilities more luxurious, both in terms of services offered (premium spas, restaurants) and products available for purchase (high-end designer stores), but also in creating a more personalized environment and experience for travelers. The way they have accomplished the latter is primarily via the utilization of digital signage and interactive kiosks. This has become the era of mobile check-in, consumer-initiated wayfinding and touch screen iPads for ordering from restaurants while simply relaxing at the gate.

How exactly has airport wayfinding changed in recent years? For one, gone are the days of simple screens detailing arrivals and departures and nothing else. While the information is still available, the signs themselves have often been replaced with high-definition digital signage, featuring software that allows targeted messaging to be delivered to a given audience. For example, if a large convention is in town, a special welcome message can be programmed into the screens, along with specifics regarding the conventioneers’ hotel location, available amenities, directions, meeting schedules and contact information. This message can be delivered at baggage claim, arrivals and anywhere in between. Area businesses can also get into the act, including transportation companies, local restaurants and attractions that wish to offer specials for these specific travelers.

Interactive wayfinding via touchscreen kiosks is another massive area of growth. Rather than trying to locate airport personnel for information or assistance, passengers can easily find the correct baggage claim carousel, connection gate or directions to different concourses or airport common areas. They can also look up restaurant options and store information to find out what will be available on the way to their next in-airport destination. Some wayfinding kiosks even offer the opportunity to reprint boarding passes, change seats or even entire flights if needed.

Airports are finding out that going the extra mile to ensure a seamless, stress-free customer experience results in higher satisfaction — something that often translates into greater airport spending on everything from hamburgers to handbags. According to a 2014 SITA/ACI Airport IT survey, 86% of airports said they would be investing in self-service technologies, with that number increasing to 92% by 2017. The same respondents planned to spend $6.8 billion on these types of programs in that time. This area is only expected to grow as new and different opportunities for self-service kiosks, digital signage and interactive wayfinding become available and accessible to travelers around the globe.

What other industries are successfully deploying interactive wayfinding? Follow RedyRef as we continue to explore the future of these technologies over the coming weeks. Already know that you want to take the plunge into high-tech wayfinding kiosks and digital signage? RedyRef’s experts are available to assist organizations of all sizes; just give us a call at (800) 628-3603 ext 525 or submit a request for proposal online and our team will be with you every step of the way.

Digital Directories and Wayfinding in Mixed Use Developments

The incredible growth of digital signage, including interactive wayfinding kiosks and digital building directories has been nothing less than stunning over the last decade and there’s seemingly no end in sight. And opportunities to integrate these kinds of technologies seem practically limitless, too. So far in our blog series, we’ve discussed how health care and education environments are incorporating kiosks and building directories into their campuses in order to increase user satisfaction and create new avenues of communication with these populations. Today, we’ll discuss how malls and mixed-use developments are utilizing these strategies to do the same for their customers.

Studies have shown that more and more people are heading back into urban areas to make their homes. These are often areas where land is at a premium, leading developers to build up, instead of out. At the same time, discerning consumers want to maintain the feeling of a neighborhood, where they can shop, dine and even work, all within a walkable distance of their residence. The collision point of these two separate desires has resulted in a building boom of mixed-use developments — also called “lifestyle centers” — in both cities and inner-ring suburbs. With upscale architecture, loads of amenities and easy access to both work and play, it’s no wonder their popularity is at an all-time high.
Because the real estate involved in mixed-use developments is so densely packed, interactive way finding kiosks can be not just helpful, but utterly necessary in order to give consumers — both visitors and residents — the kind of personalized experience that’s generally expected in these types of high-end environments. The ability to easily navigate and interact with multiple buildings of retail, apartments and business offices, combined with a seemingly endless array of restaurant choices from from fast casual to four star, plus entertainment centers that include movie theaters and even plush bowling and gaming “lounges” is the key to long-term customer satisfaction.
Besides the wayfinding capabilities of these kiosks, they can also function in other capacities with a simple touch or swipe of a finger. This type of interactivity can include functionality such as digital building directories for a single building or an entire mall development, and information about specific stores from ongoing sales and specials to store hours. Additionally, way finding kiosks can serve as information hubs to communicate details about anything from events, to available housing to current movie times, and can even be integrated with printers so tickets are able to be purchased right from the kiosk’s screen.
What other industries are successfully deploying digital wayfinding and building directories? We invite you to follow RedyRef as we continue to explore the future of these technologies over the coming weeks. Already know that you want to take the plunge into high-tech wayfinding kiosks? RedyRef’s experts are available to assist organizations of all sizes; just give us a call at (800) 628-3603 ext 525 or submit a request for proposal online and our team will be with you every step of the way.