Kiosk Ticket Sales Pay Off
This POS (point of sale) integrator has installed 37 kiosks for lift ticket sales in the Denver area, and it hopes to double that number in the 2003-2004 ski season.
The idea to implement kiosks in Colorado ski shops to sell lift tickets was not unique, but the approach this POS (point of sale) integrator took was. Livewire International (York, PA) sold 37 kiosks throughout Colorado in 2002. One of those kiosks was installed at Maison de Ski (Idaho Springs, CO), a ski shop located in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Range.
Livewire first came in contact with Maison de Ski in June 2002 at a summit held by the integrator and reapproached Maison in August 2002. To close the sale, Livewire had to overcome technology apprehensions by proving uptime statistics, financial benefits, and customer service improvements. The biggest challenge for Livewire was developing customized software to meet this end user's dial-up connectivity needs.
Before Maison implemented Livewire's solution, the shop was selling paper tickets. The retailer was responsible for tracking ticket sales from each of the 12 resorts for which it sold tickets. At the end of the season, all sales would have to be compiled manually. Also, resorts preprint thousands of paper tickets. If the resort wanted to change ticket prices, new tickets would be printed and delivered to each ski shop and the old tickets would be destroyed. This process burdened the resort with additional costs and the retailer with additional labor.
Pilot Program Proves 99% Kiosk Uptime
Because Maison was aware of failed attempts by other integrators to implement kiosk solutions in ski shops, it was hesitant. "They were skeptical about the technology. But we presented them with statistics from the pilot program we ran in 2001 that proved greater than 99% uptime and a 2-month payback on the system," says Dave McCracken, CTO of Livewire.
Maison's kiosk solution consisted of DigiCom International Inc.'s (Farmingdale, NY) iComTouch 15" Panel PC. Its size gave Livewire the flexibility to provide a countertop model as an option for its customers. ID Tech's IDT 3321 MiniMag swipe reader and a BOCA SubATM printer make up the remaining hardware in Livewire's solution. User and printer interfaces were built on the Kudos Kiosk Development product with custom components designed in Visual Basic. The server-based application was developed using Microsoft SQL server, ASP, ASP.NET, and VB.NET technology. Livewire's Kudos Enterprise Kiosk Management network provides monitoring and maintenance for all of the kiosks.
Software Solution Conquers Dial-Up Challenge
The most challenging aspects of this installation were implementing a dial-up Internet connection and developing the software to make this method efficient. "In this region, you don't have a lot of connection options like you do in larger cities. Another factor to consider is the high cost of broadband in this area," explains McCracken. To overcome the barriers of dial-up (e.g. slow connections, dropped connections, and the inability to automatically redial), Livewire developed a software solution to manage the connection. "Using XML (extensible markup language) data packets to Livewire's software reduces the amount of information that needs to be transferred between the servers and the kiosk. The software has a built-in scheduler that ensures the connection is not dropped until the kiosk is idle for several hours," says McCracken. This software has become standard in Livewire's dial-up installations.
Kiosk Solution Cuts Labor, Boosts Sales
The install at Maison took Livewire two hours. Maison's system went online, along with 90% of Livewire's other 36 systems, the day before ski season began, in November 2002. As predicted, Maison achieved payback within two months of the installation. A contributing factor to the quick return was more efficient ticket selling practices. Before, customers at Maison de Ski would wait up to 30 minutes in line. Now, purchasing a lift ticket takes about 90 seconds. The kiosk eliminates the need for a store employee to sell tickets. Also, the shop no longer monitors ticket sales manually, because ticket sales reports are generated electronically on a monthly basis. Furthermore, the resorts Maison sells tickets for can call Livewire to change ticket prices in just minutes, eliminating the costs associated with printing new tickets.
Livewire plans to double the number of kiosks in the Colorado area. And McCracken plans to expand sales of the ski lift ticket kiosks into Northeast, Salt Lake City, central Pennsylvania, San Francisco, and Mid-Atlantic regions. Livewire is currently focusing on increasing sales also by penetrating other markets such as hospitality.