VAR Adds To Kiosk Sales With Photo Peripherals
By leveraging its photography and interactive kiosk experience, this VAR won a contract to design and build photo kiosks for Olympus America, Inc.
Designing self-service kiosks requires expertise in several areas: the unique architecture of a kiosk, POS (point of sale), and whatever service is offered (e.g. photo, airline tickets, music downloads). To provide a kiosk solution, you need to understand not only your customers' needs, but their customers' needs as well.
Horizon USA (Houston), an OEM and VAR of kiosk solutions, is well aware of the intricacies of developing a kiosk solution. It has long been a provider of kiosks for marketing and advertising purposes, manufacturing kiosks with video and audio capabilities. Horizon's creative services department also offers photography and video production services. As the kiosk groundswell gained momentum, the VAR realized its experience in both areas could translate into new markets.
In 2002, through an existing contact in the industry, Horizon found out about an RFP (request for proposal) for a photo kiosk solution. The RFP was managed by Beaufort Solutions (St. John's, Newfoundland) (formerly Telepix), which was a software provider for Olympus America, Inc. (Melville, NY), the ultimate customer. Olympus had an existing photo kiosk solution that it sold to its customers (various retailers, malls, sports venues, etc.), but was experiencing problems with it. "The kiosk terminal looked good, but important components like the media reader continued to fail," says Steve Nisenson, VP of marketing at Horizon. "There were also problems with customer service, since the kiosk developer was based out of the United Kingdom."
Seamlessly Integrate POS, Photo Processors, Touch Screens
Horizon installed nearly 100 components to develop the TruePrint kiosk solution that Olympus eventually purchased. "The nature of photo kiosks means you have to offer a lot of options to the end user of the kiosk, as far as payment options and photo output, and it must be in a format they can understand and use easily," says Nisenson. Horizon selected touch screens from 3M Touch Systems (Methuen, MA) to provide the customer interface in the solution. Horizon built two types of photo kiosk: the TP 110 (countertop) and TP 210 (freestanding).
While installing all of the components (which include media readers, credit/debit card readers, photo scanners, and receipt printers, to name a few), Horizon had other complex problems to consider. A kiosk is self-contained, but it still may need to be serviced, so Horizon had to address access for repair and upkeep, component interchangeability, single point power control, and ventilation.
Provide Field Service, Replacement Options For Kiosks
Knowing that customer service was a prominent issue for Olympus, Horizon created a help desk that Olympus' help desk can call on when kiosk problems arise. The VAR will perform hot-swaps, sending out a new product or part to the customer, so the failing piece can be sent back. Depot exchanges can also take place for stores with the freestanding TP 210 kiosk. "We'll send the countertop version, and it can be dropped into the pedestal. The store can send the malfunctioning kiosk back, and we'll repair it. The bottom line is that the store - the customer - has as little downtime as possible with the system."
Horizon's contract with Olympus is for 200 of the kiosks, which Nisenson says has put Horizon in a position of being a good resource in the industry. "It's a highly specialized industry," he explains. "Proven integration of components is well-regarded, and our contacts with peripheral and component providers have opened some doors for us." Horizon is currently in the process of developing a kiosk solution for HP (Palo Alto, CA) similar to what it did for Olympus, but providing larger photo formats.