Capitalizing On Kiosk Components
New markets and the public's desire for convenience make now the right time for VARs to tap into the $2.94 billion kiosk market.
Are you helping your customers maximize their sales? Are you adding to the convenience they offer their customers? If not, you are probably not a part of the growing kiosk market. The U.S. kiosk market is expected to grow to $2.94 billion in 2003, according to a report from Frost & Sullivan, an international marketing and consulting firm. If the numbers hold true, this will be a marked increase from the 1996 figure of $369.7 million. Indeed, kiosks seem to be popping up everywhere, from shopping malls and airports to office buildings.
What is driving this explosive growth? "Today's society demands convenience," says Kiran Gandhi, VP of Mag-Tek, Inc. (Carson, CA). The privately held company has 300 employees and four locations. "Customers expect service anytime, anywhere," adds Gandhi. He cites a recent CNBC report stating that we live in an Internet world where people are more productive due to technology. "The more tools you offer consumers to manage their time, the more they will demand those tools," adds Gandhi. "For example, three years ago airports did not offer 'laptop lanes' with phone jacks for travelers' laptop connections. And cell phones have become more of a necessity and less of a luxury."
Kiosk Markets To Consider
Gandhi points out that the use of kiosks is extending beyond the typical banking ATMs. "VARs should look to the service industry for increased use of kiosks," says Gandhi. "Consider the needs of the transportation, healthcare, hospitality, and gaming markets."
Jeff Jackson, VP of sales and marketing for BlueStar, Inc., says retail is another growing market VARs should consider. BlueStar is a distributor of point of sale (POS) and automatic identification and data collection (AIDC) hardware. The privately held company has 34 employees and seven locations.
"Retailers today are faced with a shrinking labor pool," says Jackson. "The kiosk offers an alternative to keeping a large staff." Self-service kiosks, such as those found at gas pumps, offer customer convenience without employee interaction. Frost & Sullivan projected that retail kiosk growth would average 41% worldwide between 1994 and 2004. "Kiosks, because they are composed of high-value components, offer VARs high margins," says Jackson. "Components are becoming more sophisticated, but they are easier to use. They are also becoming more price-competitive and have more features."
Choosing Kiosk Components
So what should VARs look for when choosing kiosk components? Typically, VARs should consider software, a PC, a touch screen or keyboard, a printer, and a card reader. "VARs need to consider the ease of use and repair, warranty issue, and customer service," advises Jackson. "Who is standing behind the product once it is sold?" Software is also important. "The software drives the kiosk application," adds Jackson. "VARs need to know where to find the appropriate software, or they must be prepared to write their own software."
"Ease of integration is probably the most important consideration when choosing kiosk components," says Gandhi. "For example, a customizable card reader that includes a Windows driver makes it easier for VARs to meet their customers' needs. VARs are not in the engineering business, so it helps if the components work together easily."
Are you ready to invest in the growing kiosk market? "Take the time to understand your customers' businesses," says Gandhi. "Find out their peak times of service and how a kiosk application can eliminate customer waiting." Jackson agrees. "The kiosk market offers VARs great opportunities in new areas they may not have previously considered."
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at LisaK@corrypub.com.