Next-Gen Receipt Printers Create New Opportunities For VARs
By Brian Albright, Business Solutions magazine
A solutions provider expanded its business potential by leveraging all-in-one printer technology that’s smaller and lighter than traditional kiosk hardware.
Ticketing solutions provider etixnow has expanded its business model from serving as a ticketing agency to providing and supporting remote ticketing hardware for its event and retail partners. Thanks to a shift in printing hardware, the company has been able to streamline its kiosk products and is poised to open up new opportunities for its solutions.
Edmonton, Alberta-based etixnow is a primary ticketing agency that works with festivals and events to provide electronic and physical ticketing services. The company is part of Canadian Live Productions, which also provides membership and patron loyalty management services as well as federated arts information systems.
In 2012, the company developed and began deploying remote ticket kiosks that event promoters could place at retail locations in lieu of providing consignment tickets. In other words, instead of the event promoters handing packets of prenumbered tickets to their retail partners for sale at their customer service desk, the kiosks would allow customers to print tickets on demand without involving employees at the store. In the process, etixnow went from a ticket provider to a ticketing hardware integrator, establishing contracts with both the event promoters and their retail partners.
“We needed to have a physical presence for customers who didn’t want to buy online or who didn’t have a credit card,” says company founder Chris Martyniuk. “We started developing a selfserve ticketing kiosk/box office that we could place in retail locations.”
The company initially purchased used kiosks from a large movie theater chain and modified them for the application. “We upgraded the LCD behind the glass, replaced some circuitry, and replaced the computer inside,” Martyniuk says. “We wrote some custom drivers to talk to the touch screen and then put a new vinyl shell on them, along with an integrated printer.”
The company is working with one particular festival organizer who had established a relationship with a chain of convenience stores that would act as a ticket distributor and sponsor and is piloting its new ticket kiosks. “The festival wanted to print 20,000 tickets and distribute them to stores, but it’s really a pain to deal with physical tickets,” Martyniuk says. etixnow has deployed three of the new kiosks with the retailer. Once that pilot is complete, they expect to deploy about two dozen units within the chain.
In 2013, Martyniuk began converting the existing kiosks over to Star Micronics Asura CPRNT all-in-one devices. The Asura CPRNT includes an integrated 7-inch LCD touch screen, a high-speed thermal printer, integrated magnetic stripe reader and 2D imager, an internal speaker, and multiple USB, Ethernet, and audio ports. “Moving to the Asura gives us a high-speed printer, so now we can put more graphic elements and branding into the tickets,” Martyniuk says. “It’s fully integrated, so we have a plug and play scenario.”
Martyniuk says the bright display and touch screen, along with the built-in audio, were appealing for this application. The cost was also much lower: around $2,000, compared to the $8,000 required to construct the previous unit. The old units were also six feet tall and weighed 170 pounds; the new devices weigh just 12 pounds and are only 11 inches tall.
“A big factor here is size,” Martyniuk says. “In a convenience store, every square inch of space has to return revenue. The new units can be wallmounted or pole-mounted, so they’re not taking up space on the floor. We can also ship them directly to the stores.”
The units can connect to the store’s Ethernet or Wi-Fi network. “But what we prefer to do is have a USB stick inside that we use to access the Rogers LTE network in Canada,” Martyniuk says. “You just plug in the kiosk and turn it on. It boots up and registers itself, and the latest version of our application is sent to the kiosk.”
The kiosk uses a browser interface to connect to the company’s custom ticketing application over the Internet. On the payment side, the company partnered with YESpay/WorldPay for processing and deployed an integrated VeriFone VX810 PIN pad and EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) smartcard reader. The company designed a custom bracket to hold the EMV reader. The YESpay Easy-V payment application is encrypted and PCI-compliant.
etixnow created a hardware attachment for the Asura called the Kiosk Service Module (KSM) that allows the kiosk to talk to the PIN pad and hosts the Easy-V application. “The hardware inside is actually a Raspberry Pi board,” Martyniuk says. “If we had done this four years ago, we would have had to custom design something, and it would have been expensive. Now we can use a $35 single board computer to accomplish the same thing.”
Higher Sales, Recurring Revenue, Less Labor
“We’ve had good success with the existing kiosk system,” Martyniuk says. “It has reduced the strain on the retail staff and improved cash flow for the festival partners, because they get settlements all the time rather than waiting for a big check at the end of the process.”
Agreements with the retailers vary. “Some pay us a recurring rental fee to have them placed in the venue, because they consider it an amenity that drives traffic into the location,” Martyniuk says. “In some cases, we just take the service fees from selling the tickets, and we just have an agreement to handle things like paper changes on-site. Some retailers may have participation in the costs and revenue that the kiosk is generating. It depends on the strategic value of the relationship.”
The company plans to replace the current network of older kiosks with the new hardware by February 2014. “Our goal is to build a network of these so there is some predictability about where you can purchase tickets for these events,” Martyniuk says. “We’re working on multiyear placement agreements so we can make that happen. Once we get farther out into the wild, it will really change our business model. We’re no longer going to be just a primary ticketing agency, but we will be a secondary or reseller ticketing agency with a retail network. We can go to other primary agencies and ask if they want to put their product on these kiosks.”
Both the retailer and event organizer benefit from the kiosk concept. “For the retailers, this attracts people to their stores, with a minimum impact as far as staffing and floor space,” Martyniuk says. “We’ve discussed integrating with their store loyalty card, so when you come to the kiosk and buy tickets you can issue reward points to patrons or generate a coupon they can use that day.”
For the event organizer, cash flow is faster, and the kiosks provide a greater point of presence for their tickets rather than simply relying on online sales. They can also remotely view ticket sales online. There has also been a positive impact on overall ticket volume. “In the locations where we’ve replaced consignment selling with the kiosks, we saw an increase in sales,” Martyniuk says. “There’s more traffic, and you sell more product. It’s convenient for the customer because they don’t stand in line, and it’s not taking up retail staff time to sell tickets.”