The latest craze: POS web kiosks

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A major trend for the last two years has been to get Internet-enabled kiosks within the Point of Sale (POS), with roll-outs at companies such as REI, Home Depot, Wal-mart or Staples.

For once, I think click-and-mortar is a bandwagon worth jumping on. I’m sure supporting sales across all channels is the way to go. It started with bringing the convenience of offline day-to-day operations to online customers, such as allowing in-store product returns. Now it’s a matter of projecting online features and services, along with a larger number of SKUs, into the offline store. Vendors such as Netkey (see their XMas PR here), IBM, CAIS and NCR (where I worked in 1995, just before AT&T decided to split up) are of course pushing solutions that remain to be proven on the field, as hinted by the PR-to-reporting ratio on this topic. By the way, one usual provider of retail hardware that seems missing is ICL. It’s difficult to assess how some announcements really lead to results, and some tests will likely fail.
But I think it makes a lot of sense for consumers to break the offline/online barrier, meaning we’ll be more or less always online, in a pervasive but hopefully not invasive way. It may be that what’s important is not broadband or wireless or whatever specific technology, but how all of them mesh into a continuous experience. Right now, you can’t be digital from end to end, and moving from digital to analog media is cumbersome and mostly one-way (ie. once you’ve printed a table that compares several similar products, you can’t sort the output by a different column or add another item you happen to see in a store.)
Other industries that experiment with kiosks include hotels, restaurants, photo stores or video stores.
(*) Note : in order to support the business model of publishers, I usually don’t link to printer-templates (can’t find the link about the guy who undresses Salon of its ads), but huge Flash ads is too much for me.

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