January 20, 2004
Most Web kiosks are a resounding failure. Terminals sit gathering dust in retail stores as both consumers and sales staff pass them by. So, when we heard a chain of 40+ home lighting stores was having success with its kiosks, we called the president up to ask \"How the heck are you doing it?\"
He revealed five specific tactics that make the difference. If you too are trying to combine online and offline retail.
Several years ago, traditional retail chain LAMPS PLUS launched
an e-retail site. It was so successful that President and Owner
Dennis Swanson began to wonder how he could merge the two --
bringing the strengths of the Web to his brick and mortar stores.
So, last year he asked his marketing to try adding Web kiosks to
a few stores. This initial test was so overwhelmingly successful
that they rolled out quickly, installing kiosks in all 40+ stores
within 90 days.
However, Swanson's results are highly unusual. In fact, most
retailers we've spoken to have reported kiosks in their own
stores are drawing nothing but dust.
So why do LAMPS PLUS' kiosks beat the odds?
#1 Don't rely on just one kiosk
Each store has 5-6 kiosks, spaced so a customer's never normally
more than 30 feet from the nearest. The unit itself includes a
screen, mouse and keyboard and is more or less a clone of the
website (in a closed system - customers can't leave the
Swanson says the clone approach is cheaper than a more custom
store solution, since it leverages existing website technology.
And it familiarizes customers with the website interface, so
they'll be more inclined to use the online equivalent at home.
#2 Websites can enhance in-store experience
Through the kiosks, offline customers can access all the tools
and features built to enhance both online and offline customer
experience. Some examples:
-- Advanced inventory search facility and wider product choice
Swanson says, "A lot of customers walk in the store and
immediately go to the kiosk - it's actually easier to find
products in the store from the kiosk than it is to walk around
After customers do an initial search, they're presented with an
array of relevant product attributes (custom created for each
product category, based on offline sales experience). They then
pick the attribute most important to them to refine the results
further. And can continue to narrow the selection using
So if you search for "outdoor lighting", for example, you can
refine your search successively by finish, brand, price range,
style, and type (or view new items). (Swanson notes that great
site search adds 5-10% to online sales.)
Offline, once customers find the right product, a salesperson
uses the same kiosk to see if it's in stock, in the warehouse or
at a nearby store. If it's not in the store, the customer has the
option to order it online and have it shipped to their home.
-- "Expert systems"
The website has tools designed to give the customer more control
and expertise regarding purchasing decisions.
For example, the interactive "Build your own ceiling fan" feature
lets customers successively choose a style, finish, blades, light
kit, glass, controls and pole length to produce their own
customized end product.
-- Lighting plans personal guidance offering
Customers can use the website to build a floorplan "online" for a
room and submit it to LAMPS PLUS for lighting guidance. There's a
nominal $5 fee for the service, simply to keep off tirekickers,
plus the fee is returned as a coupon for subsequent purchases.
Without the charge, Swanson says, "We were doing too many of them
for no return."
#3 Salesperson homepages
Salespeople benefit from better informed customers and also from
using the above search and other features themselves. If they've
been working with a specific customer using one of these tools,
the information's retained for later on their own password-
protected kiosk homepage.
This homepage has other functions, too. For example, corporate HQ
can put sales or training messages instantly on these homepages,
so..."the kiosks allow us to have that direct communication with
that salesperson on the floor at a moment's notice."
#4 Email name gathering & usage
The website (and kiosks) feature multiple offers to get sign-ups
(plus zipcode) for the company's email database. These include:
- newsletter sign-up
- coupon offers
Salespeople are encouraged to collect names from purchasers, too
- the incentive being a complimentary 1-year product warranty the
company sends the customer via email.
Swanson notes, "With the warranty, we send them a packet with
coordinating items for the product they purchased at the store.
The ones they didn't buy. With a coupon to come back and buy
Email campaigns focus on promoting individual stores (hence the
need for zipcode data), highlighting - for example - a sale,
lighting seminar, or preferred customer night.
Swanson adds, "Say they're going to have a sidewalk sale. We
couldn't afford to run a newspaper ad for a sidewalk sale. But we
can email...if I've got a few thousand email addresses, we can
target their customer base with an email telling them about that
#5 Crediting stores for Web sales
Despite the clear store benefits outline above, the kiosks
inevitably encourage customers to order online as well. So
Swanson's introduced policies to ensure the stores don't feel
threatened by this.
If a salesperson collects an email address from a purchaser, then
any subsequent online purchases using that email address are
credited to that salesperson. "So they don't have to worry about
the customer going home and buying something and they're not
going to get the commission on it."
Also, store managers are credited for any sale within a 30 mile
diameter circle around the store. So any online purchase made
within that catchment area is credited to the store, even if the
purchaser never visited that store.
Customers can't order online through the kiosk - a salesperson
needs to process that online sale, again protecting commissions.
Swanson says, "Everybody is on the same page. Otherwise they
might be afraid, 'well I'll introduce this customer and they'll
buy it and I'll get no credit.' So we try to give them credit any
way we can."
For Swanson, the kiosks are a key part of the store-website
synergy. He concludes, "The online business is dramatically
changing our store business."
LAMPS PLUS -- http://www.lampsplus.com/