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Winter 2012 More Than a Pretty Facade

New kiosk and RMU designs showcase technology and interactive flair.

Designers for specialty stores, kiosks and RMUs are thinking outside the box—both figuratively and literally.

Pushing the envelope for new design is no easy task in an industry where mall specialty leasing programs often cater to a uniform look that blends into the overall shopping center décor. Designs also are restricted by stringent requirements to protect sight lines for inline retailers. Yet that hasn’t stopped both merchants and designers from introducing new innovations to both form and function for kiosks and RMUs.

“It is incredible the amount of changes that we are seeing in the industry,” says Rob J. McCoy, principal of Carrollton, TX-based Stak Design. One of the most noticeable changes is an industry that is embracing LED lighting. “That has given us the opportunity to push design and do different things that we have not been able to do before,” he adds.

The more energy-efficient LED lighting can be used to illuminate counters and provide accent lights to showcase merchandise and graphics. Units also are taking advantage of new products, such as Corian’s Illumination series. The manufacturer’s traditional opaque countertops now have the ability to be illuminated from within to create a “glow” affect. “Those are the types of things that we are constantly introducing to our clients so that they are aware of what’s available today,” says McCoy.

Creative branding

Many retailers and vendors are continuing to push for stronger branding with kiosk units. “Sometimes you can’t change a kiosk space very much, so your only branding element that can stand out is color and material and lighting,” says Marie VanDrisse, executive national account manager at F.C. Dadson in Greenville, WI.

Yet designers are trying to give merchants the opportunity to brand the kiosk in a way that won’t damage the unit, and will meet shopping center requirements. For example, Stak Design is working with national brands such as Rosetta Stone and Proactiv to create a consistent brand message with newly designed kiosks that are rolling out in shopping centers and airports.

Rosetta Stone has already installed seven of its new units and is continuing to introduce the kiosks at locations across the country. Most kiosks feature a 10′x12′ open cell format that adheres to landlord design requirements, such as limiting counter heights. The new kiosks take advantage of the brand’s trademark yellow and black colors, as well as use LED flat panels to support graphics that can be changed to reflect special events.

The biggest change is the addition of an interactive computer work station that allows customers to try the products. “It is more active, where people can physically touch and use the product, not just stand at the side of an RMU and see a display on a TV and see yellow boxes everywhere,” says McCoy.

Proactiv also has introduced its new kiosk that showcases both its Proactiv skin products and Sheer Cover cosmetics line. The new kiosks allow the company to better promote the brand through the visual graphics, as well as merchandise its products more prominently. The corporation has incredible graphics with the use of celebrity spokespeople such as Katie Perry and Justin Bieber, and the new kiosks use LED light screens to highlight those images, notes McCoy. In addition, the kiosks feature a make-up counter with mirrors and stools that allow Proactiv to demonstrate its product and do makeovers.

Virtual dressing room

Some kiosks are taking advantage of cutting edge technology to deliver an entirely new service. F.C. Dadson has helped to design and manufacture the new Me-Ality, a “measured reality” body scanning kiosk for Unique Solutions Design Ltd. Canada-based Unique Solutions holds an exclusive license for a body scanning technology that measures the body while fully clothed.

The first Me-Ality kiosk was tested at the King of Prussia Mall in PA in 2010 with additional units added to malls across the country in 2011. Unique Solutions expects to have 250 Me-Ality kiosks in place by the end of this year.

Essentially, brands such as Calvin Klein and Levis provide the Me-Ality body measurements as a free service to shoppers. The kiosks operate similar to an airport security scanner to produce a body scan of an individual. That scan is converted to measurements and specific product sizes for different brands. Currently, the kiosks can provide the customer with data on size and product information about every pair of pants in their size at a particular mall. In the future, the kiosks will add size and product information about other pieces of clothing.

The brands are hoping to use Me-Ality 
to promote products located at a particular shopping center. In the future, the brands expect to collect data and supply information back to the retail stores to determine the profile customer and average sizes for a particular region or market, says VanDrisse. The added benefit would be better sales and inventory management. Editor’s note: Specialty Retail Report covered this story in the Spring 2011 issue. For more details, visit our archives.

Self-service kiosks

Although the traditional role of self-service kiosks in the mall retail arena is for way-finding systems and interactive mall directories, retailers are exploring more innovative ways to reach clients in an increasingly digital world. “Organizations are always looking for new ways to engage their customers and have more face-time for advertising of their products,” says Ziver Birg, CEO of Zivelo in Marion, IN. Zivelo is a global designer, engineer and manufacturer of self-service kiosks and digital signage.

The evolution of touch screen technologies that allow users to interact with monitors continues to grow exponentially, notes Birg. In addition, there are technologies that are continuously emerging, such as facial recognition, which can create targeted advertising, dependent upon who is in front of a digital screen. For example, a retailer can use the facial recognition software to dispense coupons or promotions by sending announcements to a customer’s smartphone.

In the retail arena, Zivelo’s self-service digital kiosks are being used to enhance the in-store shopping experience for customer loyalty programs, additional product advertisement opportunities and informational displays.

“The [self-service] kiosk industry as a whole is very forward thinking in regards to implementing new technology,” says Birg. Zivelo is constantly working to integrate different components into its kiosks. For example, kiosks in place at hospitals and clinics can use biometric devices, such as fingerprint scans, to streamline check-in for appointments. On the retail side, Zivelo is working on a test model for a self-service kiosk that will be able to print and dispense retailer gift cards.

On the move

Designers such as Charles Sidi are literally thinking outside the box when it comes to new specialty store design. The founder and president of Scottsdale, AZ-based BizBox created a green 
building system aimed at reducing time, energy and cost. Although that can be considered a valuable contribution in its own 
right, Sidi’s real “lightbulb” moment came when he had to address the problem of how to showcase the new building model.

He incorporated these green building principles into the design and production of a transportable building to bring that green building model to his customer base. The end result is BizBox, a compact, transportable, solar powered building. “It is much more than a kiosk, it is [literally] a pop-up store,” says Sidi. The maximum width for transporting over roadways is 8.5 feet. Once the unit is transported and “unpacked” the sides open up to create a self-contained building that can be up to 24-feet wide.

The mobile stores appeal to retailers who want to reach out to the crowds at major events ranging from motocross races to golf tournaments. In addition, the potential applications for the units extend far beyond the retail industry. “Pretty much anyone in business, whether it is a retail store, a clinic or disaster relief center, can adapt their business to this building model,” says Sidi.

BizBox made its debut in October and is already working on orders from interested clients. BizBox expects to sell between 25 and 50 units in 2012, and within the next five years the company could be producing as many as 200 units per year. Coldstone Creamery is one brand that has expressed interest in creating a unit for use at sporting events such as the Phoenix Open. “We also are in discussions with a major wireless company, who views this as a great opportunity for retail,” says Sidi. Shopping center owners have expressed interest in locating BizBox stores in parking lots to draw in new retailers and a different merchandise mix.

BizBox can cost $129,000 to purchase a single unit or $1,800 per month to lease, compared to a traditional store location that might cost $400,000 to $500,000 in real estate costs. “There is a need for this type of product in the industry, because there are businesses both large and small that are looking to grow and take themselves in a new direction, because bricks and mortar are very expensive and prohibitive, and they want to be able to take their message to the customer,” says Sidi.

Clearly, the specialty retail industry is continuing to introduce innovative designs and new technologies to engage today’s busy consumers. “We live in an ever changing mobile world,” adds Sidi. “It is about being on the move.”

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Beth Mattson-Teig

Beth Mattson-Teig is a freelance business writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. She specializes in covering the national commercial real estate industry.

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