Ideas and strategies for successful omni-channel commerce

They have been found in the sales rooms of various retailers for a long time - kiosk systems with different functional spectra and the promised potential of forming a bridge between offline and online shops. However, due to the high acquisition and maintenance costs for the hardware, frequently inconclusive concepts or poor usability, this concept, with a few exceptions, has not yet been able to establish itself. There is no attractive additional benefit for the customer and as a result the question arises as to whether the relatively high investment costs will pay for themselves.

Classic kiosk systems also differ from pure Internet terminals in that they do not only offer Internet access, but also present the information desired by the retailer in a targeted manner.

The end of the classic kiosk system?

Nevertheless, the concept of the kiosk system at the POI (Point of Information) and POS (Point of Sale) is definitely promising, albeit in a technically modified form. Expensive kiosk system installations are replaced by tablet PCs, for example in special brackets that offer various advantages over conventional kiosk terminals: Tablets are many times cheaper than a large kiosk system (~200€ for a wall bracket plus, for example, an iPad for 380€ ) while at the same time eliminating the need for maintenance and being immediately ready for use. In addition, users are now largely familiar with the operating concept of tablet PCs and can find their way around the devices without the help of an employee or a tutorial video.

However, classic kiosk systems are not obsolete. Thanks to their robust design, they will also be used outdoors or in heavily frequented places in the future. For example, they will continue to have a right to exist as wayfinding systems in hardware stores, shopping malls or in the self-service halls of furniture stores. ## What benefit under what conditions? As already mentioned, the purchase of a tablet kiosk system is no longer subject to the same financial hurdles as a classic installation. Expandability with peripheral devices (cameras, printers, scanners, near field communication (NFC) etc.) is also more attractive and flexible. Nevertheless, strategic considerations should precede the deployment. Otherwise, the potential of the tablet solution for successful omni-channel commerce remains untapped.

So how can tablets be used as a kiosk system substitute?

The efficient use of kiosk systems basically requires an omni-channel capable IT landscape that meets the requirements of the customers. First of all, data and structures are fundamental. For example, it is important to collect customer information and product information centrally and make it available. Customer-specific transaction data and support information that are already available can also be of interest for a personalized customer experience and cross-selling options at the POI/POS. Ultimately, of course, individual campaigns and marketing activities should also be consistently reflected on these touchpoints.

The next step is to design the processes, tools and organization. Here, too, the technology has to be right in order to connect data and structures with the channels. After all, the real sales room with its information terminal is its own channel. Here, the content offer tailored to the channel, specific added value and intelligent networking between the individual channels are decisive for the success of offering the customer a unique sales experience. If these criteria are not met, there is often a risk that the customer will also change the provider and thus to the competition when the customer changes channel.

Customer expectations and reality

As a study by Accenture and the software company hybris from March 2014 shows, extensive information about product availability in the retail sector is essential for successful omni-channel commerce. A total of 71% of the respondents, made up of 1,500 omni-channel customers and 256 decision-makers from France, Germany, the USA and Great Britain, expect online information on the inventory in the store, for example. 50% would like to be able to order the goods online and pick them up in store. However, only 39% of retailers who can master the in-store processing of online purchases meet this expectation.

It would also be conceivable to offer customers the option of ordering the item themselves at the terminal while they are in the store and the item they are looking for is not available and picking it up the next day in the same store or in another store. The sales staff is relieved by transferring the ordering process to the customer.

Supported by notification services, this option can be useful, for example, if it is easier for the customer to go to the branch than to have the package sent to their home where they may not be able to receive it within the regular delivery times.

If there is an urgent need, the concept of same-day delivery, as is already being tested by the Media-Saturn Group in major German cities[3], can be used in this context. In most cases, the customer came to the store with a firm intention to buy. With same-day delivery, customer satisfaction can be guaranteed in this scenario even if the customer cannot take the product with him immediately - he will definitely have the desired item in his hands on the same day.

Another feature can be the reference to the availability of the desired item in another store of the retailer in the immediate vicinity, including the reservation of the specific item by the customer.

According to the concept of omni-channel commerce, the online ordered or reserved article can be paid for directly on site in the shop.

In addition to product allocation, tablet solutions can initiate the purchase of complementary items in offline retail. Imagine a customer who wants to buy a new camera and also needs a camera bag. Using an EAN or QR code, the customer can record the camera on a "tablet terminal" via the integrated camera and then display exactly the right accessories for his camera and their current availability. In addition, exclusive content would be conceivable in cooperation with the manufacturer, which would be made available to the customer directly at the point of sale after registering the product, such as expert tips on the product, special features or, using the example of the camera, software made available free of charge would normally be subject to a fee. Of course, an APP magazine is also conceivable, which the customer can access free of charge at home after registering at the terminal. The content contained therein (tutorials, hidden features, optimization and customization options, etc.) can be tailored to the product purchased by the customer.

Can also be used outside of brick-and-mortar retail

Aside from stationary retail, tablets can support companies’ trade fair appearances and facilitate lead generation. Especially in the B2C sector, the use of tablets at trade fairs can make sense, since the interested party initially leaves their data in digital form. Other forms of address generation are often associated with the later manual transfer of the data to a CRM system. The use of tablets with an address form and a direct connection to the respective CRM system can avoid the step of manual entry. However, a high frequency of visitors pushes this system to its limits, as entering information on the tablet takes longer than by hand in a card form or similar, and the available tablets may quickly become full when there is a large rush.

The possibilities of tablets are not limited to stationary use, but can also be used by sales staff on the move. The screw and tool manufacturer Würth is an example of support for sales staff and the linking of online and offline business. The company, whose main sales channel is sales via field staff, has set itself the declared goal of increasing its online sales and thus increase overall sales. For this purpose, the salespeople are to be equipped with tablets in the future so that they can demonstrate products to customers and also be able to order them online immediately.

Mobile tablets can be used by sales staff to provide additional information and details to customers who have usually already obtained information about complex and/or high-priced products online. Advice in particular represents an important advantage of stationary trade compared to online competition. By using tablets, the advantage of personal advice can be combined with online business: on-site advice supports the purchase decision, and the ordering process is then processed online via the tablet.

The tablet also enables bricks-and-mortar retailers to present the entire product range to customers despite the limited sales area, albeit not with a physical presence.


The tablet as an omni-channel mainstay in stationary retail is an interesting and cost-effective alternative to the classic, solitary pillar. However, kiosk systems only become an enrichment for shops and customers with targeted usage concepts and a networked IT structure (warehouse management, CRM, CMS, etc.). Attention should be paid to simple and intuitively understandable handling, due to different user experiences in dealing with tablets.

Simple access to the online presence (Internet terminal) does not exhaust the system's possibilities, but can make sense if the online shop shows availability in nearby shops or the delivery of the out-of-stock item directly to the customer via same-day delivery offers.

In order to make better use of the potential, tablets should offer real added value for customers, be it in the form of advisory support for sales staff or stationary in the shop. Added value can be product information, accessory information, expert tips, registration options with free software downloads that are otherwise chargeable, etc.