In the past few years, automated retail solutions — the use of machines to sell retail products — have been growing exponentially as many retailers and national brands are looking for ways to build brand awareness and expand into untapped markets with minimal investment and low cost of entry.
A high-profile illustration of this growth is the announcement of an exclusive agreement between Bellevue, Washington-based Coinstar Inc and Starbucks’ Seattle’s Best Coffee brand to roll out Coinstar’s new Rubi coffee kiosk in the grocery, drug and mass market retail channels, featuring Seattle’s Best beverages.
Tapping the $40 billion U.S. coffee market, the Rubi kiosk grinds and brews fresh whole beans in a single-cup process, including mochas and vanilla lattes, with price points starting at $1. The kiosk, which takes up 9 square feet, eventually may be able to produce iced drinks as well.
A veteran player in automated retail is Louisville, Colorado -based Kiosk Information Systems, which since 1993 has provided in-store loyalty kiosks used for immediate enrollment and loyalty card dispensing; order entry kiosks for deli, bakery and pharmacy orders; in-store job application/hiring center kiosks; in-store bill payment kiosks and multifunction money service platforms, offering services including ATM and check cashing; and self-service photo processing.
Kiosk’s StoreBOT Automated Retail Platform is on the early end of the adoption curve, and many retailers are looking at the technology to solve concerns like inventory theft protection of small but expensive items such as razors and cosmetics, operational efficiency tied to automating inventory cycle counts and accelerated stocking, and revenue enhancement via the introduction of new, nontraditional product categories in supermarkets, most notably printer ink and video games.
With retail customers like The Kroger Co., Price Chopper, Hannaford Bros. and Schnuck Markets, Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based ADUSA has as its most popular supermarket product a self-ordering kiosk.
In the future, ADUSA will begin developing and integrating back and event-planning and production-planning systems.
Boulder, Colorado-based MinuteKEY is reimagining the key duplication industry. The MinuteKEY machine — the first automated self-service key duplication machine — is used by retailers such as H-E-B, Fred Meyer and Safeway.
Guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate, the self-service kiosk takes a minute to copy a key, as its name advertises. AVT, based in Corona, California, offers automated retailing systems that provide self-service check-in and checkout carpet-cleaning systems, as well as automated systems for the rental and return of propane tanks. With 6,000 units in the field, Walmart is among AVT’s customers.