Kiosks Enhance C-Store Offerings

Digital kiosks are providing retailers the ability to provide a wider range of services.

By Erin Del Conte, Senior Editor

As disruption across channels continues, due to Amazon’s on-going innovation, changing consumer demands and rapidly developing technologies, many channels are turning to kiosks to manage labor costs, introduce new value-added services and increase speed of service.

- Advertisement -

From food to self checkout to product pickup to financial, DMV (department of motor vehicles) and key copying services, kiosks have the ability to provide services efficiently and can also create an experience for shoppers using new technologies.

While c-stores have been in the touchscreen food-ordering kiosk game for more than a decade, it is by far the quick-service restaurant industry that is currently leading the charge into the future with food kiosks. Wendy’s embarked on plans to install self-ordering kiosks in about 1,000 of its U.S. franchises at the end of 2017. In January 2018, McDonald’s confirmed plans to add touchscreen ordering kiosks to half of its U.S. restaurants by the end of 2018.

Big box and grocery chains are experimenting with kiosk technology too. This past February, Costco announced it was testing four self-service food kiosks where customers can order their meal using credit or debit cards in four Costco Wholesale food courts.

In June, Walmart revealed it was testing a grocery kiosk where customers can pick up their online groceries at any time, while simultaneously experimenting with pickup towers, which it announced in November were expanding to 500 locations.

At grocery stores, Coinstar kiosks are using 3D holographic displays from Provision Interactive Technologies to attract customers via augmented reality. For example, Dryel, an at-home dry cleaner, is running a campaign where shoppers will see a 3D, holographic image of a Dryel product floating in thin air. Once they approach the Coinstar kiosk, customers can access a coupon for Dryel products. Such expanding technologies are giving retailers new opportunities to add value and create an experience for shoppers using kiosks.

C-STORES ADD VALUE
In a similar vein, some c-stores, such as The PRIDE Stores with 12 locations in Chicagoland, are offering Amazon lockers—self-service kiosks where customers can pick up packages they ordered from Amazon.com.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven is among companies offering the KeyMe Kiosk, where customers can create copies of their keys. The kiosk also allows users to store digital copies of keys, so if a customer is locked out, they can make a spare key via the kiosk.

Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz offers DMV kiosks at four locations in West Virginia where customers can renew their West Virginia driver’s license or vehicle registration.
The DMV kiosks first rolled out at Sheetz Convenience Stores located at 1408 North Eisenhower Dr., Beckley, W.Va., and 3522 Monongahela Blvd., Star City, W.Va., in February 2017. This past summer, Sheetz introduced another DMV kiosk at its 101 Stoneybrook Rd., Clarksburg location and in fall 2017 it added one to its 887 National Rd., Wheeling site.

“At Sheetz, we strive to be the ultimate one-stop-shop. This is another way to deliver on that for our customers. It is a great service for people who live a long distance from a traditional DMV center,” said Nick Ruffner, public relations manager for Sheetz, which operates more than 560 stores is six states.

To renew their driver’s license customers just bring their current or expiring driver’s license, renewal form with pin number and credit card to one of the kiosks.

“We have received plenty of positive feedback on the machines from our customers, who report that the instructions for using the kiosk are easy to follow. Some have even told us that this is the only way they will renew their driver’s license in the future,” Ruffner said.

Sheetz customers are no strangers to using kiosks. In 1995, Sheetz became the first U.S. c-store chain to feature touchscreen foodservice ordering, introducing the food ordering kiosk at one store in Altoona, Pa. Before that customers used paper forms to fill out their food orders.

In addition to foodservice ordering kiosks and the DMV kiosks, Sheetz also offers lottery kiosks that come from different state lotteries across its coverage area, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. The kiosks offer customers the opportunity to play online games (such as Powerball), daily numbers and scratch offs.

FOOD AT YOUR FINGERTIP
Local c-store competitors Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa and York, Pa.-based Rutter’s were quick to introduce touchscreen ordering after Sheetz upped the ante. Wawa introduced touchscreen ordering at all locations in 2002, and Rutter’s joined the touchscreen ordering in game in 2007.

Today, 56 of Rutter’s 69 c-store locations feature touchscreen kiosks. The other 13 stores have minimal foodservice. The kiosk allows for greater customization of its made-to-order program.

As a chef it’s challenging to pinpoint exactly what the majority of customers will love.

“What the kiosks do is allow me to start with quality items I want to sell, but lets the customer really build it any way they want. I think that’s a big differentiator in the kiosks that you can create things any way you want,” said Ryan Krebs, director of foodservice for Rutter’s.

The kiosks at Rutter’s offer more than 4 billion combination options. “There’s about 3 million different ways that you can use just produce on our kiosks,” Krebs said.

Because touchscreens are common in Pennsylvania c-stores, most customers find the interface easy. Still, Rutter’s team members are trained to read customers’ faces and if someone looks confused by the touchscreen process, offer to assist them in placing their order.

CHECKOUT KIOSKS
Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek has always been a leader in technology. It began offering touchscreen food ordering kiosks in 2000. In 2009, it became the first c-store chain to introduce self-checkout lanes with cash readers and coin dispensers.

Today, QuickChek offers self-checkout in more than 40 stores.

New technologies are raising the bar on what self-checkout might look like in the future.

AmazonGo introduced its checkout-free store in January, and Recode reported the ecommerce behemoth plans to open as many as six more locations—with three sites in Seattle and one in Los Angeles already identified. The move has spurred questions about the future of checkout at retail and how other channels can compete.

In February, AiFi, a computer vision technology company, announced it was introducing the first scalable checkout-free solution for stores ranging from small c-stores to mega retailers. It uses sensor and camera networks, as well as AiFi’s proprietary computer vision algorithms and “low-power mobile devices to run multi-person behavior tracking and product recognition in real time,” according to a press release from the company.