Interactive Kiosks Give Retailers A Digital Edge

In a previous post, I talked about such programs as CVS “Extra Care” points, which promote customer loyalty. CVS and other retailers are using websites, on-site kiosks, and mobile apps, along with barcoding technology, to try to keep customers engaged and coming back to their stores.

But now, some product marketers are using digital technology in a unique way to surprise and delight consumers. Just in time for summer, Unilever, the Dutch consumer products goods giant, is testing “Share Happy,” a “smile-activated” ice cream vending machine. What’s that? Well, the machine’s “attractor screen” gets the attention of a consumer who’s passing by, encouraging that person to smile. A “smile-o-meter” measures the consumer’s smile (instructing the person to smile a bigger smile all along the way) and the machine takes a picture of it. “Share Happy,” which obviously has a mind of its own, then asks the consumer for permission to upload the photo onto Facebook and “rewards” the consumer with a free ice cream.

“Share Happy” blew away consumers in Lisbon, Portugal when it was tested there in May. The machine was just demonstrated at the Cannes Advertising Festival to equally startled attendees. Unilever expects to place “Share Happy” in shopping malls and other high-traffic consumer locations in the next year or so, starting in Europe.

Of course, it isn’t just for fun. Unilever makes such ice cream brands as Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Eskimo, Good Humor, Klondike, and Wall’s. Ultimately, “Share Happy” is designed to promote a particular brand, depending on where the machine is placed. But Unilever says it is also designed to “encourage people everywhere to share life’s small moments of happiness.”

Another remarkable digitally-driven technology is in use at the cosmetics counter. This summer in the UK, L’Oréal will be testing a “virtual mirror” kiosk made by a company called EZface. It will allow consumers to “apply” makeup without applying it at all.

The shopper uses the kiosk’s camera to take a digital self-portrait and then scans in the barcode of a beauty product. The virtual mirror measures skin tone, facial features, product color and the customer color profile to apply the selected cosmetics and produce a realistic simulation of a makeover. The kiosk can then suggest complementary products and specific shades that best fit the customer’s personal color profile.

EZface says the technology eliminates a physical application, as well as “buyer’s remorse from a questionable purchase, thus reducing product returns.” Consumers can share a photo of their virtual makeover via the Internet or a mobile phone to solicit quick advice from friends.

The company says that, in addition to the kiosk, it can make the virtual mirror technology available through websites and as a mobile application.

So if marketers of products as diverse as ice cream and cosmetics are using digital technology in such creative ways, who knows what could be next. Obviously, thinking digitally isn’t limited to websites, mobile phones, and iPads. There’s a whole digitally-inspired retail world out there, and it’s yet to come.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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