The Digital Signage Insider

Staples sales staff has kiosk appreciation: all eyes turn to Office Depot

Published on: 0000-00-00

This month's issue of Internet Retailer has a good article on kiosk projects underway at Staples and Office Depot, two companies who have traditionally taken quite different approaches to digital retailing.  Staples, who has had great success with a kiosk project that has already been deployed for , continues to make them a significant part of their multi-channel sales strategy, and has done what is arguably the best job of product line extension -- offering additional product SKUs through the kiosk that are not typically stocked or on display at the stores -- that our industry has yet seen.  Office Depot, on the other hand, has... well... let's just say this: I make it a point to visit one of the 5 local Office Depots in my area every week or so, and in the 2+ years that I've been making my informal survey, I can count the number of times that their kiosk has been working on two hands.  Those of you with six fingers on a hand (it's genetically dominant, you know), could have done it on one.  So it suffices to say that when Office Depot announced plans to roll out 7,000 self-service kiosks in the coming months, they were met with some skepticism.

While it's interesting to watch a retail behemoth like Office Depot try to implement a kiosk project on such a massive scale, the part of the Internet Retailer article that I was particularly interested in actually focused around Staples' employee training strategy.  A kiosk project that has been planned and executed to perfection can suffer or even fail if there is insufficient buy-in by the salespeople and associates on the floor.  Staples recognized this early on, an implemented a training program focusing on how kiosks could be used to improve the customer experience by empowering the sales and help staff:

"Staples has made employee training a corporate policy focused on engaging customers in the store, [Mike Ragunas, vice president of technology strategy and architecture for Staples] says. 'Our CEO has been very focused on driving a customer interaction model, so every associate is taught to engage every customer that comes into the store,' he says. 'It's reinforced in an ongoing program. Our goal is to interact with each customer at least once when they come into a store.'

"Staples store employees, who do not work on commission, learned early on in their company's kiosk program that kiosks can help fulfill that initiative by improving the shopping experience, Ragunas says. 'Store associates have seen kiosks as a great way to satisfy customer needs and make shopping with Staples easy,' Ragunas says."
Internet Retailer

The best kiosk software, hardware, installation team and revenue plan can only take you so far in a project, and training is an essential part of the deployment phase that is so commonly overlooked.  I'm forced to wonder if Office Depot will figure this out before deploying their new kiosk system.  Their old system was not only broken a lot, but it was also ugly and hard to find in the store.  Once found, it didn't even offer services worth using.  So my guess right now is that Office Depot has been working on these things first.  They are a very technically strong company, and I wouldn't be surprised if all of their efforts were focused on making the hardware and software parts work first.  But will they be savvy enough to incorporate the kiosks into their store displays and POP?  Will they offer services that are useful and enticing?  Will salesreps be properly motivated to use the devices, or will they turn them off and put "out of order" signs on them so they won't have to be bothered?  With so much money invested and such high visibility placed on the project, it would be naive to think that the project managers and marketing folks there haven't already considered all of these questions.  But given their poor past performance in the kiosk space, I wouldn't totally put it past them. 

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