Have you found yourself using more digital self-service options lately? You’re not alone.
From ATMs to online shopping, self-checkouts, and vending kiosks, most of us have used a self-service option at some point in our lives.
According to TSIA, 71% of shoppers prefer self-service options, a trend that is consistent across every age group and global region.
In the wake of pandemic lockdowns, our reliance on digital shopping options has grown even more, with many shoppers venturing into the self-service world for the first time.
But what may have started as a temporary workaround for some has quickly become a lifelong habit. PYMNTS.com found that 85% of consumers who heavily relied on digital channels during the pandemic say they’ll keep all or most of those digital habits going forward.
It’s clear that self-service options are in high demand. As part of a modern experience, retailers need to expand their self-service offerings to stay relevant.
In this blog, we’ve compiled 5 real-life examples of leading self-service experiences, and the lessons telcos can take from them.
Unattended stores are at the cutting edge of new retail experiences. The concept is simple, yet technologically complex: a carefully constructed system of cameras, digital scales, facial recognition, and sensors allow customers to grab items from the shelf, walk out, and have their purchases automatically billed to their account. No cashiers, no checkouts, no waiting.
In most parts of the world, unattended stores are more concept than reality. But there are a few places where these experiences are becoming commonplace.
Unattended retail might not be on telco’s radar for a few years, but it’s a low-cost flagship strategy that has the potential to boost revenue and attract new customers for a minimal investment.
Here are a few examples of retailers who are doing unattended retail right.
First up, a great example from the telecom world. Singapore-based Singtel has been using unmanned pop-up stores since 2019. The pod-like design allows the store to be easily moved around the city so new areas can be served.
Inside, customers will find an interactive device discovery area, complete with responsive screens that display information about each device. The store also includes video-enabled kiosks that use facial recognition and live video chat to enable the purchase of new devices. Once a purchase has been made, the customer simply collects their device from a collection locker. Advanced security features prevent theft, vandalism, and other threats.
The result is a completely unattended store that pushes the boundaries of what a retail experience can be. Despite being around for a few years, Singtel’s experience is still miles ahead of many flagship telco stores in other countries.
Take a peek inside the store here:
Unlike our first example, you probably have heard about Amazon Go. Marketed as “Just Walk Out Shopping”, these tech-enabled convenience and grocery stores sense what customers have picked up and bills them automatically when they walk out.
Customers download the Amazon Go app and link their credit card to their account. Upon entering the store, they scan their phone. A series of cameras, weight-detecting shelves, and sensors track which items the customer picks up – and puts back.
When the customer has finished shopping, they simply walk out, and their app shows which items they purchased.
Technically, Amazon Go isn’t an unmanned store; staff still need to stock items, assist customers, and prepare pre-made meals. More accurately, it could be called a “less-staffed store”. Regardless, Amazon Go enables quicker shopping experiences with fewer staffing requirements.
Currently only available in four U.S. cities, it’s only a matter of time before more Amazon Go-like experiences become more common in North America. The unattended convenience store experience is already common in Asia (Cheers and Pick & Go in Singapore, and 7 Eleven in Taiwan).
See what it’s like to shop inside an Amazon Go store, here:
Kiosks are everywhere these days. From placing your food order to checking in for your flight, or even purchasing and dispensing products, kiosks reduce lineups and expand a retailer’s presence into new areas.
Kiosks are common in the telecom industry and are often used for processing bill payments and other low-effort transactions.
While this is a great strategy, here are a few examples of retailers who are using kiosks to their full potential.
Our first example is another great one from the telecom industry, a SIM vending kiosk in Japan. Anyone who has visited Japan knows about their love of vending machines; you can buy food, clothes, alcohol…just about anything really! So, it’s no surprise that Japan has already been implementing SIM vending machines for several years, despite them still being rare in many countries.
NTT Communications has one SIM kiosk at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname, Japan. The vending kiosk allows arriving visitors to purchase prepaid SIM cards as soon as they step off their plane, facilitating a quick purchase without needing to step into a retail store.
When purchasing a SIM, customers scan their passport with the embedded passport reader, as identity confirmation is required for all SIM purchases in the country. Next, they swipe their credit card, then collect their SIM from the drawer. After activating the SIM, all that’s left is to pop it inside their device, and they’re on their way in a matter of minutes.
This convenient strategy gives NTT Communications a highly visible presence in the airport, at a lower cost than implementing a full retail store.
You can watch this experience for yourself, here:
Another great tech-vending example is one that North American frequent flyers are likely familiar with - the Best Buy Express kiosk.
This accessory-vending kiosk lets customers select items for purchase, takes their payment, and then dispenses the item using an integrated elevator system.
While this type of kiosk is common in airports, it’s only a matter of time before this type of shopping replaces or augments physical stores.
For telcos, this type of vending kiosk offers great promise for the sale of devices. Can you imagine being able to purchase a new phone while you do your grocery shopping? The possibilities are endless – and at an attractive price point too.
Watch Best Buy’s kiosk vending experience, here:
Collection lockers are relatively new entrants to the self-service world. These lockers allow customers to pick up or return items without visiting a store. And because the lockers are relatively small in size, this means they can be installed in almost any high-traffic location, like a grocery store.
Collection lockers are a great strategy for telcos. They allow the telco to expand their retail presence at a low cost and are invaluable for reverse logistics, particularly for quad-play providers. Imagine if customers could deposit a broken receiver box and collect a replacement at the same time? That would be a game-changer for sure.
Again, Amazon is a highlighted retailer in this category. The Amazon Hub Locker gives customers an additional pickup option when shopping online.
In applicable areas, customers can choose to have their item delivered to the Hub Locker instead of their home address. When the item arrives, the customer receives a pickup code via email. When they arrive at the locker, they enter the code, and the compartment that contains their items opens automatically.
The process is also similar for returns. The customer submits their return request online and receives a drop-off code via email. They input the code into the locker, a compartment opens, and they place their device inside.
It’s an elegant solution that gives customers incredible flexibility and helps Amazon expand their reach.
Watch the Amazon Hub Locker in action, here:
Self-service options are the retail experiences of the future. For telcos, these solutions are a great way to expand their digital footprint at a low cost and can even be used to replace underperforming physical locations entirely.
If you’d like to chat more about what self-service solutions can do for your business, reach out to Maplewave today!