Kiosks Improve Customer Experience at Borders

Discussion
Aug 21, 2008

By George Anderson

The Borders chain is in trouble, but the company’s new concept store in Allen, Texas shows that it is serious about finding a way out of the mess should a white knight not come along to rescue it.

According to a report by The Dallas Morning News, the new two-level Borders store is big on trying to create an exciting customer experience with a whole host of interactive features and new product offerings in its digital electronics center.

The digital center, according to the report includes “20 well-edited” items. On Borders’ short list are an e-book, solar-powered charger and a device that allows consumers to watch and/or record television on their laptop or smart phone.

“We’re not trying to be Best Buy,” said Bill Christensen, zone vice president for Borders. “But this isn’t just a bookstore. Eighteen months ago, we started researching with our customers what else we could be.”

Interactive kiosks in the store allow shoppers to burn their own CDs, create audio books, self-publish books and make travel reservations.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Borders’ use of interactive features such as digital kiosks to improve the customer experience? Is this the wave of the (near) future at retail?

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17 Comments on "Kiosks Improve Customer Experience at Borders"


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Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

For the new customer experience “Interactive kiosks in the store allow shoppers to burn their own CDs, create audio books, self-publish books and make travel reservations.”

…And why would the customers do this?

James Tenser
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Hate to break it to the good folks at Borders, but kiosks are SO last millennium. Mobile is what’s happening now, so I have my doubts that anchored interactive devices will attract heavy use.

Now, extend the Borders store experience onto my iPhone, and maybe you’ve got something.

For those of you in retailing who are thinking about investing in new kiosk concepts, I’ve got a box of carbon-fiber buggy whips around here somewhere that you may also be interested in. They’re the latest technology….

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 9 months ago
Just a few random observations on this. First, I agree with people who are wondering whether a fun customer experience actually equates to improved sales. However many times I pass the Apple flagship store in London, it is always busy but with very few people walking out with a purchase. Totally unscientific and random, I admit, but perhaps indicative. Secondly, lots of people still love bookshops for browsing and selecting then go home to purchase online. But there will always be a demand for a place to see what’s new and for those who want their books instantly if not sooner. Kiosks don’t seem to me a way of converting people who come in to browse into people who buy. Finally, the self-publishing opportunity strikes me as meaningless and frivolous. Waterstone’s in England tried using a dedicated microsite and claimed they got a fantastic response but then of course they would say that. There are so many ways people can get their thoughts and words published that I can’t see any reason why an in-store… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
13 years 9 months ago

There are so many untapped opportunities at Borders. This is most definitely a place where a dynamic consumer experience could occur daily. It could be a win-win for the retailer, for consumers and frankly for all sorts of partnerships (from the most commercial to the most non-profit and cause oriented). What a waste of space right now. This can only help.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Yes, yes, yes. Borders is very much a destination! Its fan base is highly-educated, intellectually curious, and interested in what’s going on in the world. Customers come for many reasons beyond buying books, and Borders will be smart to feed their curiosity by providing additional diversions and services. The IT team at Borders is going to give Barnes & Noble a run for its money.

Scott Farr
Guest
Scott Farr
13 years 9 months ago

There really is no question as to the growing value of self-serve customer kiosks in retail stores. We are an Internet savvy, self-serve (ATM) society that still loves to shop at “bricks and mortar” retailers. The value evolution of in-store kiosks will continue to mature as retailers utilize kiosks in a more targeted merchandising perspective to drive sales, improve customer service and enhance the shopping experience.

John Gaffney
Guest
John Gaffney
13 years 9 months ago

I think this is a nice little idea but not much more than that. Maybe I’m old school, but I think book retailing needs to improve its in-store customer service, make stars out of its suppliers (meaning authors at in-store events) and embrace different customer segments with different experiences.

When Border’s gets a mobile device that empowers sales associates to work across channels, I’ll get excited. For now, I’ll continue reading “Team of Rivals” which I bought at an unnamed bookstore where the sales associate never heard of the book.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

While it’s great that Borders is listening to their customers, one has to wonder if their effort to change is coming too late. If they can create a one-of-a-kind in store experience, consumers may switch from Barnes & Noble, but it may not be enough. This is what they needed to do 8 years ago.

Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
13 years 9 months ago

Personally, anything a retailer can do to increase my ability to help myself and not have to deal with an employee is a good thing. The grocery store is a much more pleasant experience now that I can check my own groceries out. And I would much rather go to a kiosk to find a book I can’t seem to locate than to stand in line, wait for an associate and then spell the name seven or eight times until they can get it right. This is especially true when I’m not quite sure what the title or the author is and would rather work through it on my own.

For the introvert, the misanthrope and the shy, this is a much better solution.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

It appears to be a good idea. However it doesn’t feel like an improvement on the current system, it feels like a new concept.

Why would consumers want it? The same reason consumers like the self-service functions at Fedex Kinko’s, or self-checkouts at the grocery store, the ultimate customization sometimes is “do-it-yourself.”

Ben Ball
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

George poses two questions:

1. “Is this the wave of the (near) future at retail?”

A. Yes, at least it is part of it.

2. “…will this save Borders?” (paraphrased)

A. No, probably not. It will add a new/novelty feature to a Border’s visit for a while. And it will increase customer involvement in the store for those who use it. But the incremental value of the services offered is questionable as other commentators have pointed out.

There is one part of the offering that intrigues me however, and that is providing the software to self-publish books. I wonder how many dedicated bookworms secretly harbor aspirations of being authors? Maybe Borders could become the literati’s equivalent of Kinko’s for business people? Sounds like a small market–but I don’t know.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Barnes & Noble owns the destination experience; Amazon owns the online purchase process. What role does Borders have?

Kiosks won’t save them. Why would I go in the store when I can order online from home or from my phone? When I can make travel reservations online at home? The key question is, “What’s the point of difference that will drive a consumer to the store?” That question still needs to be answered.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 9 months ago

Sounds like a great idea in concept. My question would be if this actually turns into a substantial source of revenue. Are shoppers still buying books, or just having fun with the new in-store gadgets? Also, how does this impact on the use of on-floor sales associates?

More importantly, will they still give a refund for a book that was read in the bathroom?

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
13 years 9 months ago

This is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done. I see a key here as Borders being able to figure how to do more locations and leverage them. Developers across the country want more bookstores in developments. Residents want them and they do increase traffic. The challenge has been their size and low rents. With the market down, perhaps this is something they can take advantage of. Do smaller size stores and do more locations. Increase their presence and then work to be more involved in the local community.

Phil Rubin
Guest
Phil Rubin
13 years 9 months ago

The kiosks will be of value, though Amazon is so good at using customer data that Borders’ investments here might ultimately benefit AMZN.

With the exception of travel, which is significantly less relevant to its main business of content, these kiosks at least seem to complement its core offering.

Ironically, bookstores are one category of retail where employees actually provide service to customers. In others where employees provide less value (e.g., big box home improvement comes to mind) kiosks will be even more effective.

Steve Bramhall
Guest
Steve Bramhall
13 years 9 months ago

This is great news. Borders is working with its customers, listening to them and enhancing the customer perception and shopping experience. It’s the right ethos and I hope it succeeds without the white knight.

Mark Patten
Guest
Mark Patten
13 years 8 months ago

I can’t fathom how this will be profitable for Borders or of interest to customers. It seems so 1998. Who goes to a bookstore to make travel arrangements, burn a CD or put together a photo album?

What’s next when this fails–Photocopiers and Mimeographs at the end of each aisle?

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