The National Retail Federation's annual trade show is underway in New York City, and if one theme has emerged so far, it's that the customer experience is key to retail success.
And while there are a number of ways for a retailer to create "memorable" experiences for their customers -- many of which are on display on the NRF show floor -- there's an interesting mix of self-service technology on exhibit that aims to drive higher sales and create repeat shoppers.
Retail tech heavyweight NCR, known as the inventor of the world's first cash register in 1879, continues to iterate on its kiosk line with the launch of the SelfServ 90.
The touchscreen terminal can be used as a freestanding self-checkout kiosk, installed on a countertop or mounted on a wall. This unit wouldn't be ideal in a Target or a Walmart, however, as its small form factor and lack of a baggage area is optimal for small baskets and grab-and-go shoppers.
Germany's Wincor Nixdorf, providers of self-service products for the retail and financial sectors, released a new BEETLE/moPOS device designed to for mobile POS, as well as a new version of its W1000 interactive kiosk that targets the hospitality industry.
Among its bevy of NRF product rollouts, Panasonic focused on retail shelves with the launch of the PowerShelf. The device draws from the concept of electronic shelf labels, but adds beacon activated mobile advertising, inventory and price management software and out-of-stock sensor technology. While it's not a true self-service device in the vain of kiosks, the device's ability to communicate with a shopper via smartphone brings with it significant buying capabilities.
Microsoft announced two restaurant brand partnerships that put the Windows OS to work inside self-service devices. Both devices are on display at NRF.
CKE Restaurants, parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., is rolling out a pilot of Intel-powered Dell 3030 self-order kiosks with Windows 8.
Microsoft is also supplying the restaurant chain TGI Fridays with 8-inch tablets for order entry. The devices use Windows 8.1, run Oracle's MICROS Restaurant Enterprise platform 5.4 on Dell Venue mTablet E-Series mobile POS devices.
Intel also announced a restaurant-focused self-service device in conjunction with the Beef-O-Brady's chain. With the Tanjarine solution, diners can interact with tabletop tablets that connect to a server's handheld device. From there, diners can browse menus, place orders, and pay their tab, among other things.
The idea here isn't entirely innovative -- servers armed with tablets for order taking has been an emerging trend over the last several years, and kiosks have been around for decades -- but as the devices become more sophisticated, there's increasing potential for how they can help in the customer experience department.
It remains to be seen whether or not any of the above mentioned devices will succeed in wooing the millennial generation, which is expressly the target audience called out by the vendors. But the odds are high that more self-service tech will begin to crop up across retail, hospitality and restaurants as brands turn to technology as a means to stay competitive.