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Psst, Want To See Our Brand New Electronic Design and Catalog Kiosk?

December 8, 2009


As technically oriented as I am, sometimes I feel like a Luddite being pulled backwards, kicking and screaming into the 21st centure. Take for example my stubborn dependence on printed catalogs from manufacturers. I understand how expensive they are to print; but, an electronic catalog can only be viewed if you have an available computer on which to view it. I have a lot of computers in the store; however, most are in use in our offices. The computers that we could potentially use to view electronic media are our Point of Sale computers which we use to create customer invoices, check inventory, and create purchase orders. On a busy day, they are constantly creating invoices and aren’t available to display electronic catalogs. I guess I won’t be able to hold out much longer, though. Manufacturers are spending more time and money developing their web sites. If they enable technophobes like me by providing me printed catalogs, too, they won’t get as much bang for their technical buck. Manufacturers are preparing us for the inevitable by discontinuing printing consumer handouts, relying instead on their more robust web sites.


So, after visiting Keith Guidry at Percy Guidry’s in Lafayette recently and seeing what I have to say is the ultimate in computer kiosks, I decided I had to do something. Providentially, one of our computers broke down about the same time. This computer was the server for our entire store. Without it, we can’t do any work at our other computers (even with it, we do very little work, but that is another story); so, I had to replace it immediately. Once I replaced it and got us running again, I took the broken computer in to see if it could be repaired. Lo and behold, not only could it be repaired, it was still under the extended warranty I had purchased with it. Voila, an extra computer!


This computer is now our Design and Catalog Kiosk, a fancy name for a computer on a stand that has wheels. If we want to move it to another location in the store, it is a simple matter of unplugging it, moving it wherever we want, and plugging it back in. We are Wi-Fi enabled (see, I told you I was technically oriented) so we don’t need any wires except the power cord.


We loaded up this computer with two things. First, our CAD program so that we can design a customer’s outdoor room in front of them. Second, a web browser with bookmarks for all of the manufacturers we deal with. Once we got this going, I realized the kiosk would work better if we branded it with our store name and logo. At first, I thought I would create signage to put on the stand. But an easier and more effective way was to develop a page on our web site with our logo that would be gateway to all of our manufacturers’ web sites. This page would always be open on the kiosk so that our customers would see our logo every time they pass the kiosk. More important, the kiosk became self-service. The navigation we created made it obvious how to get to a vendor’s web site. Thee customer doesn’t even have to know the manufacturer’s name; they just need to know what type of furniture they want to know more about.


This portion of our web site is not linked to our web site available to the general surfing public. We keep it private and only available in our store because some manufacturers don’t allow retail web sites to link directly to their web sites. However, since all vendors make their web sites and addresses available on printed material (or through search engines which is even easier and more ubiquitous), I don’t think I am breaking any rules my letting consumers get to their web site while in the store.


An interesting by-product of developing this part of the site was I had to visit lots of vendor web sites to make sure I had their correct web addresses. In the process, I was surprised to find several manufacturers who allowed consumers to purchase directly from them through their web site. Mostly these were vendors from whom we buy accessories; but there were one or two furniture manufacturers who treat their web site as a retail outlet. I tried not to include those manufacturers unless their prices on the web were at least equal to, if not greater than. our selling prices.


If you would like to see what we developed, click on this link. I hope you find it easy to use.


Yours in confused retailing, Bruce