Forget The Ad Model, Use Phone-Charging Kiosks To Keep Shoppers Shopping

April 7, 2016 by Dave Haynes


I’m not at all sold on the idea of screens on phone charging kiosks being a successful digital OOH media model, but the charging kiosks themselves – used purely as services – are proving successful in retail environments.

The National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine has a piece up this month about how retailers like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Urban Outfitters and Under Armour have discovered free smartphone charging stations, located in the right spots, keep shoppers in stores longer, and that translates to higher sales.


“Our shoppers expect this type of service,” says Mimi Crume Sterling, vice president of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus, in the STORES piece.

Customers average 50 minutes inside Neiman Marcus stores while their phones are charging, and the phone-charging service is now available at Neiman Marcus stores in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Long Island, and at a Bergdorf Goodman location in New York City.

The company ultimately plans to expand the service to almost all of its stores nationwide, she says.

One service provider, ChargeItSpot, has about 200 stations live in 20 retailers around the US, but expects to be at 1,000 before the end of next year.


Each ChargeItSpot kiosk contains eight lockers where consumers can hook their phones up for charging. Customers create personal codes for lockers based on their own 10-digit mobile phone numbers.


Few things are more relevant to mall retailers than figuring out new ways to coax consumers to spend more time in stores. ChargeItSpot appears to do that — and more. Shoppers who’ve used the charging service report staying in the store more than twice as long as they normally would have — and spending 29 percent more than they’d originally planned, according to an independent study for ChargeItSpot by research firm GfK.

In fact, each ChargeItSpot station generates roughly $80,000 in additional sales annually for the hosting store, the study found. Each ChargeItSpot station generates roughly $80,000 in additional sales per unit annually.


The article also argues that shoppers are more focused on the task at hand – buying stuff – because they’re not entranced by Tweets, Snapchat pix, What’s App notes and on and on.

Most phone charging kiosks I’ve seen come with embedded screens. The ones that we’ve all noticed in airports that seem to be built on an advertising revenue model don’t tend to prosper or last because it’s so hard to get to scale (not to mention so hard to sell ads in a crazily fragmented media landscape).

But the ones that forget the ad model and use the screens, instead, to speak directly to shoppers – making them aware of the free service, and telling them about things they should check out in the store while their beloved phones re-energize – make sense to me.


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