How Unattended Retail Sells Loyalty

unattended retail touchscreen

More than 75 percent of loyalty program members say the offerings make them more likely to be repeat customers. But for many unattended retailers, establishing that connection can be challenging — if not impossible, says Justin Ning, ID TECH’s VP of product management. In this month’s Unattended Retail Tracker, Ning explains how self-serve kiosks are using new tech to catch the loyalty wave, even when no one’s around.


It takes a lot of work for brick-and-mortar merchants to convince passersby to enter their stores. Retailers put together window displays and signs to create enticing storefronts, engage customers via social media and send printed ads through the mail. Given the cost and work involved in converting passersby, merchants should also focus on retaining those who have already demonstrated interest in their goods and building their loyalty. If they don’t, they’re forced to spend time and energy on additional marketing strategies to recruit the next batch of new customers.

While brick-and-mortar stores can employ customer retention strategies, kiosk and vending machine operations don’t always have the same tools available. There’s no sales associate to offer a loyalty card at a traditional self- serve solution, after all.

New advancements in unattended retail technologies can help retailers better extend loyalty offerings and build lasting customer relationships, Justin Ning, vice president of product management at ID TECH, noted in a recent interview with PYMNTS.

“There’s a lot of complementary technologies that are being offered today that can be incorporated into the whole self-serve or unattended retail system,” he said. “[They] can expand the user experience and do more than just accomplish the primary task, and really engage that customer through loyalty and payments.”

Unattended Loyalty 

Unattended retail hardware and software can achieve more for merchants than simply vending products in a self-serve manner, Ning said. A kiosk equipped with a touchscreen can ask customers to join the merchant’s loyalty program at the point of purchase, for example. Those who use self-serve solutions typically do so out of a desire for speed and, as a result, are unlikely to take the time to type their names, emails and other details into a loyalty program enrollment form. Mobile wallet payment acceptance can make a difference here, as customers have their contact data stored in their mobile wallets. The details necessary for enrolling in a loyalty program can thus be transferred seamlessly to the machine without the friction of manual entry.

“A lot of times, customers don’t want to sit there and fill out the applications for [various] rewards programs,” Ning said. “But now, with that data stored in [a consumer’s mobile] wallet … when they tap to pay, [near-field communication (NFC)] can push back a message to the consumers asking them if they’d like to enroll in [a] rewards program with the touch of a fingerprint — and there’s no paperwork needed. It allows for a higher [rate] of consumers joining.”

The retailer can then deliver coupons and loyalty rewards directly to the mobile wallet, he added.

Dialing Up the Display

Touch and display screens on unattended solutions can also provide significant advertising and marketing opportunities, Ning said.

“Maybe the kiosk was first deployed for one specific objective, but if you look at the … technology now and what you can do with advertising and media, there’s a lot of display capability,” he explained.

Ning pointed to quick-service restaurant (QSR) Sonic Drive-In, which adopted a self-service touchscreen menu for its drive-in guests. It displays order recommendations and other suggestions, both of which reportedly drive up check sizes. Screens like these also enable retailers to provide additional item and loyalty program details, advertise new products or services, offer discount coupons and even showcase entertainment.

“[Putting] the screen in front of customers showed a high increase in customer engagement,” Ning said.

Merchants must make their unattended retail offerings as engaging as their brick-and-mortar locations, and it appears advancements in kiosk technologies can help persuade first-time customers to keep coming back.