File this under fresh ideas for stagnant clients.
It’s 10:45 p.m. and I’m out:
Maybe I just got off work like millions of other non-9 to 5 year olds. Maybe I’ve been out with my family all day and didn’t run my errands. Perhaps I felt too ill to show up at a public grocery store in the shabby throw from my sofa.
And now most of the local businesses are closed for the night and I’m sitting here tacolos and sad.
But what if it didn’t have to be like this? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a few blocks away that would offer me solutions no matter the time of day or night?
Old becomes new again, like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.
What’s up with the kiosks?
The vending machine was invented in Germany in the late 1800s and took off in the United States over the following decades, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last location in New York not closing until 1991. These famous kiosks provided on-demand portions of macaroni, fishcakes, baked beans and chicory coffee to thousands of Americans every day. The demise of the vending machine is largely attributed to the rise of the fast-food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former vending machine locations.
A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup on Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about it. What I learned sparked my imagination for local businesses, which always benefit when they at least consider fresh ideas, even if those ideas are really just taking a page out of history and editing it a bit.
What I found from my research is that Applestone Meat Company differentiates itself from the competition by offering 24/7 butchery service through two retail facilities in upstate New York. They also have an 11am-6pm drive-up service window, but for the myriad potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are always on call.
CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be a smart local business owner to take that bold leap. The company has already garnered some pretty great unstructured quotes from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy, and plans to open 10 more kiosks in the near future.
But Applestone is not alone. Technically, a kiosk can only be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt with Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ units in the Midwest offer cereal, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages and similar on-the-go meals and donate leftovers to local food supplies.
Americans have long been used to ATMs. DVD and game rentals are no longer news to us. We’re a far cry from Japan, with its sixty billion dollars a year, national vending machine density of one machine for every 23 people, and automated vending of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics do not point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly lacking, opportunity can exist. What could that look like?
Use your imagination
My corner of the world is famous for its sourdough bread. There are hundreds of regional bakeries competing for the crunchiest, lightest and most delicious bread. But if you can’t make it to local stores by early afternoon, chances are your favorite brand is sold out. And if you’ve got the 47-hour work week in the US, or touring day and night in California but don’t want to make a living off fast food, you’re probably very grateful to have access to handmade baguettes again.
Imagine if every bread bakery in the SF Bay Area had a kiosk installed on their doorstep and you could hear the satisfied crunch after hours, right?
Applestone sells unprepared meat, Farmer’s Fridge sells ready meals, and just about anything people eat could be a candidate for a kiosk, but why should on-demand products be limited to groceries? I let my imagination run wild and made a short list of things that people could buy at different times after hours if there was a vending machine in front of the store:
- Books and magazines
- Weather-appropriate basic clothing (sweatshirts, socks, T-shirts)
- First Aid Kits
- baby care accessories
- Emergency electronics (chargers, batteries, flashlights)
- Basic car repair materials (headlight bulbs, wipers, repair kits)
- Personal care products (toilet paper, toiletries)
- Office supplies (printer ink, paper, envelopes, stamps)
- Household Goods (Lightbulbs, Laundry Detergent, Basic Groceries)
- pet accessories
- travel/camping/sports supplies
- Craft supplies, small games, gifts, etc.
What if customers who have their morning bike ride at 5am knew they could stop by your customer’s kiosk to fix a flat tire? What if night workers knew they could pick up a box of lightbulbs or bandages or cat food on the way to their shift? Think of the convenience — even life-saving assistance in some cases — that could be provided to travelers on the street 24 hours a day, members of your community suffering from housing shortages, or entire neighborhoods lacking access to basic commodities?
Not every local business has the right model of kiosk, but once I started thinking about it, I realized how many of them could. I initially envision these machines being installed at the place of business, but if the scenario is right, a company with the right kind of inventory could certainly place additional kiosks in strategic locations close to the communities it wishes to serve.
Local Newsstand SEO
Of course, kiosks can generate revenue, but what could they do for customers’ online presence? The guidelines for showing your business on Google already support creating local business listings for ATMs, video rental locations, and express shipping Dropboxes. But I went straight to Google with the Applewood example to ask if this emerging type of kiosk would be allowed to create listings. They were kind enough to reply:
The link in the Twitter DM reply just pointed to the general guidelines and I can’t find any reference to the term “Food Kiosk Listing” in it. It’s the first time I’ve heard this terminology. But this rep clearly names grocery kiosks as a “thing.” Google already seems to be aware of this business model. And the proof of their support is in the Maps pudding:
My my! Discuss the possibility of hyperlocalizing your local search engine marketing to align with Google’s extreme emphasis on user-to-business proximity. Enough to make any local SEO agency see conversions and dollar signs for clients.
Tip #1: Helpline phone numbers
I’ve written about ATM SEO for financial publications in the past, so I’ll add an important tip for creating proper Google listings for kiosks: Policies require you to have a helpline phone number for kiosk users. I would post this number on both the listings and the units themselves. Note that this likely means you have a common phone number for multiple listings, which isn’t typically considered ideal for local search marketing, but if kiosks are your model and you avoid any appearance of creating fake listings, Google can probably handle it .
Tip #2: Unique local landing pages for your kiosks
I also see value in creating unique landing pages for locations on client websites for their kiosks, especially if they’re not stationed at your physical location. These sites could provide excellent directions and walking directions for each unit, explain how to use the machine, include reviews and testimonials for that location, and perhaps highlight new inventory.
Tip #3: Profit from your social media
Social media will also be an excellent vehicle to inform specific neighborhoods about customer kiosks and to connect with communities to understand their feelings. Get plenty of feedback on what is and isn’t working for customers and how inventory could better serve their needs. And of course, make sure every customer is monitoring the reviews like a low-flying hawk.
Is there an appetite for kiosks?
Photo credit: Ben Chun
I’m a longtime observer of rural local SEO. I’ve learned that consciously noticing small things can lead to big ideas, and almost any novel concept is worth introducing to customers. The tiny, free book lending kiosks, sometimes officially referred to as “Little Free Libraries,” are scattered across my county and have become a non-profit initiative, boosting Etsy sales of cute wooden gadgets. Additionally, my region is littered with unstaffed peasant stands who operate on the honor system and trust their neighbors to pay for what they take. I would say our household buys about half of our products from them.
In recent times, the milkman and the caterer have seemed as far apart as the gramophone. Now consumers are showing interest in having full meal packages, full closets, and just about anything delivered. The point is: Don’t neglect anything that brings convenience; not the traveling salesman, not the automaton.
The decision to experiment with a kiosk is not an easy one. There will be financial aspects, e.g. B. How to access a unit that works for the sold inventory. There will be security issues as most companies will probably not feel comfortable working with the honor system.
But if the question is whether there’s an appetite for the right kiosk that sells the right goods in the right place, I’ll close today with a look at these provocative, enlightening reviews from just one Farmer’s Fridge location: