Best Buy Cautiously Tries Kiosks

Best Buy has launched a cautious kiosk trial, with 12 machines housed at eight airports in the United States. How cautious a trial? It was announced Monday (Aug. 11) and is slated to end Sept. 1. Although it wasn't clear when the trial started, two weeks is not giving it an especially long leash.

The Best Buy trial will make its brief layover in Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP) and San Francisco (SFO).

The machines themselves are coming from the same people that are working with Macys on its own kiosk trial: ZoomSystems.

The Best Buy tactic—and kiosk—appears to be the same as Macy's. The so-called Best Buy Express kiosks (Macy's calls them e-Spot) will feature "cell phone and computer accessories, digital cameras and accessories, flash drives and portable storage devices, MP3 players, headphones, speakers, unlocked phones, portable gaming devices, gift cards, travel adapters and chargers."

The trial is apparently focused solely on evaluating the units' selling capabilities—and Best Buy's ability to handle and protect payment—and will not be integrated with any of the company's other systems, at least for this trial, said Best Buy PR Manager Jeff Dudash. That would mean no interactions with CRM, inventory or supply chain and even payment systems appear to be handled outside of Best Buy's network.

Such isolation is probably quite wise for this limited a trial, but it's the potential for these devices to be feeding data back-and-forth that truly makes Best Buy's kiosks fascinating with huge potential. It's that integration that will push them into sophisticated POS with independent sales and inventory. Otherwise, the kiosks are just vending machines with a good publicity agent.