By Craig Patterson
A Canada-wide rollout of a newly designed kiosk design for Virgin Mobile is in the works, which will see more than 100 locations in shopping centres over the coming months. Toronto-based figure3 is leading the design of the new kiosk concept that has various unique and innovative features.
The design is intended to give Virgin Mobile the upper hand in the ultra-competitive mall kiosk landscape, according to figure3. Given the relatively small size of the Virgin Mobile kiosks, space-saving was key to the design. Getting the brand messaging right, while reflecting Virgin’s brand ethos was also critical — design firm figure3 is known to create concept spaces based on brands’ overall brand messaging.
Thus, Virgin’s brand identity had to be taken into consideration, according to Mardi Najafi, who is the Director of Retail design at figure3. That included creating kiosks that represent Virgin Mobile’s “fun and irreverent brand personality” with a more cohesive connection between Virgin’s digital and physical presence, which included highlighting Virgin’s member benefits.
To make the kiosk concept design come to life, figure3 worked with existing mall restrictions to introduce a feature window that creatively maximizes the given space, while at the same time acting as an intercept to engage with customers. The Virgin Mobile “VIP” membership benefits was thus exemplified through curated “window displays” and integrated digital messaging.
The feature window provides an “inspirational lifestyle vignette”, according to figure3, in an effort to “excite not only existing members with new and upcoming promotions and cross-promotions, but to act as a conduit to conversion for potential future customers”. The window is part of a new approach to kiosks that aims to create a memorable and dynamic feature distinguishing Virgin Mobile from the many other telecom brands that also operate kiosks in shopping centres across the country.
The overall layout of the kiosks was designed around “easing the customer journey” by providing a frictionless experience when browsing and selecting services, devices and accessories from the Virgin Mobile brand. According to figure3, that journey allows for both a full-service and self-service experience where customers are given the freedom to explore independently or with the help of a sales associate, depending on preference.
In the new kiosks, devices are grouped together in a ‘product bar’ where customers can easily compare price and specifications with different Virgin Mobile products. Customers can further examine product offerings through a self-serve tablet, or have one-on-one consultations at the ‘Virgin Bar’ with an associate at the kiosk.
To further enhance the customer experience at the new kiosks, a comfortable seating area was introduced with a charging station — this allows for the customer to feel like “a true VIP”, according to figure3, and is a key differentiator for the Virgin Mobile brand moving forward.
The barrier-free service counter allows universal interaction for any customer and emphasizes the importance Virgin Mobile places on their members, according to figure3. Sleek cases with indirect lighting maximize Virgin Mobile associates’ ability to cross-sell and up-sell branded accessories. At the same time, display cases are kept open so that visitors can touch and interact with the product before they buy.
On the tech-side, flexible interchangeable display screens were implemented for services or device promotions that can be highlighted by Virgin’s visual merchandising team. Flexibility was an overall goal, where any product or pricing can be easily interchanged by associates based on updated planograms for the spaces.
Fixed POS systems in the new kiosks are identified by bright backlit interchangeable graphic applications that are located on the surface of the kiosk. Wireless transactions are enabled through the new POS technology as well, which figure3 says allows for a collaborative engagement and screen sharing with customers.
Materials used in the new Virgin Mobile kiosks include shop-finished metals with automotive standard paint. The goal was increased durability, given the high traffic seen at such kiosks in major shopping centres. Iridescent and ombre finishes were selected with a focus of resonating with Virgin’s ‘younger’ target demographic that is attracted to Virgin Mobile’s “playful, irreverent brand tone”.
Kiosks are often some of the most productive spaces in shopping centres, with annual sales per square foot being well into the thousands of dollars. At the same time, competition from other mobile providers means that kiosk design needs to stand out, not to mention provide a good customer experience that will keep consumers loyal to the brand. Many landlords continue to embrace having kiosks in their malls, which is evident nationwide.
West Edmonton Mall, for example, includes an expansive kiosk program for brands ranging from telecoms to beauty/fragrances to jewellery, with brands such as Hillberg & Berk operating ‘sparkle bar’ kiosk-spaces that are often busy. Not all landlords want kiosks in their shopping centres, however. Over the past several years, landlord Oxford Properties relocated most of its kiosk vendors at the highly productive Yorkdale Shopping Centre into more traditional inline retail spaces in the mall. What has resulted is a more spacious experience in its mall corridors, with retail kiosks replaced by seating areas.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org