Coinstar may be best known for its automated coin-counting machines and Redbox movie rental kiosks. But based on what we saw today at the company’s analyst day in Bellevue, they’ve got a lot more up their sleeves.
From automated coffee kiosks to a next-generation photo booth, Coinstar is diversifying its lineup of products through an innovative venture model that rewards employees for rolling out new designs and concepts.
“We really try to take a page out of the venture capital playbook,” said David Veenstra, senior vice president of strategy and new ventures at Coinstar. “We say: ‘How do we put the right people to build these businesses.’ Most of the GMs tend to be entrepreneurs, and they tend to have deep domain expertise.”
At this point, Coinstar has six “organic ventures” that they are incubating internally and two external strategic investments, including consumer electronics recycling kiosk ecoATM. Three of the new “organic ventures” were on display at analyst day.
They included Gizmo — a kiosk that displays up to 43 different refurbished consumer electronic products. It currently is in tests at nine locations in Texas and California, with plans to expand to more than 100 locations this year. (See video demo below)
The company’s coffee kiosks are now available in 53 locations in Seattle, San Francisco and D.C., with plans to get to more than 500 installations this year. (Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to taste test the coffee from this beverage dispenser).
But we did get to play with the Star Studio photo booths. While designed for teenagers, it certainly was a fun demo. Coinstar has nine photo booths installed at malls in Los Angeles, with plans to grow over the coming months. (Stay tuned for a video demo on GeekWire)
As I walked through the displays of the new kiosks, I was struck by a reoccurring thought.
In this era of tablets and smartphones where people are increasingly carrying digital media with them or making purchases through online retail, isn’t the concept of a physical kiosk a bit antiquated?
Veenstra thinks the exact opposite. He suggested, for example, that it’s actually easier to use a service like ecoATM to sell an old cell phone versus doing it on eBay or Amazon. In addition, brick-and-mortar and online are combining in interesting ways via the kiosks, he said.
“Star Studio is a digital product, with a physical aspect to it,” says Veenstra, adding that users of the photo booth get a physical sticker in addition to the ability to email photos or upload them to Facebook. “I think that’s a great example of the merging of the two.”
Here’s our first-hand look at the new Gizmo electronics kiosk, with Coinstar general manager Ross Saario providing the demo. Would you buy a used Kindle, iPod or laptop computer this way?