*Kinko's Deal Continues Web-to-Store Push

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Kinko's Inc. will step up its Internet strategy through a deal with Eastman Kodak Co. expected to be announced this month that allows for instant printing of digital photos through Web-enabled kiosks.


The service will roll out in 600 of the 1,000 Kinko's retail locations nationwide. Kinko's plans to eventually install the kiosks in all of its stores but does not have a timetable.


"I think it's bringing a new type of customer to our store," said Tom Weller, senior product manager for digital photo services at Kinko's. "Kinko's has been known as a copy shop, [but] we want to be known for not just printing color copies but also for high-resolution digital imaging products."


Web-linked kiosks increasingly are becoming a key component of the retailing process. The kiosks are expected to guide customers to products not available on the store floor and to serve as an extra revenue stream.


Hat retailer Lids Corp., Westwood, MA, last month introduced more than 125 Web stations, or e-centers, in its mostly mall-based stores, offering links to the lids.com site and its online partners.


Similarly, pet supplies retailer Petopia.com is testing kiosks at three Petco stores. Petco has a major stake in Petopia. Bloomingdale's, Borders Inc., Gap Inc., Sears, Roebuck & Co., Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Best Buy Co. already have installed Web kiosks in selected stores across their chains.


Not all find Internet-linked kiosks successful. Ames Department Stores, Rocky Hill, CT, found in-store kiosks a bust. Kiosks in 20 stores over three months yielded only one order per store, on average.


Still, market researcher Computer Economics Inc., Carlsbad, CA, estimates that by year-end there will be 298,000 interactive kiosks installed in stores nationwide and 584,000 installed worldwide. Computer Economics estimates that by 2004 the United States will have 785,000 such kiosks and that 1.7 million will exist worldwide.


Meanwhile, the Kodak Picture Maker is vital to Kinko's plans to grow its business using technology, particularly the Internet. The $1.5 billion retailer partnered with liveprint.com to launch kinkos.com, Alexandria, VA, with America Online Inc. as a shareholder.


Relaunched in July, kinkos.com allows consumers to upload documents, proof and review them for accuracy, and define the time, date and destination for same-day or overnight delivery by FedEx, Memphis, TN. The service is available in 40 markets nationwide.


Down the road, consumers will be able to pick up online orders at select Kinko's locations nationwide.


The Kodak Picture Maker kiosks and the kinkos.com four-hour online printing and physical delivery service share a common theme: All roads will lead to a Kinko's bricks-and-mortar store, driving online traffic offline.


The offerings also are a precursor of things to come, especially as consumers move toward digital imaging.


"We kind of consider the kiosk our beachhead product into the digital photo product area," Weller said.


The kiosk initiative comes less than two months after Kinko's Inc., its Kinkos.com Inc. subsidiary and FedEx Corp. launched an Internet service that allows for printing and delivery of documents in as little as four hours.


With this new initiative, Kinko's claims to be the first retailer to offer digital photo kiosks in stores. Kodak's Picture Maker kiosks are linked to the Internet, allowing consumers to access Kodak PhotoNet and AOL's You've Got Pictures Web site feature from the instrument.


Customers at a Kinko's store can log on to either the imaging pages on Kodak's photonet.com or the AOL site, scan in their rolls of film or upload digital images, and then save the images in those online locations.


After completing this process, customers are allocated a roll number and password that they can send to friends and relatives nationwide. Recipients can go to a Kinko's to enter the roll number and password on Kodak PhotoNet or AOL's You've Got Pictures section and select an image to photocopy on professional, photo-quality paper.


"We're trying to increase foot traffic [to Kinko's stores]," Weller said, "though we're really not talking about high-end photographers; we're talking about soccer moms and the type."


Kinko's said the Picture Maker kiosk not only is convenient, but also allows speedier production of digital prints. In normal circumstances, a film roll takes about an hour to develop and print.


The benefits of this kiosk strategy extend to Kodak PhotoNet and AOL as well.


"I think they're looking for a bricks-and-mortar presence, and Kinko's provides the environment," Weller said. "[Plus] we've got high-speed Internet access, T1 lines. The other part is that Kinko's is a way of humanizing technology. Our employees are all tech-savvy."


Each Kodak Photo Maker kiosk is equipped with an Internet-connected computer; an adapter for memory cards like Smart Media, Compact Flash and Sony Memory Stick; a scanner; and a printer.


Consumers can load images straight from a memory card in their camera and insert it in the adapter connected to the kiosk. They also can scan a printed photo or bring images saved on a floppy disk or compact disc. Images can be manipulated according to requirement.


The kiosks in Kinko's stores eye consumers who will exchange photos and gifts during the upcoming holiday season. Also, it aims to stay ahead of an emerging trend where imaging is no longer only print-to-print copies but now includes digital as well.
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