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Getting Engaged


Barnes & Noble is looking to engage its youngest shoppers with interactive technology. In December 2010, the retailer launched a kiosk pilot focused on, an online children’s self-publishing service that lets children write and illustrate their own storybooks — and have them printed in hardcover format. (Barnes & Noble purchased the company in September 2009.) 

The two tests units — located in the toys and games sections of Barnes & Noble stores in Holmdel, N.J., and Enfield, Conn. — are designed to resemble an oversized, open book. Each features an interactive demonstration of Tikatok’s online application, allowing children to try out the book-creation module or read books that other children have created at 

The kiosks, which employ HP TouchSmart PCs, encourage young users to explore the world of online book publishing, while also fostering a love of reading and writing. Each kiosk has one screen on either side to allow more than one child to play at once.

“We partnered with HP because we like that the touchscreen technology allows kids to try and experience what we offer,” said Tikatok co-founder Sharon Kan, who, with her business partner Orit Zuckerman, teamed with MIT University to create and launch the online solution. “Kids will be presented the exact same experience in the Barnes & Noble Tikatok kiosk as they will get at home.” 

With the kiosks, however, the Tikatok program is in demonstration mode only in that the books kids work on in the store can’t be produced there. (There are various online options available, including a Tikatok “Book Spark kit” that Barnes & Noble sells and which offers story-creating suggestions, pages to draw on and includes the printing of one hardcover book in the price.) 

The HP TouchSmart 9100, employed in both pilot kiosks, utilizes multi-touch technology that allows users to manipulate content through multiple points and input motions. It is an all-in-one device, with a 23-in. high-definition display, and costs about $1,000. It can be wall-mounted or mounted on a rotating arm.

“These touch-enabled displays represent the next level of customer engagement,” said Kirk Godkin, HP Americas’ commercial desktop and display manager. “So much of the interactivity component in retail stores has been relegated to kiosk solutions. This solution has completely evolved that experience, especially as it leverages the ways that customers are accustomed to interacting with their smartphones.” 

The touch aspect of the technology has been key to its successful test to date, according to Godkin. 

“When you consider what children like to do — touch things — this solution is leveraging that and taking it to new heights,” he explained. 

Tikatok’s Kan said that HP has proved a good partner. 

“The HP technology provides our customer with an optimum in-store experience and wonderful learning experience when using our Tikatok kiosks. We look forward to learning about potential different and additional technologies that could expand the experience even further,” she added. 

The two-store pilot will continue through the end of June, at which time Barnes & Noble will evaluate the test and announce a rollout plan.

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