Redbox delivers a social experience

If you haven’t heard of Redbox, you will soon.

Redbox rents DVDs for $1 a day through more than 15,000 vending machines.  As reported by the Associated Press recently, Redbox is fast emerging as a rival to Netflix.  I’ve rented from Redbox several times and agree with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who said that movie rental kiosks will likely be the Number 1 competitor to Netflix, according to the AP.  And why is that?

  • Redbox is convenient.  The vending machines are often found near the entrances of supermarkets and drug stores.  It’s easy to combine a DVD rental with a quick trip to pick up some soda pop and chips.  But Redbox is also banking on the impulse renter. It’s just too darned easy to pick up a DVD on the way out of the store similar to scooping up a magazine or candy bar at the check-out lane.  The concept is brilliant.
  • Redbox is simple.  The pricing terms are easy: you rent movies for $1 dollar a night.  There are no complicated, multi-tiered pricing systems to understand.  And the movie rental categories are simple. You don’t encounter the dizzying array of specialty categories found at movie rental stores, like Family Favorites, Hollywood Favorites, Movies about Psychotics, Just Fallen off the Top 10, Classics for Kids, Classics for Teens, Romances Pre-1950, and so on.  Redbox has to keep the choices simple.  You don’t have a lot of time to ponder your options on your way out to the car with a gallon of cold milk in your shopping cart.
  • Redbox is social.  I don’t even think Redbox knows this yet.  But renting and returning DVDs is a social experience at Redbox vending machines.   I’m amazed at how many times strangers walk up to each other at a Redbox and seek out each other’s movie opinions or swap informal movie talk. (“You returning Revolutionary Road?  What did you think?”) Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised given that Redboxes are located in places where people congregate.

In the digital world, peer reviews of movies happen all the time.  Capturing that dynamic in the offline world is trickier.  Even still, I  would not be surprised if Redbox figures out how to capitalize on the surprisingly social aspect of renting movies from a vending machine.  It’s not difficult to imagine what would happen if you could find Redboxes near restaurants and bars, for example.

Redbox has its flaws.  The downside of a simple inventory is a limited inventory.  You still have to leave your house to return movies, and it’s possible for the vending machines to malfunction.  But until Netflix can figure out how to deliver movies on demand to your television set, Redbox is a fun, social alternative.

if you’ve tried Redbox, let me know what you think of it.