Originally published in Retail Touchpoints

Whether it’s CVS’s recent announcement about introducing in-store vending machines or Uniqlo’s move to set up airport kiosks, retailers are realizing that interactive kiosks are a powerful way for customers to serve themselves. They are increasingly driving revenue and positive customer engagement across markets and retail applications, whether for purchasing goods or services. And while use of these automated consumer touch points has grown significantly in recent years, retailers have barely scratched the surface in terms of their potential applications.

This article will describe the specifics of kiosk functionality, lay out the potential benefits they can provide to companies, and discuss how to implement them to gain the maximum impact across all of an organization’s operations.

Fundamental Elements And Common Applications

Certain elements are always present in a kiosk. A touchscreen — whether used to facilitate purchasing or enhance the customer experience — branded housing and a visually distinct appearance are all critical, unchanging components. In a more abstract though no less important way, all kiosks feature a self-service component as well.

Beyond these common attributes, there is an incredibly wide range of uses for kiosks. Some applications center completely on commerce, while others offer support and information for customers. Additionally, certain use cases bridge the gap between the two. Let’s look at some of the most commonly seen and successful applications of kiosks:

  • Fast food and quick-service restaurant ordering, as at McDonald’s;
  • Stand-alone automated sales, such as movie rental service Redbox;
  • Enhancement of the customer experience, such as Sephora’s Color IQ kiosks;
  • Quick completion of an important step in a process, as in automated flight check-ins;
  • Improved convenience for in-store shopping, as with self-checkout at supermarkets and home improvement stores; and
  • Easy cross-referencing of online purchasing history while in a brick-and-mortar store.

There are nearly limitless applications for kiosks, and their popularity only seems to be growing. From a retailer perspective, what are the benefits of using a kiosk?

Direct Benefits For Retailers

The value of kiosk technology is clear: 69% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when provided with effective in-store tools like kiosks. Research also suggests that customers prefer interactions with kiosks over their interactions with store employees. Not only do kiosks offer improvements to a retailer’s revenue and reputation, they allow businesses to use staff more efficiently, pairing them with tasks that are better handled by live workers than by automation.

These self-service platforms provide a significant sales advantage, but executives should make sure they understand that kiosks do more than offer effective opportunities for additional sales. In some instances, providing assistance, support or general engagement for customers is just as important, as they help your organization form positive, long-term bonds with shoppers.

Kiosks enhance flexibility and optimize employee utilization by taking on tasks that are easily automated. From offering product information and pricing to serving as an interactive in-store directory, and giving patrons the option to purchase an item available online but not inside a given location, kiosks successfully execute tasks that lead to positive responses from customers.

Similar to facilitating online sales while customers are inside a brick-and-mortar location, promoting a loyalty program is another major function of kiosks that ultimately involves purchasing but focuses more on engagement. Instead of visiting a customer service desk, customers can use a kiosk to redeem points, view available rewards, check on points earned and much more, without tying up a staff member in an involved one-on-one discussion.

Why Customers Keep Using Kiosks

Kiosks mean more choices in how customers interact with your organization. They accommodate the preferences of a larger group of shoppers and therefore create a broader, stronger appeal for your business. Because they simplify a variety of processes, they often offer faster resolutions than seeking out and working with an employee.

According to one survey, 78% of U.S. consumers want commercial businesses to improve their utilization of in-store technology to enhance their overall experience. While there are many ways retailers can deploy technology to forward this goal, kiosks are uniquely suited for the role. In fact, in the same survey noted above, 72% would rather use an in-store kiosk or self-serve tablet than find an employee or spend time waiting in line. These tools are highly configurable and can be used in many different roles, lending assistance and support to customers in a way that makes sense for businesses and their engagement and revenue objectives.

Additionally, kiosks are more than just screens and sources of information. They can include card readers and bill acceptors, offer climate-controlled product storage, and even function as a closed-loop commerce system, as seen with Redbox. With kiosks offering so many attractive options that align with customer preferences, business need to prioritize their inclusion of kiosks in stores as part of their ongoing modernization efforts.

The Future Of Kiosks In The Retail World

Kiosks offer a major dual benefit: they create a more attractive and engaging environment for customers while encouraging more purchases and a stronger affinity for your organization. For business leaders focused on developing attractive, engaging and successful in-store experiences that match up with modern consumer desires and preferences, kiosks can play a vital role.

Sam Cinquegrani

Sam Cinquegrani

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

ObjectWave is a full-service provider of digital commerce solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].

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