Interactive kiosks: when stationary innovation wins

Michele Caprini
In brief
The interactive kiosks market is set to witness substantial growth. For retail, they are the right answer to the customer’s need for involvement in the purchasing process, his demand for autonomy, and the customization of the business relationship.

The use of interactive kiosks has gained enormous popularity in many sectors of the global market, retail first and foremost. In a 2020 report by Research and Markets, the global multimedia kiosks market, valued at $24 billion in 2019, is expected to grow to $33 billion by 2025. According to other estimates which valued it at $15 billion already in 2018, it will reach $45 billion dollars in the next decade. Retail will be the sector that will make the most use of it, ahead of public administrations and the banking and insurance industry.

Game Changer

In spite of the easy, and very wrong, dismissal of brick-and-mortar retail, digital innovation has shown essential signs of its importance precisely in those places where the discriminating factor is not the number of clicks, but pedestrian traffic. These are shops, supermarkets and restaurants characterized by a high level of automation, by the diffusion of self-service modes in the purchase and payment cycle and by the first significant steps in the use of artificial intelligence systems oriented towards both back office and point of sale management. In the times of touchless retail, then, nothing more advisable.

In retail, it is the more aware companies that are benefiting from interactive kiosks – such as game-changers – in traditional commerce and catering. The surge in demand is motivated by technological advances that improve the consumers’ experience, a process in which also e-commerce giants are involved. Amazon, for example, used kiosks to launch its ‘smart stores’ in India and manage its partnership with Kohl.

In store

Already at a first glance, the success of multimedia kiosks seems to find an immediate explanation in three characteristic factors of digital retail: the involvement of the customer in the purchasing process, the tendency of the latter to complete it with the highest possible level of autonomy, and the fierce attention, on the part of operators, to the personalization of the commercial relationship. An obligatory path, in short, that can be travelled to the fullest with interactive kiosks.

Nothing to be surprised about. After all it is the smartphone the device that marks our daily life, that regulates the development of e-commerce and that acts as undisputed protagonist of social media. In the use of an interactive kiosk, moreover, it is possible to regain the naturalness and familiarity of the movements and the way of using what we already have in order to gain in exchange a service that meets the need of the moment. By combining large touch screens and applications of adequate functionality, kiosks create a powerful engagement tool that enables visitors to intuitively navigate through dynamically regulated content and complete their orders, or other requests, in a few touches. In a nutshell – a qualified customer experience at the tip of your finger.

Customer Journey

The importance of these tools is central in the new in-store experience. Through the multimedia kiosk located at the entrance of the point of sale, it is easy to orient the customer’s choices and journey towards many more products and services than would be possible with traditional communication. Easily accessible information on product availability and prices, on promotions and on the status of loyalty programs can be important for the individual shopping experience and for maintaining the best commercial relationship over the longer term.

It is almost funny, by the way, to think that the device’s fixedness can be useful in advertising the advantages of omnicanality which, often, manifests itself precisely in the most extreme mobility. In point of fact it can promote it: careful management of self-service kiosks allows customers the alternative purchase option for what is not available in that store, but may be in another or online.

Kiosks in restaurants

customers tend to increasingly favour self-ordering options. No more paper menus and orders taken by the waiter at tables, kiosks have a triple competitive advantage: they are an essential part in rationalizing the orders flow, food preparation, delivery and payment, they increase guests’ satisfaction and autonomy and reduce waiting times. Furthermore, employees can be assigned to activities other than order management, increasing the quality of the service in the dining room and the guest’s purchasing experience.

In this case too, digital signage content can play a significant engagement role. Customers will appreciate what allows them to learn about specialties, offers and news, and the visual experience given by the image of a dish on the display could be worth much more than the offer of a discount.

Communication also benefits from the use of kiosks, as the retailer or restaurateur can plan and update organic advertising content at that point of sale or of a general nature. Companies using interactive kiosks can offer more services at a lower cost. The economic advantage is obvious, and it is represented even more effectively by the opportunities of upselling. The extension of the purchase to an improved and profitable good or service, such as adding a guarantee to an accessory product, takes place easily and naturally.

User friendly

The public’s appreciation of the one-to-one relationship between electronic devices and consumers also seems demonstrated by other distribution sectors. This is the case with vending machines. According to the Gartner Group, the global vending machine market, valued at $18 billion in 2019, will reach $25 billion by 2027.

The juxtaposition of two different sets does not sound strange, given that the success of both lies in their common purpose: being terminals of technological innovation aimed at a user-friendly dimension of relationship with the consumer to incentivize him to buy. We are talking about the IoT, an advanced level of views, voice recognition, natural interaction based on the history and profile of the user, integration with data collection and processing systems.

After all connecting people, needs and technologies, making everything easier and more profitable is what retail is all about, and kiosks are one of the simplest and most qualifying parts of it.