Kiosks have a lot to offer consumer brands – they can engage consumers at the point-of-sale and make the purchasing experience easy and exciting. From the brand's point of view, launching a kiosk that truly improves the customer experience requires finding a technology partner who has a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of kiosk deployment.
"The biggest challenge is finding a vendor who understands the full end-to-end challenge of digital transformation," said Jodi Meryl Wallace, chief marketing officer, Acrelec America, a provider of customer experience technology. "Finding a vendor that provides hardware, software and service – all working together on a technology platform to manage the digital devices, software and content."
Wallace further noted that brands should use kiosks that offer easy onsite maintenance and repairs with parts and peripherals (such as printer, scanners, payment pads) that can be swapped out without tools or technicians. "Non-technical staff needs to be able to keep the solutions in operation and fix quickly," Wallace said.
The benefits of a successful kiosk in a retail environment are multifold.
"Kiosks can display brand marketing campaigns when not in use for ordering," Wallace noted. "This can create tons of interesting forms of engagement, such as a virtual wardrobe where customers can see themselves in the clothes, social media integration to view posts in real-time, or product tutorials at the swipe of the hand."
Boulanger, a French manufacturer of moldings and components, recently deployed 24 interactive kiosks in a Paris store to allow customers to browse product categories, read reviews and compare prices, according to Capgemini, a French consulting firm that assisted Boulanger.
While customers browse the kiosks, Boulanger store staff use tablets to assist them with details on products and can process purchases from anywhere in the store, improving the efficiency of staff to order and schedule product deliveries.
Boulanger kiosks, tablets and a virtual wall are integrated with software developed by Capgemini, enabling seamless sharing of data across the store’s digital offerings.
By linking the solution with its back-end systems and online presence, Boulanger developed a database for creating analytics that will enhance operations, help understand customer behavior and create an omni-channel customer experience.
Today's retail battleground
The retail marketplace is the most contentious battleground for kiosks today, noted Ben Wheeler, a kiosk consultant, as retailers seek ways to offset rising labor costs. Many stores are cutting their hours to save cost. For such establishments, kiosks will play a bigger role in meeting consumer needs.
While rising labor costs are a big factor driving the need for self service, the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) technology plays a big role on the cost side of kiosk deployment, Wheeler noted. SaaS allows technology providers to offer software on a “pay as you go” basis rather than requiring a big upfront investment.
"The less upfront cost there’s going to be, the more people are going to go forward with it," he said. "A company is going to be able to develop these kinds of solutions on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than making it a $100,000 investment that somebody has to come up with up front; a $100,000 investment precludes mom and pops and small businesses."
Android technology is also making kiosk technology more affordable, Wheeler noted. "Tablets are going to change the paradigm. You’re going to see much smaller kiosks that are going to be able to perform."
In addition, facial recognition and speech recognition software are advancing and will enable kiosks to gather more information about customers at the point of sale. "Those things are going to help the process," Wheeler said.
The aesthetic factor
Technology is not the only factor in the creation of a successful brand kiosk, however.
Aesthetics are also important for creating a positive user experience. Aesthetics have a big impact on how consumers perceive information, learn and assess credibility and usability.
"It’s marketing 101 when it comes to that," Wheeler said regarding aesthetics. Professional designers can offer ideas; then it's up to the developer to get consumer feedback to decide on the winning design. He suggests working with companies that have experience designing kiosks.
Due diligence needed
Wheeler concurs with Acrelec's Wallace on the need to vet kiosk technology providers carefully. As in most businesses, players come and go. If a manufacturer custom builds a kiosk, the customer should be certain the manufacturer won’t turn around and sell the same concept to a competitor.
"If people don't do their homework, they’re crazy," Wheeler said. He suggested would-be customers contact the manufacturers’ components suppliers to see how the manufacturer is to work with.
Brands and retailers also have to recognize the need to overcome some consumers’ fears about new technology, Wheeler noted. Some retail establishments have staff ready to help customers learn how to use kiosks. Once consumers realize how much easier kiosks make purchasing, however, they embrace them.
With brands and retailers looking to tap the benefits kiosks offer in improving the customer buying experience, technology is providing more tools to make kiosk deployments more seamless. Resources are available to ensure success for customers willing to perform their due diligence.