Kiosks: a self-service world
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By Morwenna Kearns
18 November 2011
Modern, digital kiosks can be found in the shops of Singaporean phone retailer SingTel, which uses Yeahpoint's interactive screens
The word 'kiosk' means different things to different people. Dictionaries refer to telephone boxes and newspaper stands, suggesting a cosy and somehow rather British picture of a small and efficient world. But in the last few years, as technology has progressed, kiosks in the sense of interactive self-service have become a large part of the digital signage market. A range of companies is combining ideas and technologies to create multimedia solutions that are both useful to the consumer and effective for the advertiser.
The spread of digital signage has been based partly on captive audiences: people killing time before trains or planes, sitting in traffic jams or in doctors' waiting rooms are all prime candidates for an entertaining marketing message. Digital kiosk solutions go further by presenting a level of interactivity as well. A ticket machine at a railway station may show an advert for a rail company's website, alongside branding, to catch travellers as they approach. The massive influx of self-service checkouts at UK supermarkets in the past couple of years will also reward customers with vouchers that the device will print on demand. It is this combination of essential interactivity through touchscreens, subtle brand advertising, and printed material consumers are likely to keep that has kept kiosks pushing on in the face of smartphone-linked marketing.
Kiosks also have similar advantages to standard digital signage. Content can be programmed to be location or time-specific – so a screen can show an advert for sandwiches at noon and cocktails at 6pm, for example – as well as being generally faster to update than printed signage. However, by incorporating print-on-demand voucher systems operators can also tailor printed advertising to what the shopper has bought – or even to their demographic. Facial recognition software is big news, and it won't be long before self-checkouts start dispensing tokens for gender or age-specific products. Furthermore, as permanent fixtures of a space, kiosks are ripe for branding with wraps, which could perhaps be changed each season.
Some people love to join in with out-of-home advertising such as playing a video game or experiencing augmented reality on a large-format digital screen, or taking part in an experiential public marketing campaign. Other people, meanwhile, would dread seeing their face on a billboard or TV advert. Since kiosks are necessarily private spaces, they can offer a fun side of a marketing project without making the participants the public face of a brand. Australian digital media company Yeahpoint's MiMirror, for instance, is an interactive mirror, used in retail environments, that enables shoppers to take photographs of themselves in new clothes and upload them to social media platforms, meaning they can get involved in the sales promotions used on the devices but keep it relatively private.
Yeahpoint has also developed kiosks for one of surf label Billabong's shops in Sydney that allow consumers to book surfing lessons and holidays. Elsewhere, window coverings company Luxaflex deployed kiosks in its shops across Benelux, which keep sales staff up to date with new product lines but also allow customers to research the range by themselves until assistants become available.
In these latter examples information is placed in the hands of the consumer. They can look at what they want in their own time without the influence of a salesperson in the same way as shopping online, but with the benefits of having help from a real person if they need it and, often, being able to take their purchases home that day. By giving control to the customer, retailers can also bring down staff costs by serving more people at one time.
However, touchscreens used frequently by the public must be rugged and vandal-proof, and any kiosks that handle money will have to be especially hardwearing. Software must also be hack-proof to prevent more sophisticated thefts and intentional damage. In addition, content must be up to date and accurate: a customer who bought the wrong item thanks to a data error won't be happy, and advertising for a long-finished promotion will look unprofessional, but there are companies who can provide software that can link stock databases with what the public sees on the screen. Furthermore, staff will have to be trained in how to use the technology so they can help customers and demonstrate their expertise. There is a huge variety of kiosk and self-service solutions available offering a vast array of applications options, and levels of complexity, but this shouldn't be off-putting to a retailer and therefore not to a reseller either.
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