7 November 2018

Across the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, self-service is all the rage. From supermarket checkouts to restaurants, parking ticket machines to cinemas, more and more businesses are looking to give customers the option to help themselves when it comes to purchasing and payments. At the heart of this trend is a self-service technology referred to the kiosk.

Self-service kiosks have been around a long time, most obviously in the form of ATMs. But recent developments such as the touchscreen and advanced user interface software mean that kiosks are now reliable and sophisticated enough to provide outstanding customer experiences across a huge range of businesses.

If you are new to the idea of kiosks, in this blog we will provide a quick overview of where and how they can be used, how they operate and what the benefits to your business might be, helping you to make an informed decision on whether it is time to introduce them in your organization.

Where are kiosks used?

The principle behind a self-service kiosk is straightforward – to provide customers with a means of carrying out actions independently which they would otherwise need a staff member to complete. The most common uses are as self-service payment systems and information points.

Some specific examples include:

  • Grocery self-service checkout  
  • ATM cash machines
  • Automated ordering in restaurants and some retail outlets – McDonald’s and Argos are good examples
  • Product customization in retail, for example to add your own name to a replica football shirt
  • Parking machines
  • Cinema and theatre ticketing
  • Information points and interactive displays at events and exhibitions
  • Photo booths
  • Cashless catering in schools and works canteens 
  • Self-service airport check-in
  • Ticket machines at railway stations and bus terminals

This list is by no means exhaustive, and as kiosk technology has developed, the number of applications continues to increase exponentially. The potential uses across any customer-facing operations are restricted only by your imagination.

How kiosks work  

The earliest self-service kiosks, as seen in ATMs, supermarket checkouts and photobooths, for example, tended to be bespoke, purpose-built pieces of equipment intended for one specific use.

Nowadays things are much more flexible. As long as you have two basic components – a touchscreen device/terminal and appropriate interface software – you can more or less build a kiosk to suit whatever purpose you need.

To illustrate this level of flexibility, many businesses are now using ordinary tablets to create self-service kiosks. However, at AURES we manufacture a range of panels PC products specifically for use in kiosks. The Yuno Kiosk range comes in four touchscreen sizes – 15”, 15.6”, 22” and 27”.

The main benefits these have over tablets is bigger screens for easier use and more robust, durable construction. The powerful fanless processors pack a mean punch in terms of all-round computing performance and are capable of running the most resource-intensive software.

They are designed to be mounted in a variety of ways in permanent or temporary kiosk settings, and their energy efficiency and heat-dissipating aluminium chassis mean they can run constantly over extended periods of time without undue power consumption.

Along with hardware, the other ingredient you need is the right software. Depending on your kiosk purpose, there are hundreds of independent software vendors (ISVs) offering high-quality applications for self service, whether for use on your POS system or on an information kiosk for product lookups and more.

As well as niche ISVs, commercial software developers including Microsoft and Google also offer kiosk platforms, providing ways to create your own kiosk in the likes of Windows 10 and Chrome.

What are the benefits of kiosks?

In an age when consumer choice is one of the big buzzwords in business, self-service kiosks give customers another option for accessing service. Research suggests that in many situations, people prefer self-service to having to ask for help from in-store retail staff.

As the self-service kiosk trend has developed in tandem with increasing internet use,kiosks align the on-premise customer experience with the online shopping experience, meeting consumer expectations for flexible, self-directed buying.  

There are also clear operational benefits for businesses. Kiosks can be used to automate the most routine aspects of customer service – simple sales and order processing, for example, freeing staff to take care of things that add more value. Time saved in POS checkout lines time to interact with customers, focusing on personalizing the experience, cross-selling and up-selling.

Empowering your customers with self-service options allows you to deliver a higher level of service, making kiosks a win-win option all around.