14 November 2018

In our last blog, we offered a quick help-yourself introduction to self-service kiosks, explaining where they are most commonly used, how they work and briefly touching on the benefits.

If that article answered the question ‘What is a kiosk?’ then the follow up we tend to hear from retailers is: ‘What’s in it for me?’ As a self-service kiosk marks something of a radical departure from traditional point of sale systems for most retailers, this is a very valid point well worth expanding on.

In this article, we will dig deeper into the operational benefits kiosks offer to retailers, starting with a key point we touched on last time out – automation.

Freeing up staff time

A lot of what happens at point of sale, at least as far as processing a purchase goes, is purely down to administration. Retail has always functioned with members of staff punching prices into a till, scanning barcodes, initiating payment and handing over a receipt simply because there has been no alternative.

Now, technology allows all of these things to be automated and managed directly by the customer, freeing up staff time to focus on service and other value-added activities.

A self-service kiosk includes all of the equipment required to process a sale independently of a member of staff – a touchscreen for navigating through the sales process, a payment device / card reader, a printer and, if required, a barcode scanner.

Some retailers will rightly point out that POS is not always purely about processing sales, and there are valuable aspects of service that machines cannot replicate. In electronics retail, for example, POS might offer an important opportunity to talk about product care or warranties.

The key here is for individual businesses to decide whether or not kiosks would fit with their operational priorities at point of sale.

Self-service checkout has become very popular in grocery retail, for example, as supermarkets focus on processing shopping baskets as quickly and efficiently as possible. Automation makes sense, especially as there is little scope for upselling or providing other value-added services at the supermarket checkout. The fact that many now offer a mix of staffed and self-service options is mainly to suit shoppers’ preferences.

Marketing opportunities

Self-service kiosks offer retailers a valuable piece of real estate – a digital screen. And wherever there is a screen, there is an opportunity to advertise.

Kiosks are highly flexible in the range of marketing opportunities they offer. Instead of lying dormant when they are not being used – i.e. when a customer is not using one to make a purchase – the screens can be put to good use to run promotional items of your choosing, be it graphics, animations or videos.

Kiosks also offer excellent marketing opportunities at point of sale. This can be a fixed promotion which automatically appears to every customer, or up- and cross-selling activities can be linked to CRM and marketing platforms to make customised or even personalised recommendations.

Automated Ticket Machines (ATMs) in cinemas, for example, are routinely used to encourage customers to visit the concessions counter to buy snacks and drinks. In other areas of retail, recommendations might be based on items the customer is scanning, or even on an individual’s purchasing history if they have presented some kind of loyalty card to identify themselves.

Finally, kiosks can also be run as multi-use resources combining EPOS, customer information / service and marketing. Touchscreen kiosks are ideal for providing interactive platforms where customers can not only look up product information, they can also access a range of multimedia promotional materials which will help establish a connection with your brand and strengthen sales leads.

Hassle-free maintenance

We will finish with a feature of self-service kiosks which helps to alleviate one of the common concerns retailers have about them – maintenance. With members of staff not using them regularly, what are the protocols for spotting and reporting faults? What if a glitch develops and, unnoticed, develops into something really serious that brings the whole system down?

Unlike most models, AURES kiosks come with remote monitoring software as standard. Remote monitoring takes over the role of checking operational performance. Using a set of parameters which indicate a required operational level, AURES kiosks report live status updates on the hardware stack (the machines, the electronics etc) and the software stack (the application, operating system and anti-virus software) direct to a Helpdesk.

Should a glitch be identified, an engineer can be dispatched to rectify the problem before the outlet even realises there is a fault. Overall, taking out the human element, and the risk that a fault won’t even be spotted, is a very efficient way to maintain equipment.