A kiosk network is a big investment. Answering a few key questions before embarking on that project can help ensure success.
Although the benefits of a self-service kiosk are many, ensuring the success of a kiosk project requires some advance planning.
The first step requires looking carefully at your expected user base and determining how and why they might engage with a kiosk. According to management training firm The Learning Tree, in order to define and fully understand a project’s value deployers need to look at the business drivers and issues to determine if the project is even needed 1. The business need sets the stage for what comes next.
Once you’ve determined who your user base will be and what purpose the kiosk will serve, the next move will be to look at what you’ll need to execute your project.
Here are some of the key questions to answer when it comes to considering a kiosk deployment:
1. How many kiosks will I need to meet visitor demand?
A recent report by Transparency Market Research predicts that the global kiosk market will grow at a 10.9 percent compound annual rate over the next several years, reaching $30.8 billion by 2024 2. Key drivers of that growth will be improvements in the customer experience and increased efficiency for the business deploying those kiosks.
Part of accomplishing those tasks includes reducing customer lines and shortening wait times. If a business doesn’t incorporate enough kiosks to address those issues, they could actually end up complicating them instead of solving them. On the other hand, deploying so many kiosks that some go unused is a wasted investment.
The number of kiosks you’ll need will depend on a number of variables, including physical placement, visitor flow, the time it takes the average visitor to interact with your content and the necessity/timeliness of the interaction.
A deployment where visitors are being asked to fill out a long survey, for example, might require more kiosks than one where they are just being asked to enter their email. In deployments where visitors are required to use kiosks such as event registration, more kiosks are needed to prevent long wait times and visitor frustration.
For tasks such as hotel or medical facility check-in, where the process is relatively quick and the visitor also has the option of going to a counter, fewer kiosks may be able to handle the flow.
Often, a pilot of a few kiosks can help establish the average length of a visitor session and the number of visitor interactions you can expect in a particular setting.
2. Where will they be located?
With businesses often concerned with ensuring the kiosk will improve the customer experience, it can be easy to overlook the importance of kiosk placement. Ultimately, kiosks need to be located where they can best serve their intended customers.
Kiosk location will often be determined by looking at the kiosk’s purpose. A kiosk deployment where visitors can use a kiosk to check the price of any item through a barcode scan, for example, would need kiosk stations distributed throughout the store to provide more uniform coverage and easier access to visitors. Conversely, a deployment where kiosks are used to share extra information about a specific product would likely require those kiosks to be concentrated in a single area near those products.
"If the kiosk's purpose is providing information, then the best place is either a high-traffic area or the store area where customers have the most questions. It makes little sense to have centralized answer kiosks when the bulk of the questions are for a specific area of the store.
If you have several areas where customers might have frequent questions, position the answer kiosks consistently so customers know where to look to get the information they need to make buying decisions.
Greg Buzek, president of Franklin, Tennessee-based research firm IHL Group 3
Determining where your kiosks will be best placed will also give you a better idea of the form your kiosks will take. Will they be located in an area where counter space is available, or do you need a free-standing option?
You’ll also need to consider if the kiosks will be placed in a permanent location, or if they will need to be moved regularly. The answer to that question will rule in or out options such as wall-mounted or counter-mounted kiosks that are better suited for permanent or semi-permanent installations.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the logistics of the location you’ve selected. Are there power outlets available for each kiosk? Is there a strong Wi-Fi or cellular data network?
While there are options and workarounds in either case, it’s good to keep these issues in mind when moving forward with the project.
3. How will I accommodate disabled users?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans cope with some form of disability, with half of those defining that disability as severe 4. Considering those figures, not making an effort to accommodate those potential customers can be a costly oversight, both in terms of lost revenue and government penalties.
Unfortunately, ensuring a self-service kiosk is in compliance with regulations governing accessibility can be a complicated task. In general, compliance means that a kiosk needs to be useable by all of its customers, no matter what their physical challenges may be.
Americans with Disabilities Act regulations apply to any facilities open to the general public. Not being in compliance with these regulations requiring access for the disabled puts an organization at risk for bad publicity at best and costly legal action at worst.
Additional regulations beyond the ADA may also apply - for example, if the kiosk deployer is a federal agency, they’ll need to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which adds other specific requirements.
Still, it takes specialized knowledge to create a kiosk that complies with ADA regulations. As such, ensuring a kiosk is accessible for disabled users is something best done in partnership with legal experts and an experience kiosk vendor.
4. Do I need any peripherals like printers, barcode scanners or secondary monitors?
While adding a peripheral device can add complexity to a project up front, it also has the potential to significantly improve the user experience for your visitors.
Think about how peripherals might streamline the visitor experience. For example, being able to swipe a credit card rather than manually type in the card information can make a difference in the number of visitors who are able to use the kiosk to complete a transaction.
And if the kiosk performs a transaction, users might wish to receive a paper receipt for that transaction.
The addition of peripherals can also prompt additional maintenance concerns. Incorporating a printer into a kiosk, for example, will require the addition of a maintenance program to keep those printers supplied with paper and operating flawlessly.
Peripherals can also increase the reach of your kiosk. Showing videos on a larger secondary monitor can attract visitors to your kiosk and allow more visitors to share the experience at the same time.
5. How will I provide connectivity?
Getting the most from a kiosk deployment often means being able to provide access to online services, such as a store’s catalogue, directory or calendar of events. Increasingly, kiosks are also supporting payments and other transactions that require a connection to a backend server.
Offering those capabilities requires some form of connectivity. That could be in the form of a wired Ethernet connection, WiFi access or a cellular data plan. In some cases, it may not be possible to provide a hard-wired connection, while in others the structure of a building may create problems with WiFi or cellular access. Addressing those issues will be critical to the success of the deployment.
If payment or other secure transactions will be conducted via the kiosk, network security and PCI compliance will become a top concern.
If bandwidth is an issue, a deployer might wish to store as much content as possible on the kiosk itself to reduce reliance on the connection and speed up access. If that’s the case, tablet memory will be a factor in equipment choice. In most cases, even when storing content locally on the device, it’s possible to skip the top tier storage options and save some money by using a less expensive tablet.
And if the function of the kiosk relies on having “always on” connectivity, an operator may wish to incorporate both a hard-wired connection as well as a cellular connection. If the hard-wired connection goes down, the cellular connection can serve as failover protection.
The addition of cellular connectivity also makes it easy to set up kiosks in temporary locations, such as an outdoor festival or short-term office space, making it easy to provide kiosk functionality at a moment’s notice. In the event of a storm or other natural disaster that requires significant rebuilding, for example, a municipality can set up kiosks for contractors to apply for building permits, redeploying those kiosks to various locations as needs dictate.
On a side note, it’s often possible to buy tablets for a reduced price from a cellular provider in exchange for signing a data plan contract with that provider. And if connectivity is critical to the organization’s operations, a cellular data plan can serve as failover protection, taking over for the WiFi or hard-wired connection in the event of a network outage.
6. What sort of signage and/or branding will I need?
Businesses often to have a kiosk match its surroundings in terms of corporate colors for the enclosure and company logos on the attractor screen, but occasionally there is a need for additional ways of drawing in users.
Static signage can be key to encourage visitors to take advantage of the kiosk. For example, a sign near the entrance or near the kiosk itself might say something along the lines of “In a hurry? Try our new self-service kiosks!” It could even be something as simple as “Check in here.”
Of course, in the first few weeks of a deployment it might also be helpful to have a “self-service ambassador” stationed near the kiosks to help first-timers through the process.
And if the kiosk is going to be placed in a location outside the deployer’s normal place of business, it might be helpful to wrap the enclosure in some sort of branding to help identify its purpose. For example, a newsletter signup kiosk at a pop-up store where users are entered for a drawing to win a gift certificate or other prize. Branding on the kiosk would provide a call to action and draw people to the kiosk.
Coming into focus
As with any major project, issues can pop up that serve to prompt last-minute changes and unforeseen expenses. The challenge in making an investment in a kiosk network is to plan thoroughly, keeping those unexpected issues to a minimum.
Addressing these questions can help you know exactly what to expect when embarking on a kiosk project and ensure you and your team are prepared for any situation that may arise.
1. Source: The Learning Tree
2. Source: ATM Marketplace
3. Source: Kiosk Marketplace
4. Source: U.S. Census Bureau