Setting Your Kiosk Project Up for Success

Considering a kiosk project? Clearly defining the audience and purpose of your kiosks before starting out will help maximize your project’s chances of success.

With the increasing prevalence of touch-enabled devices, consumers today expect to be able to touch the screens they see and get a response.

According to a January 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, while 51 percent own a tablet computer 1. This translates to a new level of familiarity and comfort with touch screens and increasing expectations about how technology can be used in our daily lives.

Those expectations are creating tremendous opportunities for interactive kiosks. Such devices can be an important part of a larger strategy to engage this new breed of digital consumers.

When used for patient check-in at a health care facility, kiosks can minimize paperwork and shorten wait times. In a retail outlet, kiosks can expand a store’s offering through “endless aisle” applications that allow customers to order products not carried in the physical store and have those items shipped to their home. In a government setting, kiosks can allow citizens to apply for permits, renew vehicle registrations and pay taxes or other fees. In nearly all cases, the use of a kiosk can allow an organization to speed up service for basic tasks while allowing for staff to be redeployed to hand more complex chores.

Banking trade publication The Financial Brand, for example, recently detailed how kiosks fit into a shift in the financial services industry 2. Upon arriving at a digitally optimized branch, customers would have the option of walking up to a tablet-based kiosk to check in and give a reason for their visit, ensuring they meet with the appropriate person. For simple tasks, customers can approach one of a number of employees walking around the lobby, who can then offer assistance via a tablet they carry with them. The employee can use the tablet’s built-in camera to capture an image of the customer’s identification and any other relevant documents.

For more complicated tasks such as applying for a loan or renting a safety deposit box, the check-in process would alert the appropriate staffer that a customer is waiting. The staffer than then go out and greet the customer by name, ready with the information they need to best serve that customer.

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.

Who is going to use these kiosks?

If the main goal of a kiosk project is to get someone to interact with your kiosks’ content or services, you must know who that someone, that target audience is. Your target audience can affect almost every decision you have to make - from design decisions like your interface, style, and tone to more technical decisions like the hardware platform you choose.

User research can seem daunting, but often this can be as simple as talking to staff and other team members who have direct contact with customers in the areas where you are considering adding kiosks.

Other ways to better understand your audience include meeting with customers to talk about their needs and whether they would use a kiosk. You can also look at any available demographic information or foot-traffic estimates for the proposed area.

In “Studying Those Who Study Us,” anthropologist Diana Forsythe describes a kiosk project created for migraine patients. Patients could walk up to the kiosk and get answers to basic questions either before or after they saw their physician. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, patients didn’t use the kiosks and the project was declared a failure.

So why did the project fail? The designers of the kiosks had skipped talking to any patients, instead relying on an interview with a single doctor to tell them what he thought the patients would want to know.

“The research team simply assumed that what patients wanted to know about migraine was what neurologists want to explain.”

Diana Forsythe, anthropologist 3

In this situation, a kiosk had several benefits - privacy, time, objectivity, but by not adequately understanding the motivations of its target audience, these advantages were easily negated.

Creating an interactive kiosk is a balancing act between your organization’s goals and the goals of your visitors. For a successful project, these goals must overlap, creating an experience that provides value to both parties.

It’s one thing to set up a kiosk to collect visitor information, for example, but quite another to show visitors how they benefit by sharing their information. Without the second piece in place, the kiosk will only receive a fraction of the visits that could otherwise be expected.

What functions will the kiosk serve?

The functionality of a kiosk is generally one of the first things to decide when considering a new kiosk project, and it’s one that is often overlooked. If the plan is to use the kiosk for patient check-in for a clinic or other health care facility, how will the unit integrate with existing back-office software? What about compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act? If they’ll be located in a retail store, will customers be able to pay for their selections at the kiosk? If so, peripherals such as card readers and keyboards will need to be included.

It’s also one part of the process where almost everyone has an opinion. Different team members or departments often have very different priorities when it comes to adding functions to this sort of project. It’s easy to say, “Let’s make a kiosk that does it all!” but it’s often best to keep things simple.

Remember that in most cases, each visitor to your kiosk is a new user - you don’t want to overwhelm them with options. Carefully considering the additional complexity added by each task (and possibly some simple user testing) can help you decide whether a function improves the visitor’s overall experience or satisfies a critical requirement.

The number of options and type of information and/or tasks presented will vary based on the location and turnover required at the kiosk. A kiosk at a busy tradeshow would likely have more streamlined functionality (and faster average turnover) than an informational display in a gallery or museum.

If most people already own a smartphone, wouldn’t it be easier to just develop a mobile app?

In 2010, the CEO of a retail technology company predicted the demise of the self-service kiosk, with mobile apps delivering the death blow 4. Today, both mobile apps and kiosks are experiencing tremendous growth. A recent Research and Markets report predicts the market for interactive kiosks will see a compound annual growth rate of 5.69 percent over the next six years, reaching $30.5 billion by 2023 5. At the same time, market researcher App Annie found that people spent a collective 1.6 trillion hours within mobile apps in 2016 — a 50 percent increase compared with the previous year 6. The firm predicts that growth will continue, with time spent in apps expected to more than double to 3.5 trillion hours in 2021.

Clearly, there’s an opportunity in the marketplace for both kiosks and mobile apps, and there are a few simple reasons why mobile apps won’t replace kiosks.

  1. Unless it’s a place they visit on a regular basis, most consumers aren’t likely to go through the trouble of downloading an app if that location already features a self-service kiosk.
  2. Many people use multiple payment cards and aren’t going to want to go through the hassle of entering a new card number in an app on each visit.
  3. There is always going to be a segment of the population who choose not to use a mobile app. Research firm comScore found in a 2016 study that fully half of smartphone users never download any apps 7.

In some cases, poor cellular service and/or WiFi connectivity may make the use of a smartphone app difficult in some locations. In addition, there may be cases where the deployer wants to keep certain information on their own machines. In those cases, a kiosk may make better business sense.

In light of those statistics and concerns, it only makes sense to offer customers a kiosk as an additional self-service channel.

Some parting thoughts

The bottom line? People are busy; if your kiosk doesn’t help them in some clear way they’ll go elsewhere.

Clearly defining the purpose for a kiosk project and the audience those kiosks will serve is instrumental in achieving project success. In addition, knowing exactly how you will define success is something that should be determined in the initial planning stages.

While it can be easy to gloss over these questions, taking the time to answer them early on can simplify the entire process for you and your team, increase engagement with your kiosks and result in a better experience for your visitors.


1. Source: Pew Research Center

2. Source: The Financial Brand

3. Source: Studying Those Who Study Us

4. Source: Retail Customer Experience

5. Source: Business Wire

6. Source: Project Disco

7. Source: ComScore

Need help with your next project?

With over 30 years of experience designing interactive kiosks, we know what works. We’ve developed solutions for hundreds of interpretive exhibits, transactional kiosks, sales exhibits, and training programs.

We’re ready to start a conversation about your specific needs and how working with Kiosk Group can set your project up for success.