Kiosks help ready families for photos with Santa

| by Elliot Maras
Kiosks help ready families for photos with Santa

A child reserves her photo with Santa at Metrotown Mall. Photo courtesy of Qwick Media.

Getting the kids' pictures taken with Santa isn't something harried parents look forward to when doing their Christmas shopping. But at the Metrotown Mall in Burnaby, British Columbia, the task is less cumbersome thanks to registration kiosks that let people reserve their Santa photo ops. 

A parent registers her information and makes a donation.

A series of kiosks built into the Metrotown Mall's "Santaland" has cut down the amount of time waiting in line, which can be as long as three hours during the busiest days.

In mid November, three kiosks are built into imitation icicle rocks along the walkway leading to Santa's lair. Come Nov. 23, Santa starts posing with kids every day until Christmas.

Reservations made easy

To register youngsters for their photos, parents enter their names, phone numbers and emails on the kiosk, then make a donation (minimum $3) to a local charity.

Once the registration is complete, the family can leave the line and go shopping until Santa is almost ready for them. A text message alerts them five minutes before they need to be in the express lane for Santa. They check in by giving their phone number to the attendant.

Once the kids' pictures are taken with Santa, the photographer emails them a link they can use to download their photos. Most families choose four to six pictures for each child.

"It's all automatically done by the photographer; it's just click, click, click," said Ross Tocher, CEO of Qwick Media, which provides the kiosks. "By the time they're walking down the ramp to leave Santa's castle, their photos are on their email."

The kiosks are built into the decorative icicles.

Kiosks help with donations

Stephen D'Souza, executive director of Burnaby Community Services, which operates the Burnaby Christmas Bureau that receives the donations for the photos, appreciates the kiosks.

"It makes it more convenient for those families who want to get in and out," said D'Souza, whose organization provides toys for children from low income families in addition to other services. "We get a significant amount of funding from the photos with Santa."

The donations have increased every year, even before the kiosks were installed five years ago, but D'Souza thinks the kiosks have made the picture taking more convenient for families.

D'Souza registered his own daughter for a picture a couple of years ago. He has since decided to wait in line since his daughter actually prefers spending more time in line.

"It's quite a social thing," D'Souza said for his daughter. But for many families, he's glad to have the kiosks since most do not want to spend hours in line if they don't need to.

Without the kiosk, families could easily spend an extra hour waiting to see Santa, said Tocher of Qwick Media.

Digital signage advertises the photos with Santa.

More than 100,000 pictures in one season

Last year, more than 26,000 sets of photos were processed in 23 days — over 1,000 per day, Tocher said. Given that each child had four or five pictures taken, this translates into a total of more than 100,000 pictures.

The families aren't the only ones who appreciate the convenience. Having fewer people in line takes stress off of the mall's employees.

"It's alleviated a lot of tension, made the experience more enjoyable, brought down the cost and streamlined it," Tocher said. "And it has increased the throughput."

If a customer accidentally deletes their photos, Qwick Media can retrieve them.

Tocher did not have any numbers on the change in throughput, but he said the mall has continued to invite Qwick Media back every year since the relationship began five years ago.

The company begins preparing for the project in July. The display is assembled in mid November and disassembled right after Christmas Day. 

Photos courtesy of Qwick Media Inc.

Topics: Customer Experience, Retail

Companies: Qwick Media, Inc.

Elliot Maras
Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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