What’s in store for 2017? Part 3: Innovation calls for more customer education
While the kiosk industry is generally upbeat about growth prospects in 2017, industry members agree that evolving technology raises the need for more customer education. As technology improves, kiosk customers need to be educated about new capabilities and in some cases, the impact of new requirements, such as EMV.
The need for customer education is especially important in 2017 on account of the perception among some that kiosks are killing jobs, as noted in part 1 of this series.
Laura Boniello Miller, director of marketing at KioWare Software Analytical Design Solutions, Inc., a kiosk software provider, said the challenge of addressing this issue is not the kiosk industry’s alone. Automation is changing many industries.
"This is a much bigger question than the kiosk industry itself," she said. "Manufacturing gives us a case study for how automation is perceived, how it impacts jobs, and whether or not any of that impacts intent, purchasing decisions, or organizational decision making."
"In short, the car industry has automated in order to lower costs, maintain competitive pricing and improve quality," Miller said. "While the number of low-skilled jobs has decreased, higher skilled jobs (those in engineering, design, and machinery) continue to thrive. In the end, consumers do not look at the number of employees at a particular automotive plant before purchasing their vehicle. There is no stopping the move toward automation, and kiosks alone are not at the root of automation, nor are they the largest or most prominent industry to benefit."
"Kiosks don't kill jobs," said Ziver Berg, CEO of Zivelo, a technology provider that offers self-service kiosk and digital signage solutions. "Unlike mechanical automation (robots), the primary role of a kiosk is not to replace the physical capabilities of a human. The primary role of a kiosk is to enhance the consumer experience. They do this both directly and indirectly."
"Kiosks directly improve consumer experiences by providing a highly relevant experience via an extremely efficient platform," Berg said. "Indirectly, consumers benefit because self-service kiosks allow businesses to offload repetitive tasks and satisfy basic customer expectations, so that employees can be redeployed to better anticipate and exceed customer needs while creating brand evangelists."
Two main user groups
As technology improves, the kiosk industry has to educate two main user groups about the benefits kiosks provides – the locations that host kiosks and the consumers that interact with them.
Todd Marcelle, founder and CEO of GoMoto Inc., a cloud-based, customer engagement technology provider for automotive dealer showrooms, sees customer education as the greatest challenge going forward.
"Why do you need to have self-service technology in your service lane, like airports, like banks, like grocery stores?" Marcelle said. "Why do you need to have the self-service technology that can help you facilitate the transaction on the show room floor? Cut out two hours of your buying experience."
Customer education is important in facilitating EMV compliance, some observers said. Companies that use kiosks are becoming aware they need payment equipment that is EMV-compliant, but they are not necessarily aware of everything this entails.
"Currently, many customers simply come to us saying that they want EMV, when in reality, they don’t fully know what that entails," said Liz Mezzano, sales/account manager at SlabbKiosks, a kiosk manufacturer and distributor. "We have to help them understand what steps they will need to do with us and with their payment processors to ensure that they have the right equipment and the right back-end support."
Educating customers about EMV compliance has not been an issue for Technik Manufacturing, a custom kiosk manufacturer. "We just need to find out who their gateway is and find out what software packages they’ve written for what hardware," said Doug Obal, the company’s director of sales and marketing. "We are driven by the gateway, the processor, on what hardware we need to spec into the kiosk."
New capabilities emerge
New capabilities require more customer education.
"2016 has been a great year, and with the addition of the KioCall video conferencing kiosk app (being released in early 2017), we believe remote video capabilities will create an even larger opportunity for organizations looking to leverage resources – particularly personnel – across markets," said Miller of KioWare Kiosk Software Analytical Design Solutions.
"For financial institutions to see successful user adoption, a page should be taken from the airline operation book," said Suzi McNicholas, vice president of marketing at Source Technologies, a provider of integrated solutions for financial transactions and other business processes. "When check-in kiosks were first introduced, the airlines made sure staff were available to welcome customers, introduce them to the technology and show them how to use it. It took time and consistency, but the kiosks were hugely successful and remain so today. Placing a kiosk in a branch is not enough. Financial institutions must dedicate the time and staff to teach their customers how to use the technology for this self-service channel to be successful."
Automotive kiosks become a specialty
Informational kiosks for automobile showrooms are not new, but the technology continues to evolve, and the customer base needs to be educated about some of the new benefits available.
GoMoto Inc., a cloud-based, customer engagement technology provider that launched in 2015, has developed a kiosk for auto dealer showrooms that offers more benefits than earlier automotive kiosks. Todd Marcelle, founder and CEO, said the company recognized that automobile OEM kiosks did not provide a good customer experience, and in many cases, were not well serviced by the OEMs. The GoMoto kiosk allows the dealer to provide information about different car brands using one kiosk instead of needing a separate kiosk for each brand.
Marcelle estimated at least 80 percent of dealerships do not have a customer facing technology. "The adoption curve is super slow, and it has been in the last five years," he said.
GoMoto’s software integrates with the dealership’s sales and service processes, Marcelle said. The solution includes analytics that allow the dealer to measure how well the kiosk is being used.
Marcelle said ecommerce is making consumers more comfortable with self-service solutions.
Micro markets expand, face a new challenge
The micro market, a kiosk-based system that serves food and refreshments at worksites, hotels and other heavily-trafficked locations, continues a healthy growth curve, indicating the marketers of these systems have done a good job educating the customer base. But new challenges have recently emerged in this market.
A micro market is a self-contained store in a location without an employee to monitor it. It includes freestanding storage, such as shelves that hold product, and a self-checkout kiosk. The customer scans their package and pays at the checkout kiosk. The micro market offers significantly more variety than a vending machine bank.
However, a threat to micro markets has recently emerged in the form of mobile app-based product ordering systems that do not include payment kiosks. The location's employees can download the mobile apps and purchase products in the market by scanning barcodes with their smart phones and pay using their credit, debit or prepaid accounts.
These kiosk-less markets allow a location to offer food and refreshments at less cost than the established micro markets systems that have kiosks.
Aaron Speagle, CEO of Breakroom Provisions, a micro market provider, pointed out that the kiosk-less systems do not have a way to record the purchases at the point of sale. Micro market systems with kiosks, by contrast, require employees to make purchases at the kiosk that records the purchase and oftentimes has a surveillance camera monitoring the purchases.
"There's no true way right now to control theft with mobile shopping," he said with regard to the new kiosk-less markets.
The micro market industry has to educate customers about all the benefits it provides in response to this competitive threat.
Urban wayfinding expands
As technology creates new opportunities, kiosk manufacturers and integrators in some cases need to do a better job educating themselves about how the technology needs to be managed. Urban wayfinding kiosks expanded in 2016. Customer acceptance has faced some issues because the designers did not fully anticipate how the kiosks would be used.
Kiosks offering free Wi-Fi, cell phone charging and internet access caused problems in New York city. Residents complained about people watching porn at the kiosks, prompting LinkNYC, the company that deployed the kiosks, to cut off internet browser use.
Michael Ionescu, founder of Ionescu Technologies, said the entrance of large corporations that want to control the flow of information in urban environments poses a new factor in the kiosk marketplace. These corporations want to use the data from the kiosks for their own marketing purposes.
"Businesses are seeing the value of all of this consumer information," Ionescu said. The Wi-Fi kiosk polls information about anyone who walks by who has a smart phone, whether or not they log into the Wi-Fi network. "We really don’t have a choice whether or not all of that (information) that gets collected anymore,” he said.
Companies that deploy Wi-Fi kiosks that gather information from consumers whether or not they log into the Wi-Fi network need to consider all of the ramifications of this new technology and how the consumer information will be managed.
(Image courtesy of iStock.com)
Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.