Kiosks changing the game in more industries

| by Elliot Maras
Kiosks changing the game in more industries

Image courtesy of iStock

It’s getting harder all the time to find an industry where kiosks aren’t finding an application of some type. In some industries, kiosks are becoming a game changer.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit a General Motors cafeteria at lunchtime and noticed that there was no wait line at the pickup counter. Only groups of people happily eating at their tables. A new self-order kiosk from a relatively new startup, Digital Checkouts, now allows the employees to order and pay for orders without having to wait at a serving counter or pay at a cashier.

This is only the latest example of kiosks making everyday tasks more convenient.

The power of self-serve kiosks

The foodservice kiosk that eliminates waiting in line to place an order and paying at a cashier could easily revitalize an employee cafeteria industry that has been declining for decades.

The fact that a small refreshment services provider, Sterling Services, based in Canton, Michigan, was able to use this kiosk to win business from major automobile manufacturers (including both GM and Ford) attests to the importance of kiosk innovation. Major industrial employee cafeteria accounts typically go to corporate foodservice giants like Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo.

This self-serve foodservice kiosk represents a repositioning of the micro market kiosk, an effort that began about 10 years ago when a few enterprising vending operators began working with grocery self-checkout kiosk manufacturers to develop a similar system for employee break rooms. The micro market is a self-contained store in a location without an employee to monitor it. It provides greater product variety to employees with less overhead than traditional vending machines.

Micro markets have given new life to the refreshment services industry, which took a big hit during the Great Recession due to corporate downsizing. Bachtelle & Associates, a research and consulting firm for the industry, has projected that there will be 35,000 micro market locations generating $2.1 billion in revenue by the year 2022.

But the micro market kiosk and the self-serve food kiosk are only a few of many examples of kiosks invigorating established industries.

One of many examples

Not long ago, Amazon came up with a self-serve kiosk known as Amazon Locker. Customers can opt to have their packages delivered to a secure locker at a participating retail store such as a 7-Eleven instead of their home. Once their package is delivered to the Amazon Locker, customers receive an email with a pickup code and the address and open times for their selected locker. The customer then goes to that location and enters the pickup code on the kiosk touchscreen to retrieve their order.

In another example, Staples deployed kiosks in its "omnichannel stores," a move that allowed the company to cut the size of its stores in half and provide access to many products not on the stores’ shelves. The kiosks offer product information that can help shoppers identify the items they need based on their past Staples purchases. The customer can then use a credit card to purchase these items at the kiosk, bypassing the checkout counter.

In yet another example, Starbucks developed its self-serve "Interactive Cup Brewer" as a way to maintain quality control in serving whole-bean coffees, teas and hot cocoa one cup at a time. The specialty coffee giant integrated what's known in the coffee trade as "bean-to-cup" brewer technology into a touchscreen kiosk. The bean-to-cup system grinds beans that sit in a hopper within the kiosk. The kiosk allows consumers to serve themselves and pay via credit or debit card.

There seems to be no limit to the potential kiosk technology has to improve peoples' lives.

Topics: Customer Experience, Employee Self-Service, Retail, Self-Checkout, Successful Kiosk Projects, Trends / Statistics

Elliot Maras
Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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