Oct. 25, 2017

The "Media Creator" kiosk from Ideum allows content to be displayed that is associated with the establishment. Photo courtesy of Ideum.

Akshay Sharma, a kiosk industry consultant, specialized in telecom kiosks at Beesion, and currently specializes in hospitality and video gaming kiosks at Grubbrr and GoodWorldGames. He is a former Gartner analyst and smartphone CTO.

By Akshay Sharma

Restaurant, retail and hospitality enterprises typically integrate self-serve kiosks and tablets with point and click order management, point of sale systems and supply chain management software. However, the most important features of interactive kiosks and tablets are the customer facing ones.

In many cases, the intent of investing in such interactive tools is to simplify the enterprise's transition to newer resource tracking and workforce management, along with support for newer payment services. These investments are also made with the expectation they will increase customer satisfaction and reduce operating costs.

The biggest benefit to restaurant, hospitality and retail establishments, however, is the help interactive kiosks and tablets provide in selling newer products and services to customers, such as video games and apparel.

Such platforms usually integrate with legacy management services and have APIs to newer platforms, such as third party sites like UberEats.

Essential features

The essential features should include the following:

  • Provide a more interactive experience for customers through the use of touchscreen technology.
  • Support complete security and staff authentication, as well logging all transactions. This should be done in a user-friendly manner that speeds the login process with biometrics, smart cards or multi-factor authentication on mobile devices for customers and staff alike.
  • Provide additional services to customers such as click-to-chat, call or enable newer video services.
  • Facilitate in-store cataloging.
  • Provide customers with access to all products and services.
  • Manage loyalty programs.
  • Offer gift cards.
  • Provide self-checkout.
  • Provide printed contracts, tickets, receipts, boarding passes, etc.
  • Advertise products and services.
  • Provide event information.
  • Support newer payment approaches for mobile pay, QR code coupons from mobile devices, and possibly cryptocurrencies.

Consider platform variances

It is important to recognize that not all point-of-sale platforms, order management platforms and electronic kiosks are alike. Some allow for personalized recommendations, faster check-out and seamless fulfillment.

While some self-serve platforms are more resource management oriented, others provide restricted menus that are more suited for video gaming and streaming. These include newer combo tables that include TVs, video gaming consoles, and kiosks that look like a big waterproofed, scratch-proofed and shatter-proofed iPad table.

Some are more customer relations oriented with a 360-degree view of the subscriber, enabling the customer to browse offers and special promotions and check available inventory.

Customer management features

A checklist of features for self-serve kiosks and tablets should include the above, along with a customer management platform that allows information managers to perform routine tasks more efficiently. The following customer management features should also be included:

  • Personal and contact information for all accounts.
  • Subscriber authentication, ideally with biometrics.
  • Services, offers, orders and rewards management.
  • Notifications.
  • Account history.
  • Video gaming services that can be charged on demand.
  • Video streaming services for free or video-on-demand paid-for-content.
  • Targeted ad insertion.
  • Unified communications support for VoIP, chat and contact center interaction.
  • Support for Wi-Fi, near field communication beacons and Bluetooth, with encryption support and secure credit card transactions.
  • Support for IoT sensors such as beacons for incoming customers (at a drive-thru, for example), as well as IoT tracking of inventories.
  • Support for online purchases, as well as smartphone purchases, and easier integration to third party platforms such as UberEats, with open and secure interfaces.
  • Resiliency built in to perform while the network is down, with back up tablets or kiosks synced as needed.

Optional features include:

  • Tablet operation of robot greeters like Sanbot or Softbank's Pepper.
  • Artificial intelligence interfaces to IBM Watson or another AI engine.
  • Facial recognition to not only identify customers but to also identify customer facial expressions that identify mood and recommend newer products and services.
  • Support for blockchain technology (while not required initially, a roadmap to getting there could be good) for leveraging this technology's desired features of cryptographic trust.
  • Support for newer display technologies like larger digital signage, as well newer AR/VR devices.

Ideally, the platform is drag-and-drop, allowing for run-time changes, with a policy based rules engine spread across multiple applications. The platform should be capable of running on its own without internet connectivity, but it should also support cloud-based operations and analytics functions showing what's trending, what's in excess, and who is doing what from a staff management perspective.

Notification to charities and resource tracking of what is being donated can be a nice differentiator.

Consider analytics and AI

Analytics, rules engines and artificial intelligence engines can help with actionable advice or actions. Such actions include:

  • Trend analysis on what's selling and what's not, with proactive order management to suppliers.
  • Monitoring inconsistent usage and wasted inventory by location, correlated to staff involved.
  • Staff management and tracking.
  • Table management and tracking.
  • Excess inventory management with notification to charities and tracking for tax purposes or public relations purposes.
  • Customer survey support such as Net Performer Scores or other ways for capturing customer feedback.

The platform should show the ROI from a total cost of ownership perspective, the operational savings amassed, and the revenues that occurred from newer services like video gaming on demand.

Above all, the platform must be easy to use for both customers and staff, with intuitive order taking, easy drag-and-drop interfaces for customizing newer products and services, and easy to comprehend analytics reporting. The platform should also support the latest cybersecurity functions, and be resilient to network issues and/or kiosk/tablet outages.


Topics: Check-in/Check-out kiosks, Commentary, Customer Experience, Interactive / Touchscreen, Internet Access Kiosk, Internet of Things, Networking / Connectivity, Restaurants, Retail, Self-Checkout, Software


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