As you’ve probably realized by now (if you’ve been tuned into the Your Edge blog or Zebra’s social media conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook), mobile technologies play a key role in delivering the types of services – and the quality of service – that today’s customers expect. It does not matter if your “service” is provided in a factory, warehouse, airport, hospital, field environment, hotel, restaurant or retail store: it has become essential to equip workers with smartphones, tablets, scanners and other mobile devices that enable them to quickly do things such as locate inventory, track baggage, confirm a patient’s identity or diagnose and repair a utility outage – as well as much, much more.
In fact, mobility has proven to be one of the best ways to enhance customer experiences. But it is not the only way.
Believe it or not, interactive kiosks are increasing in popularity among consumers and businesses alike, especially in retail and hospitality in the EMEA, BRIC and APAC regions. Though not technically “mobile,” wirelessly connected kiosks can sync with a shopper’s mobile device or link to his or her loyalty account to deliver highly-personalised, profile-based customer experiences, moving beyond a basic information provision or a simple ‘checking in’ facility. More advanced models often utilise Android™ mobile architecture to provide 3D content and features such as multi-touch and gesture tracking, further expanding the “fixed” technology’s potential applicability in enterprise environments where the goal is to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales.
The role of the kiosk is not to replace the human element in these verticals. On the contrary, retailers need their teams on the ground to evolve into highly engaged brand ambassadors. Kiosks can free up or divert attendants to where they are most needed to achieve this. Having said this, there will be customers who prefer to interact with a kiosk instead of a person. Perhaps they have communication difficulties or sensitive needs and feel more comfortable in the privacy of a kiosk without time pressure or queues of people causing further distress or anxiety. This is a key reason why kiosks need to be accessible, as well as sophisticated enough, to engage a range of customer profiles and optimise sales opportunities. Since shoppers now consider their smartphones to be a shopping tool as essential as credit cards, the more advanced kiosks must work in the same familiar way as a phone or tablet (i.e. immediate response, intuitive swiping, zooming, etc.) but offer much more than a mobile device. For example, kiosks must be able to provide:
- Speed and convenience – they must effectively reduce queues (lines) and waiting times
- Control and choice – per Zebra’s latest Shopper Vision Study, 62 percent of shoppers prefer to order out-of-stock items in the store and have their purchases delivered, but only 34 percent of retail associates are providing this service when they are unable to fulfil the request in store
- Accurate, real-time information that is easily retrievable – interfaces must be intuitive voice and video interactions should be available for live, virtual help
- Personalisation – shoppers indicate that they still prefer in-store shopping over online shopping, albeit when they are given more ways to gain value than in-store shopping has traditionally offered
- Shortcuts for printing coupons, tickets or gift registry lists
- Detailed product information including demos, comparisons, reviews or how-to-videos
- Continuous company presence and frictionless experience – in order for the kiosk to be effective, it must provide excellent customer service that bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping transactions
A Mobile Shopping App May Not Be Able Keep a Customer from Walking Out the Door Empty Handed, but a Personal (and Private) Kiosk Concierge Just Might
Consider a typical retail changing room scenario where an interactive kiosk is not installed. The customer is left to their own devices (literally), particularly during busy periods. They rely on a store associate to be nearby for access to a room or assistance locating alternative sizes. Often, they have to join the line to order or enquire about products they can’t find in the store themselves. But, if the line is too long, they will likely walk away.
Even though mobile apps have made many shoppers self-sufficient, not every mobile shopping experience is as intuitive as customers need or want. E-commerce has conditioned shoppers to expect certain levels of value and convenience, and retailers admit that their brands are falling behind these expectations in their brick-and-mortar locations. When visiting a store, shoppers expect new experiences and enhanced service to help them make an informed purchase. With an interactive kiosk acting as their concierge, customers can scan garments to read product reviews, check stock and gain inspiration for complementary items or alternative styles – things that are not always thoroughly achievable a mobile device. And kiosks that instantly pair with a shoppers’ own mobile devices to send personalised offers could potentially increase basket value for the retailer. As could versatile apps that more quickly connect customers with associates. For example, a customer in a changing room or at the bakery counter could immediately contact an associate to request assistance retrieving an item versus having to wait until the person is within talking range to tell them what you need and then having to wait again for them to retrieve it. The associate knows exactly what to bring to the customer, saving the extra trip back and forth – and time.
Making “Fast Food” Service Even Faster – or At Least Seem That Way
In hospitality settings, such as a restaurant, the key role of the interactive kiosk is to act as a virtual waiter to inform, upsell and cross sell. Armed with more real-time information than a human could retain, kiosk technology can manage expectations and enhance the customer experience by making culinary suggestions, providing allergy/nutritional information and live updates. The kiosks work to eradicate pain points of queuing, unexpected waiting time or choosing a meal that is sold out or unavailable.
A seamless, engaging experience can be offered via age-specific entertainment to help pass the time while food is being prepared, especially for younger guests. And prompts for additional food or beverage orders in a few swipes minimize the perception that service is poor, especially in a sit-down restaurant when the server is busy and out of sight at the very moment a customer is ready to order.
Vouchers (barcodes or QR codes) would also be accommodated, ensuring that customers don’t have to wait to interact with a human to complete their transaction, and enterprises would have a new way to capitalise on targeted advertising opportunities. For example, there are shopping apps – as well as gastro pubs, bars, restaurants and retailers – that offer discounts if you’re a club member, have bought a deal coupon or been given a gift voucher. In this instance, you would be provided with a discount/gift voucher either by mail, text, via the app itself or even in hardcopy format as a printed document or a gift card, which you could scan at the kiosk to activate the discount.
Which Kiosk Technology Will Prove to Be the Most Helpful to You?
It’s fair to say that not all kiosks are created equal. Some kiosks are better equipped than others to help you enhance the customer experience, drive customer loyalty and ultimately close more sales.
Whether you are recommending kiosk technology to your boss or customer or serving as the final decision-maker, remember that you need more than just a piece of hardware. The only way to future-proof your “sales” operations and maximize your kiosk technology investment is to evaluate the “total solution. A kiosk device is only as good as the computer powering it. Opt for best-in-class software that’s ready to support your business with the next versions of Android (P and Q) as well as a high-performance architecture equipped with the latest computing and connectivity options needed to support exciting interactive and multimedia applications.
Confirm that the solution comes with flexible development tools that allow central control of kiosks, ease integration with inventory systems and ease deployment. SaaS solutions ensure software is always up-to-date and facilitate remote troubleshooting for minimal downtime and maximum sales.
Practicality and aesthetic are also important. Can you mount the kiosk easily and securely at key locations such as aisle endcaps, dining tables, lobbies and changing rooms? What power source solution will you need? Does the kiosk look sleek and inviting to use? Ops Managers may also want to consider care packages and extended warranties in case of damage from high traffic areas.
Just don’t forget that, to be truly valuable, the kiosk must enhance the customer experience; it cannot elicit any level of frustration. Look for models that offer superior features for a frictionless customer experience, such as clear audio (particularly for busy, noisy environments), intuitive touch screen, ‘scan first time’ ability and near-field communication (NFC) for pairing with mobile devices. More sophisticated models use the insight gained from user behaviour to inform and improve the User Experience (UX), which is ideal for retail and hospitality settings.
A “mobile-centric strategy” is critical to delivering the highest level of customer service, but a “mobile-only” strategy is not the only way to drive improvements. The uptick in kiosk utilization around the world is proof of that.
Just remember: as consumers anticipate heightened and seamless in-store experiences, interactive kiosks deployed in retail and hospitality environments need to be built upon smart, connected technology capable of matching the agile online experience to which consumers have become conditioned.
But know that micro and mini kiosks face tough competition from smartphones, which continually grow in sophistication. Only an enterprise-class interactive kiosk can exceed expectations to delight your customers and increase sales.
Check out some of the cool ways that interactive kiosks are helping retailers provide a better in-store shopping experience to customers. Watch this short video.
Editor’s Note: You can also learn more about the interactive kiosk technologies that Zebra offers on our website, including the newest-generation CC6000 and CC600 models.