Given the increased importance of mobile as a shopping tool and as our "concierge" for other essential tasks, it is natural to ask what this trend means for the future of traditional kiosks. Some have posed the question in headline-grabbing fashion.
It is a very human tendency to evaluate new technologies in a win/lose, either/or fashion given the pace of change. When the Digital Screenmedia Association issued its report 2011 Self-service Future Trends almost a year ago, some industry watchers speculated on the demise of the kiosk with the ascendancy of mobile capabilities. At the time, I pegged the use of kiosks and mobile in combination as an adroit maneuver that could pay off for deployers and provide a better experience for consumers. Over the last year, I've seen plenty of evidence to back that up.
In the same way industries are aiming toward having all channels working together seamlessly, all forms of media need to work together to support marketing objectives. Kiosks can still stand alone, but mobile can point the consumer toward a kiosk, enhance the kiosk experience and add portability to the concept.
Using mobile to point to the kiosk
Mobile tactics can be used to attract users to a kiosk. For example, the in-store rewards program Shopkick allows shoppers to accumulate points via an application running on their phones. Shoppers can get points just for visiting different sites within a store and scanning items. With mobile check-in applications like Shopkick, a bar code can be used to increase awareness and trial of a kiosk.
Though in its infancy, the technology exists in various forms to send location-based messages to draw shoppers to a specific point in the store. That location doesn't have to be a product; it can be an interactive solution.
Enhancing the kiosk experience
The proliferation of mobile usage makes the channel impossible to ignore. The development of customer-facing kiosk applications should increasingly call for consideration of a mobile strategy. Two industries where we see mobile and kiosks complementing each other are grocery stores and hospitality. Some grocery chains, for example, are integrating loyalty information and coupons that can be accessed on kiosks or mobile phones by allowing customers to use their mobile phone numbers as their loyalty numbers. The hospitality industry is exploring the use of kiosks for check-in and allowing guests to begin a process on their phones that culminates at the kiosk.
Making the kiosk portable
The consumer's view of what constitutes self-service has expanded and is driving the solutions that get developed. It now seems intuitive that a wayfinding kiosk emails directions to a user's smartphone. A health information kiosk enables users to access saved information on their personal account via smartphone.
Frankly, we need to acknowledge that the definition of kiosk has expanded with the popularity of tablets for retail use. They can be incorporated into countertop units, affixed to walls and shelves, and mounted on tablet PC display stands that add portability.
Customer-facing technology, whether available on a kiosk or a mobile device ultimately serves the same purpose – to provide information and drive decision-making. We're much more likely to operate in a world where devices converge than in a single-device ecosystem. The real question is not whether one channel displaces another but how they can come together to meet the expectations of consumers.
Ron Bowers and Frank Mayer & Associates are recognized for their expertise of the in-store merchandising marketplace. Their creative insight has developed leading edge point of purchase displays, digital signage, kiosks, mobile, and self-service retail customer experiences.