Editor’s Note: Facing unprecedented labor issues, retailers are turning to technological upgrades to help fill the gaps. Digital self-help kiosks can be great tools to keep things running smoothly in retail stores, but this hardware can only work as well as the network infrastructure it relies on—and a slow and poorly functioning kiosk can often be worse than no kiosk at all. Additionally, as these kiosks create additional digital touchpoints handling customer data, cybersecurity becomes more important than ever to avoid a costly breach.
In 2022, one of the most important emerging trends among service businesses is the rise of digital signage kiosks. Businesses, especially retail, are turning to kiosks to attract customers, rely less on employees during a nationwide labor shortage, and hopefully return sales to pre-pandemic levels.
Kiosk and digital signage lines blur
“The line between kiosks and digital signage equipment continues to blur as digital signage becomes more interactive,” Mike Tippets, VP of enterprise marketing and organizational development at Hughes Network Systems, said in an email interview with Digital Signage Today. “Today, touch-enabled digital signage can do nearly everything that a kiosk can, but is not limited to a specific location and tends to be more affordable. So, while we are seeing kiosks employ digital signage elements, we anticipate retailers, restaurants and grocers will invest more heavily in digital signage.”
While some consumers might be hesitant to use digital signage kiosks, Tippets said the benefit of them improving customer service is too great to ignore. And, improved functionality should make kiosks easier to use, increasing consumers’ comfort level.
“Kiosks offer a more immersive environment for the customer with more dynamic information and options to engage, like product browsing, payment and coordinating shipping information,” Tippets said. “Compared to digital signage, kiosks are better able to handle open-ended queries or conduct a physical transaction and generally have more use in supporting the employee while guiding the customer experience.”
Digital kiosks can also help customer service associates attend to customer needs and make faster, more efficient sales. In a retail setting, Tippets said handheld kiosks can reduce strain and increases the process of remembering, identifying and locating an item. For customers, video on demand can help find items and they can ask associates more specific questions about a product since they’ve found exactly what they want.
“The result is a simpler, more efficient customer interaction, which in turn builds customer loyalty,” Tippets said.
Will kiosks replace employees?
In the ongoing labor shortage crisis in the U.S., Tippets doesn’t view kiosks as a tool to replace employees, but he does believe the technology can help fill the gaps. He said kiosks should be used to aid existing workers, making a sometimes-grueling shift more enjoyable.
“If, for example, a robot can take on a task that doesn’t require personal interaction like restocking shelves, assisting with inventory or even flipping burgers, employees can spend more time on tasks that more meaningfully impact the customer experience,” Tippets said.
If the labor shortage continues, Tippets thinks restaurants and retailers will pump more money into kiosks and other digital signage solutions to increase the value of employees.
Tippets believes, in retail environments, digital signage serves a dual function by engaging customers in the front of the house and employees in the back of the house. Brands can utilize signage for social media posts, current and future offerings, safety guidelines and other marketing promotions.
Empowering the in-house message
Employers are also seeing the benefits of a well-functioning digital signage package. Stores have been using displays to broadcast training videos, in-house video-on-demand, or to provide store-level or brand-level information, along with delivering general updates such as traffic information and safety guidelines.
“With digital signage, businesses can share highly customized information in a specific environment,” Tippets said.
For social media, brands have been treating digital signage as a second home for various platforms. Tippets has noticed traditional restaurants, QSRs, fast food shops and hotels using customer reviews and feedback, telling customers of the tastiest menu items based on public comments.
“Digital signage gives an added edge by allowing brands to bring social media posts not only to the customer via their traditional social media diet page, but inside and outside the establishment for increased impressions,” Tippets said. “If fact, there are aggregation tools available that make it possible for brands to pull customer posts in real-time.”
Restaurants and retailers are also turning to digital signage to provide employee education outside normal business hours. Tippets sees it as a great way to maximize value and serve many needs with only one piece of equipment.
“If a department is launching a new product or service offering, team members congregate around a piece of digital signage to learn via video and/or multimedia,” Tippets said. “Businesses can re-upload customer-facing content for regular store hours when training is complete.”
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