Pros and Cons of Self-Ordering Kiosks
Be it for ordering food at a quick-service restaurant or checking out at a retail shop, customers are getting more and more familiar with the idea of being served by interactive kiosk installations.
Since the 80s, when self-service kiosks were first brought into retail stores by the shoe retailer Florsheim Shoe Co. and the manufacturer ByVideo Inc from California (source), the notion of non-human assistance became in demand for myriads of scenarios. Quantitative proof of that demand? There are plenty. A survey reveals 66% of shoppers prefer self-service and self-checkout than human interactions, and 75% prefer to have hand-held or fixed devices to check inventory availability and prices to improve speed and convenience while shopping. Here’s another: 95% of consumers want to be left alone while shopping (source). Yes, it quickly comes down to the conclusion that self-service kiosks are much admired today.
But when concerning the QSR industry, surprising facts lie on the flip side. Only 25% of restaurant customers have used a self-ordering kiosk between May and July this year (source), and only 33% of larger QSR brands (more than 1,000 locations) have integrated self-service kiosks into their stores (source).
When considering the long line of survey evidence, self-service kiosks should be an integral part of the quick-service restaurant environment, and customers appear to be ready to welcome this new way of service.
Although some level of a noticeable turn towards implementing self-service systems did happen in the industry over the last decade, with many business success stories generated by big-name brands singing the victory, the rate of integration, in reality, seems to be lagging behind expectations.
Where is such a discrepancy coming from?
We know we can all be hesitant about replacing what we have been accustomed to with something out of our experience, especially when the change will have concrete impacts on business performance and results. Adopting self-ordering kiosks is no exception and frankly speaking, caution is understandable. To whichever degree, there is additional cost to buying or DIYing the installations (vs doing nothing at all), and there will be learning curves for the business and its staff to learn how to use kiosks effectively. So yes, we are talking about a dicey ride with real risk and work, not some conjuring trick. At the same time, this is why we need to review the benefits and challenges of self-ordering kiosks using real-world facts and observations in order to construct sober predictions and help ourselves reach the right decision about adoption.
Below is the list of pros and cons for adopting self-ordering kiosks based on our experience of working with 1500 digital signage solution providers from 70+ countries around the world.
1) Improved accuracy
The overall accuracy of service improves as customers are provided with visual content and detailed information about what exactly they are ordering. Kiosks eliminate human to human miscommunication. No more, “he said she said.” Accounting accuracy and speed also improves for all types of payments. There’s no comparison to be made when it comes to the math capacity of computers vs. humans.
2) Reduced wait time
When making an order with a cashier, the customer has to specify the items, then the cashier records the order while processing the payment, followed by repeating the order and cost to confirm. All those in line are forced to wait unattended. Isn’t the point of eating at a QSR restaurant to be “quick”? Here’s where self-ordering kiosks come in handy. They can largely reduce this wait time as they process every order with no delay, directly controlled by the customers. In the meantime, staff from the register can move to service other parts of the customer experience. Read on to find out how self-ordering kiosks can help optimize resources.
3) Optimization of resources (and employees)
Let the machines do the jobs that require accuracy, efficiency, information and consistency. While self-ordering kiosks do the repetitive task of walking customers through the menu and processing orders, staff can be rearranged to do what humans do better: assembling the orders, keeping the restaurant clean, engaging with guests to make sure they are satisfied, and serving food to the table. How can QSR business afford to have both the self-ordering kiosks and the employees? Read on.
4) Increase in sales
What’s more important than making profitable sales in doing business? Not to worry, self-ordering kiosks can boost sales. There are two explanations for this. First, up-selling. The upselling effort through employees requires consistency and the labor of training employees for persuasion skills, but self-ordering kiosks do it consistently and automatically by displaying all available and relevant add-ons or menu options for each selected item, so the likelihood of customers increasing the size of the final check increases. Second is the science of customer emotion. Finger movements on touchscreens generate novelty and fun, creating experiential and effective feelings in alignment with the playfulness and emotional nature of indulgent QSR-type products (source). The positive emotional connection leads to customer retention, which accounts for 25% to 100% of brand revenue and profitability (source).
Similarly, the idea of self-ordering hands over the steering wheel to the customer with a sense of privacy by removing the need for human interaction in the ordering scenario. This means freedom to order without any disturbance of possible interpersonal judgment.
5) Information sharing
Unlike the printed menu with limited space and static content, self-ordering kiosks can provide customers with detailed information about products and services. Customers can conveniently obtain pricing, nutrition, and store information without having to chase down a staff member or causing a register queue. Information sharing leads to customer empowerment and customer empowerment leads to greater retention.
6) Personalized experience
First things first, personalized experiences are the key to increased revenue and customer loyalty. Studies prove that customers are likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences (source). Then the question arises: “What are the odds that machines are better at providing personalized experience than people themselves?” The answer? Very likely.
Customers expect brands to recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations in a consistent manner. Hate to break the news, but computers are completely out of our league when it comes to remembering and being consistent while we, as emotional animals, possess the tendency to forget and be influenced by circumstances. By adopting self-ordering kiosks powered by data analytics capability, brands can log every event happening on the screen, generate and report customer insights and installation performance to provide not only personalized experiences but also to consistently improve service quality.
1) Limited customization
The majority of self-ordering kiosk content creation platforms available today offer standardized templates with lack of customizability, leaving many brands to present similar visual identities through the digital installation. This could be a hindering factor in adopting self-ordering kiosks especially when a brand has specific spatial, technical, and branding requirements. The need for frequent content updates can also cause reluctance in adopting self-ordering kiosks when the content management platform can make the job slow and complicated. Fortunately, these hindrance factors are eliminated thanks to some of the latest technologies that support constraint-free work environments within modern, no-coding authoring tools.
2) The cost issue
Investing in the initial set-up and committing to the on-going maintenance of self-ordering kiosks can definitely be a risky business unless it spells real bang for the buck. How can a business justify that cost?
First, consider the long term return. A proven fact is that self-ordering kiosks can boost sales. One study found that consumers spend as much as 30% more when they order through self-service kiosks. Let’s say a business used to make $100,000 in total sales monthly. The additional 30% would bring $360k more in sales every year, which would mean that every 3 and a half years, the business will gain a year worth sales in extra. Does that sound like a good payback?
Another way to justify the investment is by decreasing the cost while still pursuing the quality. Conventional belief is that delivering truly gratifying kiosk services delivering all the pros mentioned earlier requires custom development which costs more money and time. While this might have been true in early days of digital signage, advanced software platforms of today such as Intuiface, minimize resource and cost requirements while maximizing value: extraordinary multi-touch capabilities, data-driven, modern design options, high reliability, fast implementation, robust deployment infrastructure, detailed usage analytics. Remember: without pursuing quality, you almost guarantee investment failure.
3) Displacement of workers
In an ideal world, self-ordering kiosks would accelerate profit, and the business would recirculate the benefit into enriching resources including its employees while still securing margin for itself. In reality? Displacement of workers should not inherently be a cons if that is one of the goals. Adopting self-ordering kiosks means letting technology do the jobs they are good at while releasing staff to do what humans do better - optimizing resources rather than compromising them. And keep in mind, as mentioned earlier - yes, 66% of shoppers prefer self-service and self-checkout than human interactions, but 34% are not happy about self-checkout and still expect human interaction. So businesses need to serve these customers too and consider human interaction as a vital part of their service.
4) Content management difficulty
It’s not an overstatement to say that content is the heart-blood of a self-ordering kiosk, without which the entire installation becomes useless. And yet, the work of content management, let alone the initial content development, can become inconvenient or difficult, leading to business apathy decreasing their attention to detail and rigor of process. Nobody wants to stick a Post-it note on a snazzy new display to make corrections because the alternative seems worse.
These unappealing factors derive from two main factors: 1) lack of tech-savviness 2) inefficient or poorly featured content management tool.
The good news is there are tools that simplify the process of adopting and maintaining self-ordering kiosks. Content management can be easier and instrumental for business profit by using software with the following content management capabilities:
- Extensibility: enabling agile and flexible communication between diverse content sources.
- Creative freedom: enabling users to configure, animate, and design anything.
- Measurability: intuitive and convenient data collection and analysis to deliver insight and assessment at one’s fingertips.
- Remote management: enabling users to manage and deploy content from anywhere in the world.
- Connection Freedom: Giving users the option to pull the Internet cord. freeing them from downtime concerns.
...and all this through
- Usability: enabling anyone of any skill set to do all of the above using the user-friendly and intuitive features of Interface.