Elo Touch Solutions

Strategies for Successful Kiosk Implementation

The Kiosk Market Today

The demand for kiosks is exploding. In 1996 approximately 21,000 kiosks were shipped in the United States; by 2003 that number is expected to increase more than twenty fold to 445,000. ("U.S. Interactive Kiosk Markets," Frost & Sullivan Report #5386-74, p. 3-7, 1997.)

Why? Because declining hardware costs and more sophisticated technologies mean kiosks can deliver a positive return-on-investment, as shown in the graph below.

Declining hardware costs and more sophisticated technologies mean kiosks can deliver a positive return-on-investment.

Total Interactive Kiosk Market: U.S. Unit Shipment and Revenue Forecasts, 1993-2003

This white paper will acquaint you with kiosk deployment issues. After reading it, you'll be well equipped to assess the value kiosks can provide to your organization.

A Proven Technology

A kiosk consists of a touchmonitor, a computer, and perhaps a printer and credit card reader—all enclosed in a secure cabinet. Kiosks can deliver information or they can promote and sell products and services. Most kiosks are located in public places, such as stores, airports, malls, and hotel and corporate lobbies. They're also increasingly prevalent in factories and office buildings, where they afford employees access to benefits information and job postings.

While kiosks have existed since the late 1970s, it's only in the past few years that the kiosk market has taken off. The dramatic increase in kiosk activity is the result of several factors:

Reduced Hardware Costs

Declining costs of microprocessors, printers, and other computer-related kiosk components have resulted in dramatically reduced kiosk costs. For example, between 1993 and 1996, the average price for an interactive kiosk fell by almost 50 percent (Frost & Sullivan). Because of these reduced capital outlays, companies and organizations now can anticipate a higher ROI (return on investment) from kiosk implementations.

Public Acceptance

The popularity of ATMs paved the way for widespread acceptance of kiosks. The public is more comfortable now using kiosks in a variety of settings. The use of touchscreens has enhanced the popularity of kiosks by making them operable even by people lacking computer experience.

Pervasive Networking Capabilities

In the past, the only way to update or modify a kiosk application was to reinstall software at each kiosk. Now advances in network computing make it possible to update kiosks from a centrally located computer, so it's easy to enter price changes, up-to-the-minute product availability, or new interest rates. In addition, a growing number of organizations are saving on hardware costs by installing kiosks that are "thin clients" (computers with limited processing power and storage capabilities networked to a central client/server application to control most of the kiosk operations).

Advances in Multimedia

The enhanced multimedia capabilities of personal computers have led to the development of more advanced tools for creating multimedia applications. Kiosk developers who leverage these tools reduce development costs while increasing kiosks' capabilities. Other new technologies, such as signature cards and smart cards, also have resulted in expanded kiosk solutions.

Internet Growth

Increased use of the World Wide Web has fueled the growth in kiosk installations, with many organizations installing Internet commerce kiosks that provide users with Internet access and online purchasing capabilities (see Internet commerce kiosks and Web-enabled kiosks).

How Kiosks Enhance Profitability

When considering a kiosk implementation, ask yourself these fundamental questions:

  • How will kiosks benefit my business or organization?
  • How will kiosks result in a positive ROI, either through costs savings (most often reduced personnel costs) or through increased revenues from kiosks that sell products and services.

In this section we address these questions by outlining the benefits of kiosks and the myriad ways they are currently used.

Increased Product Offerings

By providing Internet commerce access to online shopping services, kiosks let retailers expand inventory without increasing floor space. The results are increased profits per square foot and enhanced customer satisfaction.

  • Kiosks at REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) connect to the company's Web-based catalog, enabling customers to order out-of-stock merchandise as well as merchandise the store doesn't routinely stock.
  • At Sam's Club, cars are purchased by consumers using the Sam's Club interactive kiosk.
  • Quest kiosks at Price/Costco provide consumers with access to thousands of products, including electronics, cameras, and sunglasses that Price/Costco normally doesn't carry.

Expanded Storefronts

Kiosks make it possible for vendors to expand their reach—and enhance their profitability—by selling goods and services in locations other than their storefront. Such kiosks frequently are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Airlines, movie theaters, and concert halls now have ticketing kiosks in numerous public locations, including airports, hotels, and convention centers.
  • Coinstar coin-counting kiosks are located in hundreds of grocery stores.

Improved Customer Service; Reduced Personnel Costs

Organizations can provide superior customer service by offering patrons access to kiosks that answer routine questions or handle routine transactions. These organizations save on personnel costs by reducing their need for sales clerks and customer service representatives. Meanwhile, those employees charged with sales and customer service functions are free to focus their attention on patrons' non-routine concerns.

  • Kiosks in Fidelity Investment offices provide customers with up-to-the-minute mutual fund prices and ratings.
  • CompUSA customers use kiosks to help configure their computer systems.
  • Hotel lobby kiosks provide check-in and check-out services and offer local restaurant and entertainment options.
  • Kiosks at auto parts stores replace paper catalogs, providing product number, product availability, and cost information.
  • Retailers—including Macy's, Target, Crate & Barrel, and JC Penney—use kiosks to post gift registries to let customers access a registry.
  • At the Super Bowl and the Special Olympics kiosks provide attendees information about the time and location of upcoming events.
  • Kiosks used as voting machines eliminate the need for ballot counters, cut printing costs, and reduce the time required to get final vote tallies.

Enhanced Product Promotion

Kiosks attract consumer interest and ultimately increase sales by providing product information customized to each user's interests and needs.

  • Movie previews at video chains like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster entice consumers into renting little-known titles.
  • CompuCook recipe kiosks distribute coupons that increase sales in grocery stores.
  • Kiosks in General Nutrition Centers offer information about hundreds of vitamins, minerals, and botanical products the centers sell. Kiosks also reduce the time it takes customers to locate products in each store.

Easier Information Access

Kiosks can dispense information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, minimizing the need for customer service personnel while increasing overall efficiency.

  • Kiosks at trade shows and athletic events provide attendees with maps, transportation information, and lists of popular sites for food, lodging, entertainment, and other amenities.
  • Many companies provide kiosks for employees to use to connect to their corporate intranet, where they can access job postings, benefits information, and company news.
  • In Los Angeles, GeoMatch kiosks match commuters with rideshare partners.
  • Government agencies rely on kiosks to dispense tax forms and job applications, post job listings, and enable individuals to order documents, such as birth certificates—all without hassle and with quick delivery.

Greater Product Customization

Kiosks that offer customized products and services increase their profitability by filling a unique market niche.

  • American Greetings' Create-a-Card kiosks let consumers design customized greeting cards.
  • Customers use Kodak photo enlargement kiosks to modify the size of photos on-the-spot.
  • Lee Jeans in-store kiosks ask customers to specify their measurements and style preferences. The kiosk then recommends the styles and sizes of jeans most likely to match the customer's taste.

Reduced Training Costs

A company can use kiosks to train employees or teach them about the company's products and corporate procedures. Kiosks' touch applications are easier to use than traditional computer-based training and teaching.

  • Kiosks in Mercedes dealerships provide extensive product information that Mercedes sales-people use throughout the course of a sale. Even though this application was developed for the Mercedes sales force, consumers use it as well.
  • Bechtel has installed building-site purchasing kiosks that train site managers in the company's purchasing system and serve as the system's delivery mechanism as well.
  • Meyer Cookware kiosks educate shoppers about product features and benefits.

Types of Kiosks

Like videos and books, kiosks are communications tools. But kiosks' interactivity and multimedia capabilities provide functionality that goes well beyond the static capabilities of other media. Based on their functions, kiosks generally fit into one or more of the following categories:

  • Point-of-information kiosks
  • Product promotion kiosks
  • Service or transaction kiosks
  • Product-dispensing kiosks
  • Internet Commerce kiosks

Point-of-Information Kiosks

These kiosks are used to educate or inform. Because they address routine questions, they minimize the need for on-site personnel and reduce phone calls to companies. When located in a public place, they can be accessed seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Point-of-information kiosks tend to be the simplest kiosks to implement. They're also the most difficult to justify in terms of ROI. For this reason, informational kiosks frequently are integrated with the product promotion or service kiosks described in the next section.

Prime locations:

  • Shopping malls, historic sites, trade shows, hospitals, government buildings, and hotel lobbies, where they provide access to directories and maps.
  • Government buildings, where they provide information about municipal services, public meetings, and local events.
  • Factories, offices, and other places of business, where they offer employees information about benefits, job openings, and corporate policies.
  • Corporate lobbies, where they provide visitors an introduction to the company as well as a map showing conference rooms, rest rooms, and other building locations or campus facilities. These kiosks often are connected to a corporate Web site.
  • Financial institutions, where they display up-to-the-minute interest rates and stock prices.
  • Stores, where they replace paper catalogs.
  • Healthcare facilities, where they dispense health education information and display maps and directories.

Product Promotion Kiosks

Kiosks that promote products and services are a win/win proposition. Consumers receive information as well as coupons and other discounts. Manufacturers have their message delivered straight to the consumer rather than relying on the detailed product training of individual sales people. Promotional kiosks also can reduce the need for sales personnel; they sometimes are referred to as "independent in-store POS sales support."

Electronic couponing systems are the most common promotional kiosks. Manufacturers place the systems in retail outlets to increase awareness of their products. The kiosks attract consumers by offering coupons; to obtain the coupons, consumers often must respond to demographic and other questions, providing companies with valuable consumer information.

Kiosks often combine information and promotion. A kiosk in a hotel lobby, for example, might include descriptions of hotel services along with coupons and ads for neighborhood shops, restaurants, and theaters.

Prime locations:

  • Stores, where the kiosks are installed by manufacturers promoting their own products. In addition, stores themselves often install kiosks to promote specific services, such as a gift registry or a cake decorating service.
  • Hotel lobbies and malls, where they provide information while advertising local services, activities, and events.
  • Financial institutions, where they describe banking and other financial services.

Service Kiosks

These kiosks can provide services that are free or for-pay. In government organizations, the use of service kiosks has been driven by the public's demand for increased hours of business and shorter wait times.

Service kiosks are also gaining popularity among corporations where today's employees must choose from a dizzying array of benefits. Employees can use kiosks to enter information about their needs; the kiosk then determines the benefit package that best addresses those needs.

Prime locations:

  • Colleges and universities, where they're used by students to enroll in classes, access transcripts, pay tuition bills, and obtain campus maps.
  • Hotels and other public places, where they serve as "phone booths of the future" by providing e-mail, Internet access, and fax services. Hotel guests can also use kiosks for hotel check-in and check-out.
  • Corporations, where they're installed by HR departments seeking to help employees choose among benefit packages, as described above.
  • Government buildings, where they're used by people applying for birth certificates, reserving camp sites, or renewing drivers' licenses.
  • Banks, where they're used by customers applying for loans, opening accounts, or obtaining mortgage rate information. Some banks are installing kiosks that let customers communicate by video phone with a customer service representative in a remote location.

Product-Dispensing Kiosks

A product-dispensing kiosk is a store-in-a-box, a single installation that handles all the processes required to make a sale, from creating the product, to delivering the product, to receiving payment. For this reason, vending kiosks can be the most complex kiosks to implement. They also can be the most profitable.

Also known as point-of-purchase kiosks, product-dispensing kiosks minimize or eliminate the need for sales personnel. They also can expand a store's area of operation by enabling consumers to purchase items in an increased number of locations. (For example, theater-ticket–dispensing machines might be located in airports.)

Prime locations:

  • Theaters, museums, and transportation centers, such as train stations and airports, where they issue tickets.
  • Stores, where they dispense such products as customized greeting cards, gift certificates, and video rental cards.
  • Tourist bureaus, airports, and other public places where they sell maps. (Users are prompted to choose a destination; the kiosk then delivers a map with directions to the chosen site.)

Internet Commerce Kiosks

Kiosks that connect directly to a business Web site let consumers purchase products to be delivered to them at a later time. A store equipped with e-commerce kiosks can increase its product offerings without increasing its inventory. Clerks, meanwhile, are freed from having to order products from the catalog or from another store.

Increasingly, general-purpose Internet-access kiosks are being placed in public areas. Users who already have Internet access from home or work will use these kiosks on a convenience basis (in much the same way they use a public telephone and ATM machines today).

Prime locations:

  • Stores and malls, where they give consumers access to online catalogs.
  • Financial institutions, where they enable consumers to participate in online investment services.
  • Hotels, airports, and other public places, where they give the public Internet access.

Web-Enabled Kiosks

Web-enabling software transforms an existing Web site into a public-access kiosk application. Organizations that choose to make their Web sites kiosk-accessible enjoy significant savings in development costs because they need make only minor modifications—such as replacing browser controls with touch-activated control panels and buttons—to their existing application.

Web-enabled kiosks can connect directly to the Internet; they also can be accessed from a local disk. In local mode, customer data, forms, and e-mail are "faked" to disk files for later retrieval.

Common applications include:

  • Information dispensing services
  • Corporate human resources
  • Public-access Internet search
  • Hotel self-service check-in/check-out
  • Company intranet access
  • Internet commerce
  • Retail cataloging
  • Event ticketing
  • Airline ticketing
  • Gift registries

Kiosk Components

No two kiosk installations are alike. A kiosk that dispenses recipes uses different components than a kiosk that takes orders for rose bushes; both of these use different components than a kiosk that takes applications for a car loan. But regardless of their purpose, all kiosks incorporate the following core components, and additional components that depend on the kiosk's function.

Touchmonitor

A touchmonitor consists of a touch-sensitive transparent screen placed over a CRT monitor or flat panel display monitor. Pictures or text on the screen instruct users to select or "touch" an option. Touchmonitors are used in approximately 75 percent of all kiosk installations because of their ease of use, durability, and reliability (see Appendix A: Overview of Touch Technologies).

Enclosure

Whether it's a compact wall unit or a large in-store installation, every kiosk must have an enclosure—and it must be made of sturdy, durable materials designed to withstand abuse. Typically, kiosk enclosures are made of metal, but wood, plastic, or fiberglass may also be used. The kiosk location (indoor vs. outdoor, for example) and type of installation (stand-alone, wall-mounted, or tabletop) help to determine the type of enclosure that is needed.

Application Software

The kiosk's software application must attract users to the kiosk, accomplish the kiosk's stated objectives, be easy and fun to use, and incorporate built-in reporting mechanisms that provide feedback about which parts of the application are used, how long users stay at the kiosk, and other data. Many kiosk developers are using their Web site as the basis for their kiosk application (see Web-enabled kiosks).

Computer

The kiosk application's requirements determine the computer hardware requirements. At a minimum, a kiosk computer should support full-motion video, digital audio, and network connectivity.

Printer

The kind of printer a kiosk needs depends on the kiosk's function. Kiosks most often use printers to print receipts, tickets, maps, and product information.

Additional Components

The kiosk's function also determines the use of one or more additional components, such as those that follow.

  • Magstripe card reader for kiosks that accept credit cards.
  • Signature pads for kiosks that require users to complete a purchase transaction, authorize a credit card application, or simply sign a greeting card.
  • Coin and dollar bill acceptor for vending kiosks that deliver a product.
  • Video camera and telephone handset for videoconferencing kiosks that allow a person to use a handset to speak to a representative while viewing the representative's image on the kiosk monitor.
  • Telephone for kiosks that enable users to connect directly to a company representative.
  • Web-enabling software for kiosks that provide users with access to the World Wide Web (see Web-enabled kiosks).
  • Speakers for kiosks that require sound, such as those with music-previewing applications; also sound hoods for kiosks that could disturb passersby.
  • Privacy screens for kiosks that require users to enter personal information.
  • Membrane keyboards for applications that require users to enter extensive information.

Suggestions for Kiosk Deployment

Developing a kiosk is a multifaceted process. The following are suggestions to consider when planning your kiosk implementation.

Think ROI

When designing a kiosk installation, your return on investment should be a primary consideration. Yes, you have a great idea. Yes, your customers will love it. But how long will the installation take to pay for itself? How long can you afford to wait before getting back your initial investment? Will you achieve your ROI through savings or increased revenues?

Companies and organizations wanting to install kiosks often enter into partnerships to help defray costs. For example, Coinstar kiosks distribute coupons that are paid for by the manufacturer. An airport installing a kiosk-based directory might team up with local hotels wanting to advertise rooms. Be creative, and think in terms of alliances!

Set Realistic Schedules

Even though kiosks are a proven technology, they're not a plug-and-play commodity. Rather, implementing a kiosk can involve various stages, including alpha and beta testing, before release of the final product.

Make Software Top Priority

To be successful, a kiosk application must be intuitive, fast, and fun to use. Touchscreen Application Tips lists the prerequisites for successful touch-based kiosks.

Remember the Hardware

Kiosks consist of a software application and the numerous components—computer, printer, card reader, and video camera—that make it work. For best results, develop these components in parallel. Organizations that wait to think about hardware integration until the software is complete often find that they've run out of funding.

Use a Practical Cabinet Design

Keep these points in mind when designing the kiosk cabinet.

  • Ventilation:
    • Are you using forced-air ventilation? If so, put your fan at the top, near the monitor's vents.
    • Minimize the airborne dust from footsteps by keeping the intake away from the floor.
    • Keep air from entering around the monitor face.
  • Sound: Remember to point your speakers in the direction of your user's ears.
  • Finish: Choose a finish that doesn't show fingerprints; avoid polished stainless steel, chrome, or glossy black paint.

Think Location

Kiosks should be placed in high-traffic areas that are safe, well lighted, and welcoming. If space is at a premium, consider mounting the kiosk in the wall or on a shelf. If the kiosk will be unattended, plan to design more security features into the kiosk.

Implement Incrementally

By initially installing a few kiosks in carefully selected locations you'll quickly gather information that's critical to your kiosk's success.

Track Your Users

Every kiosk application should incorporate a mechanism for tracking kiosk use. Such information is critical for assessing which portions of the application are most widely used, which products are most frequently purchased, and other aspects of kiosk use.

Consider Your Employees

When designing a kiosk, consider how it will fit in with your work force. One retailer implemented a kiosk, only to discover that the sales force was steering customers away from it. The reason? Each time a customer used the kiosk, it took away from employees' commissions!

Don't Forget Maintenance

All kiosks require ongoing maintenance. Specifically, you'll need to update the kiosk's software and keep kiosks that dispense products stocked with supplies, such as tickets or blank gift certificates. You'll also need to arrange for emergency repair and parts replacement. Such services usually are provided by kiosk vendors who contract with third-party maintenance providers.

Elo Assistance: How Can Elo Assist Me with Kiosk Implementation?

As the leading developer of touch technology, touchmonitors, and related products integral to tens of thousands of kiosks worldwide, Elo TouchSystems provides outstanding products for your kiosk implementation. Elo flagship products include IntelliTouch kiosk touchmonitors specifically designed for kiosks; Web Enabler software; and Signature Series products.

IntelliTouch High-Performance Touchscreens

Built using surface wave technology, IntelliTouch pure-glass touchmonitors are known for their clarity, resolution, and light transmission. Their scratch-resistant, vandal-proof glass surface is ideal for public-access environments, and their stable, "drift-free" operation ensures a touch response that's always accurate. Flat, spherical, and cylindrical touchmonitors are available for optimal design flexibility.

Kiosk Touchmonitors

Kiosk touchmonitor products are the industry's first sealed touchmonitors designed specifically for kiosks. With their custom-designed metal chassis, their model life is longer than that of a typical plastic-cased monitor, reducing the need to redesign kiosks around monitor changes. The 15-inch and 17-inch FST, SVGA monitors, incorporate touch systems based on IntelliTouch surface wave technology.

Web Enabler Software

Designed to enable developers to transform Web sites into touch-driven, public-access kiosk applications, Web Enabler works as an overlay to the two most popular Web browsers, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, providing the richest set of features of any touch overlay application on the market today.

Signature Series Products

This group of products enables signature capture, a necessary feature in applications that have users complete a purchase transaction, authorize a credit application or simply sign their name on a greeting card. Because the Elo Signature Series comprises four signature capture products—each based on a different technology—the series offers a solution for virtually every kiosk application, including a Signature Series touchmonitor specifically designed for kiosks.

To learn more about Elo products, contact the Elo office nearest you.


Appendix A: Overview of Touch Technologies

Touchscreens' ease of use make them the input device of choice for approximately 75 percent of all kiosk installations. This section summarizes the most commonly used touchscreen technologies.

Surface wave touchscreens consist of two main components: a clear, solid piece of glass formed to match the shape of the monitor, and a controller. The controller uses surface waves on the glass to develop a map of the touchscreen surface. When the screen is touched, your finger absorbs a portion of the signal traveling across it. The resulting change in the wave is detected by the controller, which calculates X and Y coordinates. Surface wave touchscreens are the preferred kiosk technology because they are durable enough to last the lifetime of the kiosk. Because there is no coating to degrade, they are very clear and provide stable "drift-free" operation.

Five-wire resistive touchscreens use a glass panel with a uniform resistive coating. A polyester coversheet is tightly suspended over the top of the glass, separated from it by small, transparent insulating dots. The coversheet has a hard, durable coating on the outer side and a conductive coating on the inner side. When you touch the screen, the conductive coating makes electrical contact with the coating on the glass. The voltages produced are the analog representation of the position you touched. The controller digitizes these voltages and transmits them to the computer for processing. The result of this process is an accurate, durable, and reliable touchscreen.

Four-wire resistive touchscreens are typically constructed using a plastic-on-plastic configuration. The top piece of plastic has a hard coat on the outer side and a conductive coating on the inner side. The bottom piece of plastic has a conductive coating on the inner side and is usually laminated to a glass panel or thicker polycarbonate plastic for support. The primary drawback of the four-wire technology is that one coordinate axis (usually the Y-axis) uses the top coversheet as its uniform voltage gradient, while the bottom substrate acts as the voltage probe. The constant flexing that occurs on the outer coversheet will change its electrical characteristics (resistance) with use, degrading the linearity and accuracy of this axis. As you can imagine, four-wire touchscreens are not as durable.

Eight-wire resistive touchscreens are very similar to four-wire touchscreens but with the addition of four sensing points, which are used to stabilize the eight-wire technology. For one coordinate axis (usually the Y-axis), the eight-wire touchscreen uses the outer flexible coversheet as its uniform voltage gradient, while the bottom substrate acts as the voltage probe. The constant flexing that occurs on the outer coversheet will change its resistance with usage, degrading the linearity and accuracy of this axis. Although the four extra sensing points assist in stabilizing the system, they do not improve the durability of the screen.

Capacitive touchscreens use a glass overlay with a thin metallic conductive coating over the surface of the screen. When touching the screen, the user becomes part of the electrical circuit, creating a capacitive coupling with the voltage field and drawing a small amount of current to the point of contact. Capacitive touchscreens cannot be used by anyone wearing gloves, and scratching the touchscreen surface will render these touchscreens inoperable. In addition, they require ongoing maintenance to ensure accurate calibration.

Infrared touchscreens rely on the interruption of an infrared (IR) light grid in front of the display screen. The touch frame contains a row of IR-light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and photo transistors, each mounted on two opposite sides to create a grid of invisible infrared light. The IR controller sequentially pulses the LEDs to create a grid of IR light beams. When a stylus, such as a finger, enters the grid, it obstructs the beams. One or more photo transistors detect the absence of light and transmit a signal that identifies the X and Y coordinates. IR touchscreens can be operated in direct sunlight and offer a built-in filter to protect the surface of the display and to further seal the unit.

Appendix B: Assessing Your Personnel Needs

While some companies have the expertise to design and build their kiosks in-house, a more common approach is to hire outside companies to assist in this process. In some instances you'll be able to hire one company to handle the project from initial design to maintenance; in other cases you'll need to work with several companies, each of whom handles different tasks.

When you interview potential companies, ask the following questions:

  • What is your experience integrating complex computer-based systems with multiple components?
  • Which of the following services can you provide?
    • Kiosk design
    • Application development
    • Hardware purchasing
    • Hardware integration
    • Testing
    • Installation
    • Ongoing maintenance
    • Repair and parts replacement
  • Do the kiosks you build comply with the regulatory agencies' requirements? While individual components may meet the requirements of the Underwriters' Laboratory (UL), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is critical that the entire kiosk complies with these standards.
  • What kind of warranty do you provide?
  • To what system components does the warranty apply?
  • What level of service, maintenance, and spare parts replacement do you offer?

Appendix C: Tips for Touchscreen Applications

Designing a kiosk touch application requires a different mindset than is required for developing a traditional user interface. See Touchscreen Application Tips for advice which will help you maximize your touch-based kiosk application.

Getting in Touch with Elo

To find out more about the extensive range of Elo touch solutions, simply contact the office nearest you.