What Is a Kiosk?

A kiosk refers to a small, temporary, stand-alone booth used in high-traffic areas for marketing purposes. A kiosk is usually manned by one or two individuals who help attract attention to the booth to get new customers. Retail kiosks are frequently located in shopping malls or on busy city streets with significant foot traffic and provide owners with a low-cost alternative to market their products or services.

Key Takeaways

  • A kiosk refers to a small, temporary, stand-alone booth used in high-traffic areas for marketing purposes.
  • Kiosks may be manned by one or two individuals or may be electronic.
  • These booths are considered to be low-cost marketing strategies that are great alternatives for new, emerging entrepreneurs.
  • The different types of kiosks include employment kiosks, foodservice kiosks, healthcare kiosks, Bitcoin kiosks, and photo kiosks.
  • Kiosks can help raise brand awareness and provide an interactive way for consumers to engage with a company. They can also be frustrating if they are not maintained properly thereby hurting a brand's image.

Understanding Kiosks

Kiosks are generally small booths set up in high-traffic areas. You may see them in the walkways of shopping centers. They may be manned by individuals who sell a product or service; anything from toys and hair care products to insurance or credit cards.

Kiosks are not always supervised by humans. Some, in fact, are electronic, providing consumers with a self-service-style experience. These kiosks normally complement an existing service already offered by the kiosk owner. For example, some provincial government agencies in Canada allow the general public to perform certain tasks like renewing car registration or updating personal information for health cards and driver's licenses using electronic kiosks that act much like automated teller machines (ATMs). This allows the consumer to execute these tasks on their own without having to wait in line at a provincial ministry.

Because of their small, temporary natures, kiosks can be low-cost marketing strategies. Malls and other lessors may charge a smaller amount of rent to kiosk owners who might not need or afford a larger retail space. Kiosks can be a great way for new, emerging entrepreneurs to give their businesses a kickstart without sacrificing cost. That's because they give companies a human face and provide customers with the opportunity to ask questions about their products. Electronic kiosks give consumers a hassle-free, convenient experience.

History of Kiosks

Kiosks in the form of simple stalls or booths have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. The first vending machines date back to the 1880s, which is when the idea of self-service was first brought to the public. These vending machines sold simple items, such as gum and postcards.

ATMs first came into use in the 1960s and set the template for how kiosks are known today. These types of machines took a while to catch on as individuals still preferred conducting financial transactions in person.

In 1970, IBM partnered with American Airlines and American Express to create the first airline ticket self-service kiosk. In 1977, the first complete self-service interactive kiosk was established at the University of Illinois, providing campus information to students and visitors.

In 1985, the Florsheim Shoe Company established the first network of kiosks. It consisted of 600 kiosks where shoppers could search for shoes in other locations, pay for them, and have them directly shipped to their homes.

Types of Kiosks

Kiosks vary based on the nature of the business and whether the owner intends to make it electronic or man it with individuals. The location generally has a relation to the nature of the kiosk as well. A local newspaper might set up a kiosk at a grocery store to sign up new subscribers. Similarly, credit card companies often set up kiosks in airports to seek new customers for a credit card that offers frequent-flyer miles.

Employment Kiosks

In addition to kiosks that sell retail products or services, some companies set up employment kiosks where job seekers can apply for work. This type of kiosk is especially common in chain stores such as Walmart. Employment kiosks provide a way to quickly identify promising candidates, who will often receive an interview on the spot.

The kiosk may include a computer station at which the applicant can use a keyboard or touchscreen to input their employment history, education, and personal data. Some employment kiosks also administer assessment tests to help determine an applicant's strengths and weaknesses. Information collected at the kiosk is frequently available to the hiring manager almost immediately.

Food Service Kiosks

In an effort to streamline the process of taking food orders, some restaurants install self-service kiosks. Customers can follow interactive prompts to select their meal and customize their order. The kiosks usually accept credit or debit cards, eliminating the need for a human cashier. When restaurants use kiosks, the need for counter personnel is reduced, lowering payroll costs for the company.

Healthcare Kiosks

The healthcare industry is also starting to implement kiosks as a method for accepting bill payments, checking in patients for appointments, and patient record keeping. At some kiosks, patients can even take their own blood pressure or perform other non-invasive tests and then relay the results to their doctors. In some cases, medical kiosks also offer educational videos about medical conditions and their treatments.

Patient kiosks can reduce medical costs by cutting down on paperwork and eliminating some clerical staff positions. Critics of medical kiosks are primarily concerned with patient confidentiality in their arguments against their use.

Bitcoin Kiosks

A Bitcoin kiosk, also known as a Bitcoin ATM, is a kiosk connected to the Internet that allows individuals to purchase Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies with cash they have deposited. The kiosk permits users to create a blockchain-based transaction that will send a cryptocurrency to the user's digital wallet. The Bitcoin kiosks are not actually ATMs in that they do not allow for the withdrawal or deposit of cash but rather function as a means to connect to the Internet to purchase cryptocurrencies.

Photo Kiosks

Although not as common as they once were, photo kiosks were popular in shopping centers in the 1980s and 1990s. For a small fee, people could pose in front of a camera lens that would take three to four photographs. Customers waited for a few moments while the booth developed and ejected the photos. Automatic photo kiosks also serve another purpose, allowing people to develop and print their own photographs from DVDs, portable hard drives, and memory sticks.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Kiosks

Advantages

The primary advantage of a kiosk is that it improves the customer's shopping experience. Kiosks are easily accessible and the individuals working there are usually pleasant and ready to help, both of which make it simpler to provide the customer with detailed information on your product or service.

Another advantage is that because of their small size and ease of being built, kiosks can be strategically placed in a location that will receive a lot of foot traffic, thereby increasing your customer base. The more visible and accessible your business is, the likelier you will experience growth.

Kiosks can also reduce your business costs. The use of interactive kiosks removes the need for staff, thereby cutting down on employee wages and salaries. Kiosks also don't require the same costs of renting retail space in a shopping center or storefront, thereby reducing rental costs. The costs saved on labor and rent can be used in other aspects of growing your business, such as sales and marketing.

Kiosks also work as a branding tool and can help generate interest in your product. Uniquely designed kiosks, especially interactive ones, may attract new customers through sheer curiosity. A kiosk that provides a unique experience may generate goodwill with a consumer and raise awareness of your brand and product.

Disadvantages

Kiosks may keep those customers away that prefer to deal with actual people rather than machines. This is particularly true for self-service kiosks, which may sometimes be difficult to operate for those that are not tech-savvy and may increase their frustration.

Larger, built-out kiosks may be difficult to move if needed as they are established in one place. This would require increased costs of taking it down and moving it or the need to build a new kiosk in another location.

Kiosks that do not have actual staff working there may be subject to an increase in crime, such as shoplifting and vandalism. This would require incorporating security measures, whether that be security alarms, cameras, or guards.

Kiosks will always require maintenance. Those that break down or have technical issues without an employee on hand to fix them or assist the shopper could hurt business and leave customers with a bad user experience, hurting your brand.

Pros
  • Improves customer shopping experience

  • Can increase customer base

  • Can reduce business costs

  • Helps improve branding

Cons
  • Can deter customers that prefer interacting with humans

  • Large, hardware-heavy kiosks can be expensive and difficult to move

  • Subject to shoplifting and vandalism

  • Kiosks with technical difficulties can hurt a brand

Kiosk FAQs

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Kiosk at the Mall?

The cost depends on the location of the mall, the season of the year, and the product being sold. The cost is at least $800 per month but can reach the thousands. Some malls also ask for a percentage of sales.

What Is a Global Entry Kiosk at the Airport?

Global Entry is a program by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency that allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers when they enter the U.S. There are self-service Global Entry kiosks at international airports in the U.S. that allow for entry after a quick approval.

What Can You Do at a USPS Self-Service Kiosk?

The USPS self-service kiosks allow for the purchase of stamps, the weighing of packages, the printing of Priority shipping labels, and the shipping of items.

What Is Kiosk Mode?

Kiosk mode is a mode that is offered by different web browsers. This allows the browser to be viewed in full screen without any other interface, such as a toolbar or menu. The purpose is to run the content on the entire screen and prevent the user from using the screen or kiosk for any other purpose.

The Bottom Line

Kiosks are small, temporary booths placed in areas with high foot traffic that are used by businesses to reach their customers in a more simple and informal manner. Kiosks are primarily used for marketing purposes and can be staffed by individuals or self-service. They are typically low-cost and help brands raise awareness of their products and services as well as allowing for an interactive way for consumers to engage with the company.