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.

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 haircare 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 on 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.

The greatest marketing power a kiosk has is the affability of the people working it.

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.

Health Care Kiosks

The health care 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.

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.