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Electronic Kiosks Are Everywhere – Why Not Get a Piece of the Action?

Here’s how you get into the business, which is only getting bigger in our increasingly digital world.

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YOU’RE STROLLING AROUND the mall and suddenly you need to go to the restroom. Then you realize you don’t even know where to begin looking. Maybe you can find a map or an information desk to guide the way. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a glowing screen not only showing ads for different shops, but also an interactive map. You use a touch keyboard and type in “restroom” and boom, it displays the closest one to your location. Welcome to the wonderful world of electronic kiosks. Not only are they popping up everywhere; they are an excellent opportunity for signshops to expand their business.

A kiosk is generally a small structure or stall used to provide information, sell goods such as newspapers or provide some other service. This definition is somewhat blurred in relation to electronic kiosks, but they generally fall into a few categories.

 Kiosks offering interactive help via touchscreen technology are popping up in malls, health care centers, educational complexes and more.

Kiosks offering interactive help via touchscreen technology are popping up in malls, health care centers, educational complexes and more.

Information kiosks provide important details concerning the business or service provided at the location. In many cases these can be equipped with touchscreens for the user to search terms or select places on interactive maps to get more specific information. Some kiosks are advertising stands that provide a rotating set of ads for shops in a mall, restaurants in a food court, specials within a store, etc. Finally, interactive map kiosks show you where you are and how to get to a number of different locations within the venue, like the nearest restroom.

There are, of course, other types of kiosks — most notably, self-service kiosks — used for ticket purchases, hotel check-ins, hospitals that issue a queue number for services such as bloodwork, and the like. The best-known interactive kiosk has to be the ATM. In these cases you have to deal with very specialized hardware, security and other complex back-end systems to handle transactions … probably not the area you want to begin with when jumping into the electronic kiosk market.

That said, how hard is it to get into the business? You need sufficient design and digital skills to construct the ads and input information to be displayed. Next you need to determine whether to offer kiosks for interior and/or exterior locations. A little hint: Indoor kiosks are much easier to manage and far less expensive. Outdoor equipment requires sealed components, displays bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight, and beefier stands. Indoor kiosks still need bright displays, but the frames need not be as robust, nor the components sealed. Primarily, the store, mall or business handles the installation.

The next consideration is display size, which varies from that of an iPad up to several feet depending on the customer. You will also need to determine if any user input is needed. This could be an on-screen button or a full touchscreen keyboard. If either is required, then factor in the cost of a touchscreen display.

The final selection is software. If you are just installing a few kiosks, it might be easier to purchase a device with a built-in media player, though this requires someone to physically load the design into each unit. If you are going all in with kiosks, then the best way of conferring them is through an internet service provider. For a monthly fee, quick changes are delivered to many locations without leaving the office.

Maybe you’ve thought about offering electronic kiosks to your customers. The cost for indoor units is not super expensive — ranging from $1K to $4K (and up) depending on size, features, etc. Remember to be equally aware of software and message maintenance as well. Keeping all of this in mind, electronic kiosks can be a great addition to your business.

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