The retail tech space will long divide history into “before the pandemic” and “after the pandemic.” That point in time marks a fast and significant change in how consumers engaged with merchants and the processes retailers, restaurateurs and other businesses deployed to accommodate their new habits. For grocery, drug stores and big-box department stores, the pandemic is the key event that drove exponentially greater demand for self-service kiosks and is the catalyst for new types of solutions.
Although self-service kiosks were common before the pandemic, Frank Anzures, Product Manager at Epson America, Inc., points out that shutdowns and social distancing drove consumers to interact with stores and restaurants online – and now they are more comfortable engaging digitally in-store.
“As a result, people want different options. They’re more accustomed to using technology and moving at their own speed – not relying on another person,” Anzures says.
What Consumers Wish Self-Service Kiosk Experiences Were Like
Because more consumers are using self-service kiosks in the after-the-pandemic era, merchants are receiving more feedback on the types of experiences that consumers prefer. For example, Anzures says consumers are expressing preferences for interactions that are frictionless. The user experience can’t be complicated or intimidating. Kiosks should be easy for consumers to use, and they should enable the functionality shoppers need but not so many choices that the experience is confusing.
Consumers also want an easy way to pay. It’s vital to integrate the kiosk systems you design with a full-featured payments platform that gives customers the ability to pay with credit or debit cards, contactless cards, mobile wallets, cash, gift cards, or other payment methods they prefer.
Also, having the option of a paper receipt or e-receipt is important. Although customers requesting e-receipts is becoming more common, some customers continue to prefer paper receipts at self-checkout as “proof of purchase,” so there’s no question that they paid for each item in their orders. Kiosks need to be integrated with fast and reilable thermal receipt printers, such as Epson’s EU-m30. The right printer will ensure that merchants don’t have to invest labor hours into printer maintenance – in fact, the EU-m30 features remote monitoring support and LED alerts that show error status for fast troubleshooting and resolution minimizing downtime in kiosk deployments.
Address Merchant’s Pain Points
Anzures says ISVs and software developers also need to address the business challenges that self-service can create for their clients. For example, integrating cameras with self-checkout can help reduce shrinkage – an intelligent system can confirm that the produce on the scale is charged at the right price per pound. Solution builders can also consider adding RFID readers to make self-checkout more frictionless for department store shoppers.
Self-service kiosks will also help your clients manage businesses operating with smaller staffs while the labor shortage persists. With self-service options, checkout processes no longer have to be one sales associate or cashier to one customer. Instead, one store employee can manage multiple checkout lanes, helping to fill the labor-shortage gap – while keeping customers happier with shorter waits to check out.
Overall, grocers, pharmacists, and department stores need flexibility. Providing them with the ability to adapt the solution to their processes and customers and use the self-service kiosk systems they deploy to complement their brands.
How Well ISVs Are Meeting Demands Today
To optimize solutions and meet new demands, Anzures sees larger ISVs responding to the voice of the customer and reimagining existing solutions. “They’re open to utilizing different technologies, such as IR readers and QR code readers, to make transactions simple and seamless for customers,” he says.
He adds, however, that even though developing self-service kiosks for grocery, pharmacy and retail is a competitive space, Anzures points out, “If an ISV has something new and creates a unique sales offering, they can grow.” He says smaller ISVs are beginning to disrupt the space with innovations, such as touchless options that leverage the customers’ mobile devices for payments and solutions that use voice or accommodate users with slower response times so that more people can use the kiosk more easily.
“What I see developers doing is listening to the customer along their journeys, understanding what they need, and providing the best solution,” Anzures says.
What to Expect in the Future
ISVs and software developers designing self-service kiosk solutions should stay informed of growing trends that will influence in-demand solutions in the future. Anzures says kiosk hardware is growing sleeker and smaller – even small enough to be used on a tabletop. Total solutions should take into account that stores want hardware that enhances their brand’s identity.
Brands will also be more interested in customizable software that gives stores more control over customer experiences. Self-service often means that stores lose a touchpoint with customers, so they’ll want technology that allows them to control how shoppers transact.
Anzures also reminds ISVs and software developers that self-service kiosks are just one component of many technologies that stores use to operate and keep their customers engaged. Therefore, it’s vital that the solutions you design can integrate seamlessly with other systems in the store’s growing IT environments.