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Kiosk Future Trends

How the pandemic presents sales opportunities for kiosks.

May 27, 2020
By Michelle Brisebois

Kiosk sales are expected to accelerate post-pandemic, due to affordability of its footprint and sanitary interface, when compared to a crowded store.

Imagine a wild scenario where your business is on solid ground and then inexplicably, your entire team is unavailable because the government has mandated that they not come to work. If you’d read that statement a few months ago, you might have rolled your eyes. As you read it now, it likely resonates.

Black swan events are defined as events that nobody believes will happen yet somehow, they come to pass. Black swan birds exist, but for many years were considered to be fantasy creatures much like the unicorn — until black swans were discovered alive and well in Australia. Wars, recessions and health care crises like the one we’ve all just experienced are considered to be black swan events. Nobody believes they will happen and when they do, they appear suddenly and with notable economic consequences.

As this article is being written, the Coronavirus Pandemic is at its height but one thing has become abundantly clear — those businesses with multiple revenue streams and retail channels are better positioned to survive. As businesses move forward and rebuild, can kiosk technology offer an important way to develop stability?

How are kiosks different from vending?

If you sell a sandwich that’s stored in a machine and dispensed after payment, that’s vending. If you sell a sandwich at a micro market where the customer picks it up from a display and then pays for it — that’s a kiosk. Vending machines often have a kiosk attached but kiosks aren’t always connected to vending machines. Kiosks can definitely ride a fine line in terms of vending as they can make a sale of a non-tangible item like a reservation or dispense a ticket, but kiosks often sell information or services where vending machines sell tangible goods.


Are kiosks a major retailing trend?

The kiosk market grew three years in a row from 2017-2019 as reported in the 2020 Kiosk Market Censes Report. 2019’s increase in kiosk sales was a very robust 17.9 per cent compared to 2018. The two previous years’ sales were also in line with that growth. The report attributes this progression to the rise of mobile commerce and IoT or “Internet of Things” technology, which connects kiosk technology to the Cloud. In other words, that kiosk experience can be as personalized as your iPhone and each customer gets a tailored buying journey. The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the strength that kiosk technology can offer society — the kiosk can serve 24/7, take contactless payment and not get sick. It’s reasonable to predict that automatic merchandising will accelerate post-pandemic, should businesses use their downtime to research alternate retailing channels.

How do kiosks connect to omni-channel retailing?

Omni-channel describes how customers look at businesses. Omni-channel blends multiple sales channels into one, seamless experience. Customers flow between online and offline; even when shopping offline, they will flow amongst devices to research, browse and then transact. Kiosks help facilitate that flow and increase sales conversions. A kiosk connected to the Cloud will give the customer a personalized interaction which McKinsey reports results in a 5 – 15 percent increase in revenue. The kiosk will remember where the customer left off in their shopping journey at home or on other devices and make it feel seamless.

What sectors use kiosks the most?

Retailers, consumer brands, government, restaurant, gaming and travel have been the early adopters of kiosk technology. Kiosks are chameleons that hide in plain site. If you buy a parking ticket and then check in for your flight, you’ve interacted with two kiosks. A report by Tillster indicates that consumers are comfortable with kiosks as 37 per cent of quick service restaurants (QSR) use them already (2018). The report states that the increase from the previous year was 20 per cent. Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism launched several smart tourism kiosks in September 2019 to give visitors a way to navigate the region even after the visitors’ centres close.

72 per cent of customers want to customize their order but will be more likely to do it when interacting with a screen than a human. Photo credit: © Chinnapong / Adobe Stock.

Kiosks drive operational efficiency

Kiosks are faster and more accurate. Ingenico reports that a kiosk can reduce order time by 40 percent which allows a restaurant to serve more customers within a given time frame. Customers are demanding personalization — 72 percent of customers want to customize their order but will be more likely to do it when interacting with a screen than a human. There is less chance of error with fewer intermediaries between the customer and the order so accuracy is a benefit. Kiosks also drive a higher check average since the absence of perceived judgement will cause the customer to order more than they would have from a person. Modern Restaurant Management reports that the order value was 21 percent greater with 1.4 times more items in the cart as compared to orders placed with a manned cashier. You can sell ad space on the kiosk screen to other businesses as a way of using the technology to drive incremental revenue if it doesn’t ruin the customer experience.

What are some other kiosk trends?

The 2020 Kiosk Marketplace Census Report highlights that the growth in mobile commerce and 5 G technology will emphasize the speed and ease with which consumers expect to transact. Artificial intelligence will allow companies to mine and analyze large amounts of data swiftly and accurately to make strategic adjustments. The pandemic of 2020 is expected to change consumer behaviour as the depth and duration of the behavioural shift will entrench new habits. Those retailers who offered unattended retail were able to continue to operate safely during the shutdown. Those retailers who use kiosks in the economic recovery will grow faster and more profitably.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing consultant specializing in digital content strategy and retail/ in-store activation. Michelle has worked in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She can be reached at