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Grow Your Business Technology

How to Use Digital Kiosks and Signage to Enhance Your Business

How to Use Digital Kiosks and Signage to Enhance Your Business
Credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock

A digital kiosk can do far more than a fixed sign. There might be several reasons to go with a throwback display that features the day's menu or weekly specials, but you can do a lot more with a digital version that can change at a moment's notice.

Having a bunch of screens can be expensive and might seem like an over-the-top investment, but it doesn't have to be. The race for improved, low-cost computing is bringing down the possible outlay for running one or several computers in a kiosk mode. 

The following are some situations where a kiosk mode may make sense, and some possible tech offerings for putting them into practice.

Some stores like to greet their customers with a nostalgic chalkboard or wooden sign. While sharing information in these forms has its place, particularly if the target is nostalgia, other situations may be more powerful with a digital look. A digital kiosk also offers more functionality for the customer or the business' staff.

For example, a shared device where a customer can customize their order, share feedback or specify their method of payment is a good way to increase engagement during the transaction. You can solicit immediate feedback in a form that customers are used to, like a tablet.

Digital signage can also change as needs arise, so switching from the breakfast to the lunch menu may be a simple as clicking a mouse. Each of these alternatives can vary widely depending upon the purpose for your business. The key to think about is if something digital is a superior alternative to an analog option.

Tracking inventory is a critical practice that directly affects the bottom line. A device in kiosk mode, be it a large workstation, tablet or smartphone, can be the ideal computing setup for members of your team to enter that critical data.

A digital kiosk allows the company to control the setup and ensure that no time-wasting processes are running. Logistics, HR onboarding, or other tasks that have a single purpose and may be repeated during a shift are ideal situations for a kiosk device or mode. 

Both iOS and Android have a bevy of apps built for such purposes. Deploying a set of tablets or smartphones to the field can be a significant time savings over gathering such information on a clipboard and then updating a database afterward.

People are used to staring at a device for 14 hours per day. That makes them very adept at using a self-checkout line or typing in their own food orders. Kiosk devices are ideal for such circumstances where the customer wants to take control. You've probably been to a restaurant where you can submit a drink order or browse the dessert options from a smart device.

This is a trend that's likely to continue. Humans will still be around for the time being to take orders, but the digital experience could be an enhancement that patrons appreciate. 

The big question, then, is what type of hardware you might need. For an iOS device, Guided Access is your new friend. This is the mode that allows you to restrict an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to a single app.

Of course, investing in a bunch of gear from Apple can get expensive. More devices can be had at a lower cost, especially if you're willing to try out Google's Chrome OS. The operating system can run in several different form factors with minimal computing power needs. 

One especially inexpensive solution is a Chromebit. It can be plugged into any monitor, and then you have a computer that can be run in a kiosk mode. Chromebook and Chromebox devices can also offer this functionality, usually at a much lower cost than traditional laptop or desktop computers. 

Windows 10 can also make this happen. You can use the Windows Configuration Designer to create a kiosk mode out of a classic Windows application or the modern Universal Windows Applications that are available from the Windows Store. 

As with so much in tech decisions, it comes down to what suits your company's needs best. The bottom line is that kiosk mode is a computing option that gives you both more control and flexibility over how you interact with employees and customers.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is a freelance writer in northern California. He is the author of Learning MIT App Inventor and blogs regularly about digital life at The Intersection. Follow him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.