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Utilization of Kiosk Technology by Retailers Set to Grow Significantly in Canada: Study

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Investment in self-service technologies is exploding as Canadian businesses seek safe distancing, touchless transactions and a simple, intuitive user experience for employees and customers during the pandemic. 

A survey by Angus Reid, commissioned by SCI Group Inc. and Signifi Solutions Inc., indicates that half of respondents say their organization actually increased investment in kiosk technology prior to the pandemic, with three-in-10 saying their investment level has increased by more than 15 per cent since 2019. 

The survey also found that 47 per cent of businesses will spend more on kiosks in the next 12 months; among those who say their investment has increased since 2019, 61 per cent identified the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant or moderate factor in their decision; and the primary motivator for businesses when investing in self-service technologies is customer and employee satisfaction, with 63 per cent of businesses identifying this as their top driver. 

Peter Collier

“The pandemic drove more people to use kiosks, which increased their comfort level with the technology and is leading to even better user-centric design for the next generation of devices,” said Peter Collier, Vice President, Technology, SCI Group, a logistics company. “We expect that increasing user comfort with kiosks and ongoing design improvements by kiosk manufacturers will continue to drive adoption.

“The growth of the self-service kiosk industry and the fact that it’s going to go on beyond COVID is the interesting part for us. People are looking at it from both a customer service perspective as well as employee satisfaction perspective because you can take employees and redirect them to higher value items and from a customer perspective you give them more options. So they can choose now if they want to go stand in a line and talk to somebody or ask somebody something or if they just want to self-service and look after themselves at the kiosk if it’s a simple basic transaction or something they’re familiar with.

Image: 2021 Canadian Kiosk Market Report

“I really found it interesting that with COVID, we all went to a little bit more of a remote model and people became very familiar and comfortable with that and people want to continue that and expand it to give them more options going forward. So it’s definitely the longevity of self-service kiosks and the growth of it that we’re going to see in the next couple of years.”

The 2021 Canadian Kiosk Market Report said the pandemic has been a clear impetus behind investments in self-service technology. Among those who say their investment has increased in the past 12 months, 61 per cent identified the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant or moderate factor in their decision. For the healthcare sector, the primary application of kiosk technologies was for check-in purposes to help improve customer wait times. 

It found that nearly half of Canadian businesses are already deploying self-service technologies, and another third plan to deploy kiosks or some form of self-service technology in the next 12 months. 

Canadian businesses are including kiosk technology as part of their digital transformation strategies, with 77 per cent of organizations stating kiosk technology to be important to their business in the next five years. 

Aisle 24 Market in River City 4 (Photo by Dustin Fuhs)

“There’s a new appetite for automation and kiosk technologies, part of which may be attributed to the shift in user habits that has stemmed from the pandemic,” said Jamie McDowell, Vice President of Marketing at Signifi Solutions. “More and more Canadian consumers and employees seem to appreciate the simplicity and interactivity provided by kiosk technologies. Organizations are seeing this shift and including kiosk technology in their digital transformation plans.”

The report said the primary motivator for businesses when investing in self-service technologies is customer and employee satisfaction, with 63 per cent of businesses identifying this as a top driver. This was particularly noted in the retail industry, where 90 per cent of respondents said one of the main benefits they’re seeking from kiosks/self-technology is better customer flow. 

“This research shows that organizations are looking for more than efficiency; they want to reduce customer wait times and improve the flow of people through stores and workplaces. Many are also looking to expand beyond transactional experiences to make kiosks part of an omnichannel infrastructure,” said Collier. “This also marks an important step forward for self-service technologies underscoring the shift away from thinking of kiosks as simply a cost and efficiency play – though both remain important drivers for buyers.” 

New contactless pick-up lockers at a Lowe’s location in Scarborough, Toronto. Photo: Lowe’s

Collier said it’s important that the companies get the technology right for the customer and it has to be integrated to the back end of whatever system the consumer engages in.

“The one thing is in the old days kiosks if you think about it were very transactional to what was in front of the consumer. These days you want to be able to order ahead of time and know that it’s already going to be in that particular box or kiosk. I can choose to have things delivered to a kiosk that’s maybe installed at a bus station or a subway stop. So flexibility from a consumer perspective to choose a more convenient location or secure location that I can pick up my packages with and that’s all about being tied to the vendor, the seller, the retailer’s back end system. That piece of the technology is huge,” said Collier.

“And obviously making sure it’s resilient. When I show up to scan my QR code or whatever to open the box or whatever four-digit code I have to open a door has been loaded properly to that box.”

He said the increasing use of the self-service kiosks is really across all areas of the marketplace.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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