Talking With Andrew Savala: Kiosk or mobile app, which one is right for you?

When you think about your custom software solution, sometimes it’s not clear whether a kiosk solution or a mobile app would be preferable. Since everyone has a phone in their pocket, why would you invest in kiosks?

Cris Venegas, CEO of Bixly inc., a Fresno, California based software development company, sat down with André Savala, COO, to discuss this topic.

Here are excerpts from that interview.

Q. How do you define self-service?
A. Self-service is basically doing a transaction without interacting with a person. This can include either a mobile transaction or a self-service kiosk transaction.
Q. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. So why would you choose a stand-alone kiosk over a smartphone if everyone has a phone? Is there a reason why one, mobile or kiosk, makes more sense than the other for a particular application?
A. They solve different aspects of the self-service experience. Smartphones make a lot of sense for doing different transactions over and over, like being able to shop from the comfort of my home, with my phone.

Kiosks are more relevant if you go to a physical store and want an express lane type experience. There are also endless aisle kiosks where you can get all kinds of product information.

Maybe you don’t want to go see the person at Home Depot and explain to them that you don’t know the different types of paint. You just want to browse and research and you might have a kiosk there that is made by the paint maker that explains the different types of things and lets you print samples of different colors or whatever.

Kiosks are really meant to be a physical thing in person. Kiosks also have a physical presence about them. For example, you see the Copy Your Own Key kiosk when you walk into the grocery store, and they grab attention. So this also acts as a kind of sign that will draw people in as well.

You will even see kiosks which will have secondary signs, digital signs to make them even more eye-catching.

Q. You Also run into the scenario that you maybe don’t have a smartphone with you or you don’t want to download an app. Having to create an account can be a “scammer”. With a kiosk, you just have to go up and “point, click and end”, right?

A. Law. I also think people have more privacy issues with mobile apps. You know, “It’s on my phone, my pictures are there, what’s that gonna do? What can he see? “

There is friction in getting people to install apps. So it depends on the use case. There is a distrust of what Google or Apple or whoever is going to do with that information. Kiosks take a lot of that friction away because it’s right physically in front of you. When was the last time you went to a kiosk and had to create an account?

One of my first positive experiences that I remember with a kiosk was this concept of expressway in theaters. As a teenager I would wait in a line where everyone else in front of me tried to decide what they wanted to see and which movies sold out. And then they had to talk with their friend about the next movie they wanted to see.

Then I saw a kiosk with three people in line and I could just go up there and pay like an express lane. It wasn’t even really that I didn’t want to interact with a person, it was just a faster way to do business on my own terms. And then I could just take this ticket and come in. Kiosks are really great for expressway type functionality.

Q. How do you accept kiosk payments? With payments on an app, you enter a credit card or use your Apple Pay, your Google Pay or something, but it’s all digital. How do we handle payments with kiosks?

A. Kiosks are really great for credit card payments. Payment can be very quick. You can pay in restaurants by scanning a QR code and selecting Apple To pay. Where cell phones don’t excel at payments is when you start to get into cash payments. You’re not going to squeeze dollar bills into your phone, but kiosks may have mechanisms to do so.

So kiosks are really the way to go if there is some sort of cash payment or if there are a lot of devices that need to be connected. Your cell phone has a webcam, but can it do fingerprints? Does he have a receipt printer? We cannot physically attach these devices to a phone and there is also the complexity of people having phones with different capabilities.

With a phone, I don’t know if you are using iOS 14 or 15, or if you are using an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 12 or one of the many variations of Android. With a kiosk, you have this very controlled environment.

Q. So if someone is looking to get into self-service, all of these factors that we talked about need to come into play when deciding whether to build a physical kiosk or build an app and know that you are going to face the pros and cons? Does that sound like a pretty accurate assessment?

A. Absoutely. And I mean, that’s the kind of process we go through during the whole road mapping process. So we’re going to have a client who comes to us and says, “Hey, I want to make a mobile app for this, or I want a kiosk for this. And then we’ll start asking them questions about how it’s going to be used.

With mobile, people are bringing their own gear to the equation. So it ends up being a very software type solution. With kiosks you have a computer, you have a physical case that is going to be built of steel and sturdy, or there are more cost effective solutions where you have tablets that are inside the cases and things like that.

Q. One The last thing I would like to touch on is the price of the kiosk software. What are the software costs versus the hardware costs?

A. Software will likely be around 10 times the size of hardware.

Now, if you deploy a hundred kiosks, the hardware could easily outshine it. So, as a rule of thumb, when I have a conversation with someone, one of the first questions is, “How many kiosks are you going to deploy?” If they’re going to deploy one, two, or three, it’s very important to calculate ROI because it’s difficult when you have a few kiosks to generate enough business that enough transactions go through them. Kiosks make more and more sense on a large scale.

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