The road to creating a payment kiosk is fraught with pitfalls that can wreak havoc on your bottom line if you’re not careful.
In this article I’m going to cover the 12 most common pitfalls I’ve seen companies fall into when building their first payment kiosk.
It was hard to limit the article to only the top 12, but top 100 would have been too lengthy a read.
I’m not going to get too technical here, as this article is geared more towards project managers than developers.
Here are the top 12 mistakes in no particular order…
1. Not budgeting for ongoing maintenance
The typical annual reoccurring cost for ongoing maintenance on a kiosk application is roughly 20% of the initial price tag. This is not including the hardware warranty of service level agreements (labor for fixing broken parts).
If you spend $100,000 to develop the kiosk application, figure you should budget at least $20,000 annually for ongoing maintenance.
This might strike you as high, but as the developers out there will attest, technology moves fast, and you don’t want to fall far behind.
Servers need upgrading, frameworks need updating, bugs need fixing and there’s always new features to be added.
2. Kiosk is sluggish or unresponsive
A sluggish kiosk can result from a spotty internet connection or poor design.
The illusion of responsiveness matters. For example, when the user is completing their order the kiosk should display an animation to show that it’s processing the customer’s request.
If the UI completely freezes, the customer will worry that the machine locked up.
On the other hand, if there’s an animation conveying the kiosk is busy processing the customer’s request, the customer will assume the kiosk is still responsive and not to worry.
3. Poorly handling internet outages
Internet outages are inevitable, so you better plan for them.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your kiosk needs to function in “offline mode.” At a minimum you should display a screen to indicating to the customer that your kiosk is out of order and helpful advice on how to solve their problem.
For example, “The kiosk is out of order, please pick up the red phone in the lobby and dial #0 for assistance.”
When possible, you should process transactions in offline mode and store them in a local database. Then sync them up with the server when internet connectivity is restored.
4. Too much text on the screen
Your kiosk is not a giant tablet or smart phone, so don’t treat it like one. Each screen should clearly and concisely communicate what you want the customer to do.
It’s better to have more screens that clearly guide the customer through the process, than a few cluttered and confusing screens. This is an amateur kiosk mistake.
Below is a good example from Redbox on how much text is appropriate.
5. Using the wrong enclosure (or none at all!)
The PC or tablet is the brains of your kiosk and it must be protected by a secure enclosure. Exposed USB ports are a hacker’s wet dream because they make it easy to install malware.
Several turnkey enclosure options are available for tablets and kiosks. Here are a few options…
Full Kiosk Enclosures
6. Not monitoring for downtime
Do your kiosks have regular downtime and you don’t even know it? Are your customers opting for the cashier without your knowledge?
The answer may be YES if your system experiences regular downtime. Worst of all, you might not know the extent of the damage until your customers are thoroughly pissed off.
Kiosk downtime can cost you more than you think and it’s easy to monitor your kiosks in real-time so you can address issues quickly.
A couple good options which offer both monitoring and remote access include…
7. Unengaging kiosk attract screen
The kiosk attract screen is the first thing your customer sees when they approach your kiosk.
The kiosk attract screen should entice customers to engage with your kiosk. Many times, this is not the case because the attract screen is poorly designed.
Below is a good example of a kiosk attract screen from McDonald’s.
A well-designed kiosk attract screen should incorporate the following:
- Clearly communicate your kiosk’s purpose
- Convey the benefit of using your kiosk
- Use short, large and easily readable text
- Incorporate eye-catching photography
- Be relevant to your customer demographic
8. Waiting until too late to consider payment devices
This is one of the biggest problem’s companies encounter where they really paint themselves into a corner.
I regular get questions like, “how do I integrate payment device X into my Android app?”
Payment device manufacturers typically only support one or two operating systems (Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.). In many cases the payment device manufacturer doesn’t make an SDK for Android, so you’re left with doing a very low-level hardware integration, or scrapping the entire kiosk app and starting over in a supported operating system.
I’m not trashing Android; my point is to consider early in your project if the payment device you need supports the operating system you want to use.
iOS and Android in particular, will have a limited selection when it comes to payment devices. Whereas Windows and Linux will have the broadest number of options.
This is one of those mistakes that can completely wreck your budget and timeline.
9. Failing to understand EMV and PCI Compliance
What’s the difference between EMV compliance vs PCI compliance? The short answer is they’re both guidelines for protecting cardholder data for the purpose preventing fraud, but they focus on different elements of the credit card transaction.
“To clarify it even further and more simply, PCI is about making sure the card data doesn’t get stolen and is secure in the first place and EMV is making sure if the data IS stolen that the content is rendered useless.”
10. Not considering technical debt
Technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.
Technical debt is a broad term, but I’m going to use it in the context of the framework you use to develop your kiosk application (.NET, Electron, React Native, Swift, etc.).
Your code base will need regular maintenance, so make sure to select a popular framework which you can actually find developers to maintain.
Your developer may love coding in Flutter, but can you easily find a replacement in a pinch if your current developer were to quit?
The ugly truth is, whatever framework you choose today will seem old and outdated 2 years from now. You might as well choose a framework that’s popular and trending upwards.
11. Improperly storing customer data
A security breach is always a possibility. To minimize the risk, it’s best to ask ourselves, “What’s the worst thing a hacker could get if this kiosk got hacked?”
By not storing any cardholder or other sensitive data on the kiosk it goes a long way towards minimizing the damage if your kiosk were to get hacked.
Modern EMV devices will completely separate your kiosk application from the card holder data so you don’t even have the opportunity to store or transmit cardholder data.
12. Not offering concierge service for your first MVP kiosk
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning in new product development. Eric Ries, defined an MVP as that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. This validated learning comes in the form of whether your customers will actually purchase your product.
The kiosk MVP is a whole series unto itself. Long story short, get a basic version of your kiosk out in the real-world as soon as possible and start collecting real customer feedback.
In order to maximize the value of customer feedback, place a real-life human being near your kiosks to assist customers and see how they interact with your MVP kiosk.
As a developer, it’s easy to get ivory tower syndrome and think customers will know exactly how to use your kiosk. When in reality, this is likely the first time they’ve ever encountered your kiosk and it’s probably not as “user friendly” as you think.
You’ll learn a lot by listening to your first customers and be able to quickly incorporate their feedback to provide a superior self-service experience.
Self-service payment kiosks are a powerful tool for boosting sales, reducing customer wait times and combating a rising minimum wage, but it’s also a double-edged sword.
Due to the disconnected nature of self-service, it’s easy to lose touch with your customers and their needs.
This is why the concierge service for your first MVP kiosk is so critical.
By being forward thinking and following these tips, you will avoid some of the most common and costly pitfalls companies make on their first payment kiosk.
CEO at RedSwimmer Inc.
Andrew Savala is the CEO of RedSwimmer, with a background in designing and deploying complex payment kiosk systems.Andrew offers high-value, strategic consulting services to companies looking to develop their payment kiosks.