What is a Kiosk and How Does it Work?

Cam Summerson
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The traditional kiosk definition is a “small open-fronted cubicle from which [things] are sold”  like a newsstand or a vendor at a street fair. The kiosk meaning is slightly different today, as we’re typically talking about digital kiosks, which include kiosk machines, kiosk computers, or touch screen kiosks.

Digital kiosk machines automate customer orders of goods and services. Ticketing booths, airport check-in terminals, or ordering kiosks at quick service and casual restaurants are all digital kiosks. Many malls and even some cities use digital signage kiosks to help users navigate, as well as for display advertising.

Kiosk Management

What are some kiosk examples?

Kiosk systems appear in many different form factors, and can be powered by smartphones, tablets, or even custom touch screen devices, meaning they can be nearly any size. Industries you’ll find digital kiosks used in include:

  • Healthcare: Self-check-in kiosks at doctors’ offices; prescription pickup and payment kiosks at pharmacies
  • Restaurants: Self-ordering kiosks or interactive seating kiosks for front-of-house staff
  • Retail: Point-of-sale systems or self-checkout kiosks
  • Transportation: Check-in and ticketing kiosks at airports or train stations
  • Parking: Payment kiosks for parking structures
  • Directories: Large touch screen digital signage kiosks for store directories and advertising in shopping centers

Kiosks don’t have to be fixed to a permanent location, either. For example, admissions at a hospital may have a kiosk on wheels to roll around through the emergency room to get people checked in.

Why should you use digital kiosks?

The biggest benefit of digital kiosks is automation. They’re always on and available — think about self-checkouts vs. employee-manned registers in retail stores. Digital kiosks can also lower your business operating costs, by freeing up employees for more important tasks like expediting and customer service.

Taken as part of a larger strategy, digital kiosks can increase customer engagement, raise revenue, lower costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

Esper Supported Kiosk Hardware

How to choose the right digital kiosk

a row of kiosks
Source: Zephyr_p/Shutterstock.com

Choosing the right digital kiosk system can be a challenge. That’s why it’s best to take some time and think about the purpose of your kiosk. For example, if the goal is to attract foot traffic in a large multi-retailer environment, it needs to be large, attractive, and straightforward to use for anyone who walks up. Ordering experiences, though, may be better served by a smaller device, since a customer is likely to seek out the kiosk organically if they’re already in your place of business.

If you want customers to interact with your kiosk, you want something eye-catching and inviting. For example, you’ve likely seen food sample kiosks at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club — they’re prominently placed in high traffic areas.

When thinking about adding digital kiosk machines to your establishment, here are key things to consider:

  • An inviting experience: You want customers to notice and interact with your kiosk, so it should be inviting and engaging. That could mean large touch screens or audio prompts. An interactive and appealing experience is necessary.
  • An interactive experience: Placing orders, getting free samples, navigating the store, price checks, or downloading/installing a mobile app are all ways to offer valuable interactions.
  • A helpful experience: Not all kiosks need to be transactional. Some could allow customers to request employee assistance, check product prices, or help customers locate products in the store.
  • A simple experience: Usability is absolutely essential for digital kiosks, so they need to be intuitive and easy to use. Everything needs to happen very naturally.

There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to the customer experience on a digital kiosk, and there’s no reason you can’t mix and match the best features that make sense for your business. For example, a retail store may help customers navigate the store, check prices, request an employee, offer free samples, and offer quick access to download the company’s mobile app with a QR code. A restaurant could allow customers to place orders, download a loyalty app, and pay.

Kiosks are workhorses for many businesses. Regardless of industry, these systems are often left running 24/7 with nearly no downtime. That means you need to choose hardware and software platforms that are robust and reliable — when devices are mission critical, you can’t afford for them to go down.

For reliable, robust kiosk management, you need Esper

It’s crucial to choose a kiosk software provider that offers a full suite of tools to manage, update, and monitor your devices. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 or 10,000 — when kiosks are the lifeblood of your business, seamless management is a necessity. Whether you’re just starting the journey or looking for a better way to manage your existing digital kiosks, we have the solution for you. Try Esper device management today to see everything you’re missing out on.  

Manage Kiosks with Esper


What is the purpose of a kiosk?

Digital kiosks automate customer orders of goods and services, streamline check-in services, or operate as digital signage.

What is a kiosk example?

Check-in kiosks at doctors’ offices, self-ordering kiosks at restaurants, ticketing kiosks at airports, and payment kiosks in parking structures are all examples of digital kiosks.

What is self-service kiosk technology?

A self-service kiosk allows customers to order, pay, check in, and more without the need for employee interaction. The process is automated, making it faster and more efficient for both the customer and the business.

What are the advantages of kiosks?

The biggest advantage of digital kiosks is automation. They’re always on and available, which frees up employees for more important tasks.

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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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