The Best Practices for Cinema Self-Service Concession Kiosks: A Case Study

October 19, 2022
The DX Team
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The team at DX can tell you all about how our cloud-based operations software will improve the cinema experience for both our customers and their customers, so moviegoers. However, we realize that our software is one of many tools that cinemas can use to ensure efficient operations that save operators time and money.

Another operations tool that many cinemas have adopted over the last two decades is self-service kiosks. Though they initially launched to sell and distribute tickets, in recent years many cinemas have adopted these kiosks for other operations, such as concession sales. Following the lead of the quick-service food industry, moviegoers can buy snacks, food, or other items through self-checkout. One of the largest theater chains in the United States, AMC, is even expanding this idea outside of its cinemas with its “Perfectly Popcorn” popcorn vending machines.

How Kiosks Can Impact Your Cinema’s Bottom Line

Some cinema operators might question the expense of adding or updating the self-service kiosks in their cinemas, particularly if they feel that customer service is one of the strengths of their cinema. There are several reasons why cinemas should consider integrating this experience:

Reduce workload on employees. Some transactions, like picking up tickets that have already been purchased online, can easily be handled by customers through a straightforward process at the self-service kiosk. In some industries, such as pharmacy, studies have demonstrated that such services have had a positive impact on customer satisfaction and service.

Allow employees to focus on other tasks. Obviously, not every operation at your cinema can be automated. While self-service kiosks handle a higher number of customer transactions, cinema employees can instead work on tasks that require a less-transactional approach, such as restocking concessions or assisting with the cinema’s marketing via social media.

Customers are increasing their use of such hardware. Of course, self-service kiosks do not just benefit the business side of a transaction. As technology use and adoption improve, consumers have shown an increasing willingness to automate their transactions. Studies in the quick service industry have shown that customers who are normally driven away by long lines increasingly prefer self-service transactions to speed up the services they are seeking.

Why a Kiosk Case Study?

Studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed customer behavior to such a degree that many consumers previously unwilling to try self-checkout are now more open to using it. Nevertheless, cinema operators should not simply spend money on new self-service kiosks and expect them to revolutionize their business all on their own. Like all business tools, these kosks have best practices that can make the investment in them even more worthwhile if followed.

We looked at cinemas that are currently using self-service concession kiosks and collected data to compare how the use of them factored into each cinema’s sales. Of the 11 cinemas in this study, the average share of customer transactions completed via self-service was 14 percent, with the highest share being 36 percent at one cinema.

We compared cinemas that had a strong self-service kiosk performance (over 20 percent of transactions) to those that had a smaller share of transactions to see what they could learn from cinemas with stronger self-service kiosk sales. What we found is that this experience was extremely effective during off-hours for cinemas, such as when they were used for meetings and conferences during weekdays, attendees used the self-service concession kiosks to buy coffee, biscuits, etc., without any employees serving them.

Best Practices of High-Performing Self-Service Concession Kiosks

Mobility matters. Kiosks that were able to move to different locations (e.g., those with wheels) that could be moved to different locations based on efficacy performed better than stationary ones. Employees were required to move the kiosks, but the ability to move them to where they will perform best based on customer volume can make a significant impact.

Flexibility as a point-of-service (POS) system. The most effective kiosks were the ones that employees could use as a POS system for instances when staff was required to complete a transaction (e.g., when the kiosk is being used as a pop-up bar solution and identification is required).

Speed up transactions during peak periods. During high-demand times like nights and weekends, kiosks significantly helped move customers along in the transaction process, reducing the number of sales that had to be completed by employees. They also gave customers another option for completing their purchases.

Customer education is key. Cinemas that had a higher percentage of kiosk transactions did not achieve that overnight – in fact, these cinemas created education campaigns to help customers learn how to use these new tools. In some instances, this required adding more personnel guides when the kiosks were first installed to assist customers to learn how to use the self-service option. It might cost more upfront, but the expense yielded more use of the service in the long run.

Factor Self-Service Concession Kiosks into Your Business Plan

That last point is perhaps the most important as it relates to adding any new facet to a business – having an implementation plan. Simply buying self-service concession kiosks and setting them in a corner of a cinema is not an effective way to get customers to start using them.

Offering personnel who can assist first-time users, incentives to those who use them (free soft drink size upgrade, etc.), or other methods to promote their use can all help achieve results and lead to the successful adoption of a new tool for a cinema business.

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