The Year in Self-Service Technology

The Year in Self-Service Technology

What worked, and a look ahead to 2023

The past year has certainly been tumultuous. On the one hand, the world continued its welcome return to some sense of normalcy in the wake of the recent pandemic. On the other hand, supply chain issues and other complications led to unprecedented challenges and a level of inflation not seen in decades.

Combine that with “the Great Resignation,” which found businesses of all types struggling with staff shortages and skyrocketing wages.

All of these factors, and others, have helped to drive the ever-increasing adoption of self-service technology. A recent report from Allied Market Research projects that the global market for self-service technologies will top $88.3 billion by 2030, up from $32.2 billion in 2020.

The 10.5% projected compound annual growth rate of the self-service technology market is significantly higher than pre-COVID projections. Other drivers include increased demand, continuing social distancing practices and a desire for contactless transactions. Verticals seeing an increase in the adoption of self-service technology include retail, restaurants, hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing.

And thanks to the prevalence of smartphones, tablets and wearable technology, consumers are more than comfortable with the self-service interactions that take place via interactive touchscreens. With that in mind, let’s look at some recent self-service successes.

Winning trends

Before we begin our overview, let’s start by defining some terms.

First, what is self-service? Simply put, self-service is the practice of completing a transaction without the help of staff, typically when making purchases or ordering goods or services.

And what is self-service technology? Examples include self-service kiosks, touchscreen digital displays, mobile devices and more, with use cases including ATMs at the bank or in a convenience store, check-in kiosks at the doctor’s office, “endless aisle” kiosks at a retail store and wayfinding displays on college campuses along with self-order and self-checkout stations at restaurants or grocery stores.

Also included are those technologies that help facilitate self-service, including 5G connectivity, cloud computing and Internet-of-Things devices.

Here are some of the top self-serve technology trends of the past year.

Telehealth – Although telehealth, or the concept of having a remote interaction with a healthcare professional, has long been touted as a use case for interactive kiosks, the pandemic brought it into prominence and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. One study, for example, projects the market for telehealth kiosks will grow at a 12.79% compound annual rate over the next 10 years, reaching $40 billion by 2032.

In mid-2022, Delaware expanded its deployment of telehealth kiosks after a 2021 pilot program. The kiosks will be used to increase healthcare access to rural and underserved communities in the state. Along with allowing residents to sign up for health insurance and consult with a doctor, the kiosks can be used to access employment assistance and legal services.

And out west, Texas A & M University is testing whether telehealth kiosks can be a solution to areas of the state suffering from a shortage of physicians and a lack of medical clinics. The Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals notes that 26 rural hospitals in the state have closed since 2010 and 35 counties have no physicians at all.

QR codes – Once thought to be on the way out, QR codes found new life during the pandemic as consumers continued to seek contact-free experiences. A QR code on a menu or restaurant tabletop allows diners to order their meals from a mobile device without having to interact with a server. At a concert or sporting event, QR codes serve as your ticket. On a store shelf, a QR code brings up more information about a product. QR codes are even appearing in television commercials to deliver coupons.

Downloads of QR codes skyrocketed by 750% during the pandemic. Thanks to the increasing penetration of smartphones, studies indicate that a billion smartphones will have access to QR Codes by the end of 2022, with more than 5 billion QR codes used for coupon redemption alone.

Data-driven decision-making Every interaction with a self-service device produces a record that can be used by deployers to spot trends and help improve service offerings. Additionally, the devices themselves can use the records to better meet user needs while at the same time increasing sales.

For example, if a user of a self-order kiosk at a quick-service restaurant chooses a chicken sandwich with onion rings, and the kiosk knows that users placing similar orders often order a (high-margin) chocolate shake, the device can automatically suggest adding a chocolate shake to the order. Or if an IoT sensor on the roof of a retail store detects that it’s raining, a retail self-service checkout device might suggest the purchase of an umbrella conveniently located within arm’s reach.

Personalization — One of the main consumer complaints when it comes to self-service digital devices is the impersonal nature of the transaction. Fortunately, those complaints are being addressed with personalization. By swiping a loyalty card, entering a phone number or interacting with a mobile app, self-service devices can greet users by name, acknowledge birthdays or anniversaries and make suggestions based on previous purchases. Studies indicate that 44% of consumers will become repeat buyers after a personalized experience with a brand, and personalized interactions can increase revenue by up to 15%.

Automated pickup lockers — For many consumers, the pandemic was the gateway to online shopping. People realized it was no longer necessary to drive to a mall or retail outlet to purchase the items they desired. With just a few clicks, they could order those items and have them shipped to their doorstep.

Unfortunately, the increase in online ordering has inadvertently spawned another phenomenon: the porch pirate. Chances are we’ve all seen a doorbell video in a TV news story on package theft, where the delivery of an important package is followed by someone sprinting up to the porch, grabbing it and dashing away. To combat the trend, those purchasing expensive items online are opting to have them delivered to an automated pickup locker inside a retail store, at the delivery service office, or near the apartment complex mailboxes. Purchasers receive a text notification when the package arrives and enter a code to open the locker door and retrieve their purchase. One study predicts that the parcel locker market will grow at an 11.8% compound annual rate over the next five years, reaching $1.5 billion by 2028.

The road ahead

Self-service, as with any technology, continues to evolve on nearly a daily basis. What may be common tomorrow was unthinkable just a few years ago. Although it’s impossible to predict with any certainty what the self-service arena may hold in the upcoming months, here are a few technologies that seem to hold particular promise:

Facial recognition Facial recognition technology has been touted as a way to accomplish tasks such as ordering food and paying for purchases. Although those applications have yet to come into widespread use, facial recognition is growing.

The Transportation Security Administration is currently testing facial recognition technology at 16 domestic airports, with plans to begin rolling out the technology to airports around the country in 2023.

The technology, which cross-references live photos with a traveler’s driver’s license photo, was originally deployed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and now includes major airports such as Los Angeles International Airport, Orlando International Airport, and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Travelers currently opt into the process by stepping up to a kiosk, inserting their ID, and having their faces scanned. They can also choose a standard TSA screening process instead.

And when it comes to paying for items via facial recognition, the technology is growing in popularity in China and has made inroads in the United States. Still, privacy concerns may limit how widespread its use becomes.

Artificial intelligence — In a not-so-scientific poll asking tech executives what they saw as one of the top trends on the horizon, an overwhelming majority cited artificial intelligence and machine learning. As mentioned above, consumers still want to receive information specific to their preferences and prefer to engage in transactions that acknowledge who they are.

AI is providing self-service devices with the ability to meet and anticipate a customer’s needs, providing a more engaging experience in the process. In a healthcare setting, AI-powered check-in kiosks can ask questions of a patient as they’re checking in, narrowing down their health complaints and making the interaction with a physician more efficient. In a wayfinding scenario, such as when a major sporting event wraps up and people are heading for the exits, digital signage outfitted with AI can monitor visitor flow to help minimize crowding, make decisions on the best routes and get people to their destinations more quickly.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality — The concept of augmented reality (AR) initially entered the consumer consciousness via the mobile phone game Pokémon Go, where players viewed their surroundings through the camera on their mobile device to locate, capture, train, and battle virtual creatures called Pokémon. And virtual reality (VR) is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the growing number of VR headsets and games appearing on the market.

AR has already made inroads in the world of self-service via devices such as smart mirrors that allow shoppers to see themselves in a variety of clothing styles and colors without actually having to try them on. Or let’s say they are seeking to purchase new furniture but would like to see how it would look in their living room before buying. An AR app on their mobile device would allow them to take a picture of their living room ad place a virtual image of that furniture.

A few years ago Amazon opened VR kiosks in 10 shopping malls across India. Customers were able to walk through a virtual landscape and view items available for its upcoming Prime Day sale.

Although the adoption of AR and VR in self-service is still in its infancy, industry observers say it’s poised to explode. One study estimates the global AR and VR market will reach $200.1 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual rate of 24.2% over the next several years from $28.5 billion in 2021.

Whatever the future holds, it’s a safe bet that self-service technology will be a part of it. If your business hasn’t incorporated self-service technology into its operations, it runs the risk of being left behind by the competition.

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Retail Self-Service Automation: State of the Industry