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Users and potential users often ask me what the real difference is between kiosks and digital signage. This question is a good one, since we are increasingly seeing the lines blur between the two. You often see tools referred to as, “digital signage kiosks,” or kiosks with “attract screens.” Many end users wonder whether they should pick digital signage or kiosks to boost their customer’s experience.

What’s the difference?

The easiest way to describe the difference between digital signage and kiosks is to use what kiosk consultant Ben Wheeler describes as a “one-to-one” versus “one-to-many” comparison.

Kiosks are meant to engage customers on a one-to-one basis, with customers interacting directly with the kiosk for tasks such as ordering food or accessing information. Digital signage, on the other hand, is generally used to communicate to many customers at once, whether they are walking through a retail store or driving down the road.

That said, digital signage can work well to attract potential users to kiosks. In fact, most kiosks use some type of looped visuals on an attract screen, which is meant to lure customers.

Also, many digital signage installations might feature some interactive element to drive customer engagement. This could be something as simple as a camera that lets consumers use the display to take a selfie, or a touchscreen that customers can use to enter a competition.

The two technologies have different uses, but they can work quite well together.

How do you decide?

The easiest way to decide is to ask yourself, “How important is interactivity to this campaign?” In order to determine this, you need to carefully examine your ultimate objective.

For example, if a gas station is looking to drive loyalty program acceptance, the marketing team should consider deploying a kiosk that allows customers to sign up directly. They might also want to consider digital signage as a way to inform customers about the loyalty program and direct them to the kiosk to sign up. The kiosk could also use a loop screen to attract users.

A retailer who is simply looking to advertise current specials might wish to consider an outdoor digital billboard to promote them. The retailer only really needs a display since the desired customer interaction is simply to come in and purchase the product.

That same retailer might also use a kiosk on site to invite customers to subscribe to the store’s newsletter and get the latest coupons.

As you can see, it can be a challenge to pick just one tool. Many times, a deployer can benefit equally from a combination of kiosks and digital signage. The two tools ultimately work well together: Digital signage draws the customer’s attention, while the kiosk encourages them to engage at a deeper level.

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