There is no question that the self-service kiosk is rapidly changing not only the retail market, but a host of other industries as well. With multi-touch technology widely available and available at competitive prices, the days when customer service necessarily meant an employee-customer interaction are over. Every day across North America and beyond, customers are walking into hardware stores, supermarkets, and restaurants and conducting almost their entire shopping experience via touch screens.

People have been using self-service checkouts in supermarkets for over a decade, but the past two years have seen touch screen technology introduced widely across the fast food industry, with impressive results. This is partially because self-serve kiosks provide a win-win situation: customers can manage their purchases more efficiently and discretely, and business owners can lower their operating costs.

For retail businesses in particular, touch screen technology is more important than ever because of it can provide an important competitive advantage by reducing payroll. Not only are profit margins typically quite thin in markets like Canada (in 2015, Canadian retailers had an average margin of only 2.3%), payroll costs typically count for the largest share of overhead for a retail business. Not only can kiosks help retail businesses secure a vital advantage over the competition, as touch screen kiosks becomes an accepted part of the retail landscape, businesses that have not adopted this technology will face be left scrambling to catch up.

It will likely be some time before customer service is completely automated, but the success retail markets that have introduced touch screen technology have seen indicates that this is the direction in which the industry is going. Multi-touch technology has been around since the 1980s but new developments have made projective capacitive (PCAP) screens more responsive, and introduced tougher, more resilient options like A D Metro’s ULTRA Resistive model.

Equipped with this new technology, kiosks are not only changing how we shop — they are also saving time and money in a host of other industries as well. Touch screen kiosks have applications for everything from banking (the ATM having revolutionized how customers access their accounts) to ticketing machines.

In particular, touch screen kiosks are being put to use to provide customers with quick access to information. Increasingly, touch screens can be found in hospitals and other healthcare contexts to provide more efficient patient care by cutting down on the amount of time and energy spent on intake processing. Allowing patients easy-to-use information inputs that would otherwise need to be handled by a healthcare professional frees up time that could be better spent providing care. Kiosks are also making healthcare more accessible in remote regions where regular professional care is not always readily available.

The digital revolution has encouraged consumers to expect quick, responsive service that is accessible on their own schedule. At the same time, mandated wage increases in large markets like Ontario are raising payroll costs across the service industry. With high quality technology now easily accessible, it is no surprise that businesses are turning to self-service kiosks to maintain high standards of service while keeping costs down.