Custom Kiosks by Influx

Nagarajan Manimaran

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At Influx, we have been successfully custom-building kiosks for cinemas for some years now. I hope this post helps you all get a better understanding about interactive kiosks in general and how they figure in the Influx journey.

 The nuts and bolts

A kiosk is a computer terminal featuring specialised hardware and software that provides access to information and applications for communication, commerce, entertainment, or education. The first self-help kiosk was introduced by Murray Lappe — then a University of Illinois pre-med-student — in 1977. Named Pluto Hotline, it was designed to allow students find movies, maps, directories, bus-schedules, extracurricular activities and courses.

Today’s kiosk is an advanced, interactive version of the classic vending machines, with complex internals and high-tech software programs and configurations. They lend themselves to efficient use in several industries, including banking as is obvious in the many ATMs we see at every street-corner.

Other examples are:

Customers love an efficient kiosk because it is cuts standing in a queue and provides what they want very quickly. The advantages of kiosks are many from the business owner’s point of view too.

Kiosks are:

 Cinema Kiosks Software by Influx

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At Influx, we’ve designed and developed websites and apps for well-known cinema chains across India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and GCC countries. In the entertainment world, cinemas have always vied with each other to implement sophisticated ideas and concepts to impress customers and improve the cinema-going experience.

It all began when VOX Cinemas — one of our biggest cinema-chain partners — wanted a new solution to minimise box office queues. As their preferred vendor, Influx was called upon to develop their first cinema kiosk software.

The appeal of the kiosk lies in its design; it has to be as functional as it is visually appealing. What must be borne in mind is that functionality drives user adoption and overall up-time. Designing a digital kiosk is quite different from designing a website, mobile app, or other computer-based interactive. There are many factors to consider when designing an interactive kiosk — larger buttons, simpler decision-trees, catchy captions, attractive animations, and short dwell-times are features that make a digital kiosk successful.

For VOX Cinemas’ very first kiosk, Influx custom-designed and built a full-feature ticketing software on the Windows 8 App. Integrated with credit/debit card payments, it showed not only the movie schedule, but also had other customer-engaging features — they could print/collect their tickets, watch trailers, book tickets for multiple locations, and avail bank offers.

The customised software provided by Influx simplified cinema management to a good degree by making back-end functions such as location changes, remote monitoring, reporting, and field service easy to handle. It has helped to increase automated sales and the Will Call footprint, which in turn has reduced labour and facility costs, managed peak traffic flow, and provided customers with the convenience of self-service.

Later, we also experimented with the MVVM design pattern.

 What did our success with cinema kiosks mean?

Right from the beginning, our ticketing kiosks received very positive response across every cinemas location they were placed in. A post-installation study revealed that our kiosk software reduced customer queues at the box office by 15% to 20% during peak traffic times.

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So far, Influx has installed customised ticketing software in more than 100 kiosks for five cinema chains across GCC countries. We’re in talks with cinema partners to deploy our kiosks in India and South-East Asia as well.

However, we’re not resting on our laurels. With every new deployment, we strive to innovate to improve the customer experience. Admittedly, one of the most annoying aspects of a kiosk is queueing. I mean, you’re at the kiosk because you don’t want to queue up! One of the main factors slowing down the ticketing process at a kiosk is when you need to enter your name, mobile number and email address (I know, I know, we can’t avoid it though; these are mandatory fields required by payment gateways) before you pay for your tickets.

At our most recent installation at Novo Cinemas, we’ve found a way to recognise an existing Novo Cinemas website- or app-user when they’re at the kiosk! Just before you pay, you can open up your Novo Cinemas mobile app (where you’re already logged in) and flash your unique ID tag — a QR code that carries your individual profile data on it. It gets scanned, and voilà! We have your data and you, your ticket!

A growing percentage of movie tickets are now being bought via ticketing kiosks, but it is not the most favoured way yet. We need to look at this in the future to determine how kiosks may eventually replace manned box office counters. The first hints of this going mainstream has surfaced at the newly-opened Cinepolis at Euless’ Glade Park in Dallas,Texas. It features an all-kiosk lobby and does away with any form of human interaction during ticketing. Though another cinema in Turkey had experimented with something similar a few years ago, Cinepolis is one of the first amongst the large chains to implement such a technology.

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The very impressive revamp of Reel Cinemas in The Dubai Mall in Dubai is also expected to feature a digital lobby but at a scale never witnessed before!

For now, even if they do not replace the box office, kiosks are serving their purpose of moving more patrons through the lines at a faster rate, especially when it matters the most.

Nagarajan Manimaran is Head of Technology at Influx. A very focussed guy, Naga handles technology and manages projects with equal panache. He holds master’s degrees in software engineering as well as business administration and has worked with several major cinema brands for over seven years.

 
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