The Tesla of Kiosks: Why a software focus delivers results

Arch Order
Mar 24, 2023

Over the last 20 years, Tesla has become a household name. You might own one, aspire to own one, or disagree with the views of Elon Musk so much, you are “never-going-to-own-one”. Either way, it’s hard not to admire the cutting-edge engineering that has gone into a Tesla vehicle.

The unique Tesla driving experience is filled with elegant features. One element that has become particularly synonymous with the brand is the large touchscreen display.

Despite not being the first example of a car sporting a touch screen, a title taken in the 1960s by the Buick Riviera, Tesla is undoubtedly responsible for the wide-scale introduction of touchscreen displays in the automotive world. Before Tesla, car manufacturers were locked into a competitive game of one-upmanship, with each new model featuring yet more novel ways to control complex menus via physical dials in the car. Whilst many manufacturers focused solely on the aesthetics and functionality of their hardware, the software capability on offer was sadly left trailing behind consumer expectations.

As an example, how many times have you tried to use your car’s sat nav only to be taken on a circuitous journey to nowhere, got frustrated, and ended up using Apple Maps or Google Maps on your phone?

Why does this matter? And what does it have to do with QSR kiosks?

The answer lies in the simple fact that hardware is, well, hard! To design, test, and manufacture new iterations of physical products is time-consuming and costly. Contrast that with iterating on software where changes can be made far quicker and cheaper, leading to much faster innovation cycles.

So, by delivering the vast majority of the car’s functionality via software, Tesla gained significant business agility – an advantage they used to constantly improve the customer experience.
The same applies to the world of kiosks. By taking a software-first approach the functionality available to the end user can be updated easily, built faster and crucially improved over time to create a better user experience and to optimise toward business goals.

That’s not all, there is another strategic decision made by Tesla that has parallels with hospitality kiosks.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

If you look at the components of a Tesla it can be boiled down to a giant lithium-ion battery on wheels, and a large liquid crystal display. Essentially, it’s like a large smartphone.

That, of course, is no coincidence. By thinking of the car as a phone and using similar technologies from the mobile industry, Tesla was able to stand on the shoulders of the already giant mobile industry. Because others had already figured out how to manufacture batteries and high-quality displays, it made things significantly cheaper and easier for Tesla.

The smartphone world inspired another lesson. It taught us that the components which mattered to the end user were high-quality reliable hardware, paired with apps that delivered the functionality. The 2m+ apps now available in the Apple app store is evidence of this.

So, what can the hospitality industry learn from the undeniable success that Tesla has experienced?

The use of kiosk technology, even in its most primitive format, has been around for over 100 years. However, the majority of this technology was sold and used as a hardware-first solution. Kiosks were a proprietary technology that came as a hardware and software bundle, making them not only expensive to buy, but a solution that quickly became outdated, leaving you with a customer experience that is forever playing catch up.

The Arch team’s background is in the mobile industry and before we created Arch, our team spent a decade building award-winning mobile apps for well-known brands. Naturally, when it came to focusing on hospitality and creating the Arch kiosk, we were inspired in the same way Tesla was. Much like Tesla, we understood that the secret to success for self-service ordering lay in the customer experience.

We knew that high-quality, cost-effective hardware had emerged from the success of the smartphone industry. Large tablets that have been developed following years of refinement, perfectly optimised to reliably provide a great touch experience, easy setup, and the ability to run third-party apps.

That allows us to focus on the app. The software that delivers the end-user experience.

This software-focused approach, allows us to focus on the experience and the data from real-world usage. We get to learn what’s working and to make changes to suit the needs of our clients and their customers. This rapid iterative approach has been adopted in the world of e-commerce and mobile for a long time but the traditional physical environment of hospitality has lagged.

When you digitise your ordering experience you increase business agility and introduce an opportunity to relentlessly optimise the ordering process. This leads to tangible business impacts.

Get in touch if you would like to take Arch for a test drive.