Groupon launches outdoor kiosks

By Kaley Fowler

Considering that a typical lunch in the city costs almost $10, coupon services are often a helpful aid to hungry Chicagoans. One popular Chicago-based company is taking strides to make it possible to find deals for local eateries on the go.

Groupon Inc., a pioneer in online coupon service, has partnered with the Chicago-based digital media company SmartDigital LLC to develop kiosks with new outdoor touch-screen technology. The kiosks feature an application with which customers can purchase daily deals and “Groupon Now!” offers. The kiosks also showcase specials from surrounding businesses.

Groupon installed 30 kiosks Jan. 25, several stationed in high-traffic areas such as Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., and Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave. An additional 70 kiosks will be placed throughout Chicago during the next few months, according to George Burciaga, developer of the new SmartDigital technology.

Each weatherproof kiosk features Groupon deals, as well as applications to scope out weather, public transit, dining as well as an instant photo booth, according to Burciaga. He said that the new kiosks integrate directly into social media and mobile devices in order to “develop relationships” with customers.

“Because it’s dynamic and interactive, it absolutely inspires people to touch it and engage,” Burciaga said. “It’s giving a louder message than your traditional advertising.”

Reaching out to and communicating with customers is one of Groupon’s major goals, according to company spokeswoman Julie Mossler.

“We’re constantly experimenting with new ways to reach consumers out of the home,” she said. “The branded kiosks touch people as they’re out exploring the city, providing extremely relevant, targeted deals at a time [when] consumers may be more likely to use them.”

Because the kiosks are easily accessible at street level, purchasing discounts becomes simpler—a benefit to local businesses, according to Patrick O’Brien, Manager of Lizzie McNeill’s, an Irish pub at 400 N. McClurg Court.

“We’ve been using Groupon for a few months, and it has definitely increased business,” O’Brien said. “I think the kiosks will help increase foot traffic.”

Simplified transactions and their proximity to local businesses are important components of the kiosks’ appeal, according to Mark Stern, owner of Weather Mark Tavern, 1503 S. Michigan Ave.

“The kiosks will be very easy for customers [to use],” Stern said. “It wouldn’t be that much different from using a smart phone, but a kiosk is more accessible.”

Burciaga said the new touch-screen technology brings together services and products in a way that is accessible to anyone—something that he believes will one day become an everyday piece of technology.

“I’m going to change the way people use technology outdoors and at the street level,” Burciaga said. “This technology is going to evolve into normal infrastructure on a daily basis. We’re going to see buildings and subways and train stations built with touch screen-enabled interactive technology in the future, and this is the start of it.”