Digital placement, guidance, and the herd mentality

Digital placement, guidance, and the herd mentality

Let me give you some context before we jump into the retail concepts I am discussing here. I’m briskly walking into a theater to check out the latest blockbuster movie packed with Orcs and Elves. Did I mention I was late?

I rushed into the theater. The box office was located about 15 yards from the front entrance. There is only one line, so I join it. ‘My precious’ movie is already showing previews and I’ve got a line of 12 people in front of me. Worst of all there is only 1 employee working at the counter.

About 5 minutes pass. All I’m focused on is the trickle of customers moving through this line. Then I hear my name called. I turn around and see my colleagues strolling in. They see the line and immediately turn around and point towards the front entrance. Then I see them, three line-less ticketing machines. I walked right past them. Before I knew it they had tickets and were heading into the movie.


Now at this point you might be thinking why didn’t I get out of line and head over to these kiosks?

I have made some real progress in this line. Considering my position and the time it would take to leave the line. I did consider jumping out of the line but I’m stubborn. I wasn’t going to spend all this time in line to only give up and take the easy way out. I’m not alone. The remaining people in line remained in line. At one point I verbally pointed out the kiosks to the people around me. They looked, but no one left. Why?

The Landing strip – Placement

How did 13 people miss this kiosk and choose to take the slower route to their movie? The concept of the landing strip is simple. People entering a building don’t enter through the door and stop 1 foot in. They continue to walk while they get their bearings and decide their next move.


According to Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, we build up a lot of momentum walking through a parking lot. This momentum carries us through the entrance and on to the landing strip. Here on the landing strip, we slow down before focusing on our next move.

When I entered the theater my focus was forward. I never noticed the ticketing kiosks even though they were in plain sight.

Most of the time the placement of a kiosk is an afterthought. First off, the units are expensive. Simply placing a kiosk in your business is a waste of money. Most businesses don’t think through the optimal experience for a customer entering the store. This makes poor placement pretty common. The customer never even knows it’s an option. The kiosk ends up in the only open area, usually near the entrance.

Consider the time I wasted in line.

I could have bought popcorn. And a soda. And maybe even a Choco Taco.

The not-so-helpful associates – Guidance

The theater featured a counter with 4 registers and some digital signage with showtimes. A designated area sectioned off by velvet rope kept everyone in a single line.  The infrastructure was built to support the opening night of a movie. But they only had 1 register running.

What’s even more concerning is that the associate never mentioned the kiosks. At Reality Interactive, our belief is that the best technology serves the customer and empowers the employees. The easy solution would be training for all theater employees. When the line gets big to recommend customers take advantage of the ticketing kiosk. This would make the employee’s jobs easier and lower the stress that comes with a long line.

I also can’t rule out that this employee was trained and failed to use there training. They also might have be scared that the kiosks may eventually take their job. After which, collectively enslave the human race. Let’s not rule that out.

The herd mentality

Everything to this point can be blamed on human tendencies, bad employees, and design. But I think this last point was all our own doing.

So recall, after I observed my friends buying tickets at the kiosk I stayed in line. Everyone else in line did nothing. I even vocally acknowledged the kiosks to the people in line behind me but still, no one moved. It might have been more powerful coming from someone who worked there.

I’m not an expert on human behaviors. But have seen first hand, people being influenced by their peers. They called it peer pressure in high school but this wasn’t exactly that. You might call it a subtle case of herd mentality.

People adopt certain behaviors from “the herd”. Once someone breaks the mold, it’s like we’re all free to do it. That is why I think the theater has the opportunity to fix this problem. A sign directing customers to the kiosks would be a low-cost way to break the herd and provide a better experience. Customers would have more time to visit the refreshments counter and make more purchases. In this case, it makes incredible sense since the most money is made off of food and beverages.

It all comes down to removing the barriers that stop us from spending. Lower wait times will increase customer satisfaction and spending.

This article describes a personal experience from movie theater in Connecticut.

Positioning Examples

Here are some additional placement examples.

In this example we see kiosk positioned right next to the box office. Original image by Bill Iadonisi (link).
These kiosks are not positioned next to the box office. To compensate they are angled towards the landing strip.
In this example, the theater is using a sign located above the kiosks to attract customers. Original image by Bobby Sturgeon (link).

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