By Erick Kobres
For the first time ever in 2015, mobile surpassed desktop as the primary tool for searching and accessing the internet in North America. This shift in use means that customers are now getting their day-to-day information on the go, instead of at their desks. As restaurant operators, how can you stay relevant to customers as they shift their habits, and ensure you’re making the most of your opportunities? Similarly, how can you understand these habits to improve what you offer to customers and retain them long-term?
In this article, we’ll help to shed some light on the benefits of online ordering, mobile apps and mobile payments. We’ll provide guidance on what to consider when developing a mobile strategy, and finally we’ll provide some of our thoughts on what might be coming up in the future of mobile, related to the restaurant space.
Mobile apps, payments and the cloud
At their most fundamental level, mobile apps and mobile payment functionality focus on the customer experience and deliver increased convenience for users. They turn control over to the customer, allowing them to pre-order food and pick up at a chosen time or location. Additionally, mobile experiences offer features and benefits that help solidify that customer-business relationship, including nutritional information and personalization opportunities that may not exist elsewhere. On the organization side, if done properly, the restaurant can benefit by obtaining customer data that they might not get through traditional brick-and-mortar interactions. This data can be aggregated and analyzed for richer insights and the ability to improve and personalize offerings based on the individual customer. Properly executed, this degree of intimacy with your customers can result in increased loyalty and a far higher lifetime value.
The rise of the cloud
The rise in “cloud” technology has given way to a higher degree of accessibility and a decrease in costs; this means that restaurants can now begin to take advantage of the cloud in ways that they weren’t able to in the past.
So why would a restaurant care about cloud technology? By relying on a cloud-based platform, restaurants can benefit from the speed and reliability of real-time data access; this empowers an improved mobile experience as data is synced between your front-of-house and back-of-house systems to a mobile reporting app. An omni-channel cloud platform makes it so that all the restaurant devices work together, including POS terminals, tablets, kiosks, and mobile apps; these devices sync to an enterprise data warehouse in near real-time and in turn, the restaurant can access critical reporting in near real-time.
Depending on the POS provider, this could also mean that mobile apps are native to the software and can be added easily, creating custom reporting, and increasing the accuracy of inventory management while reducing waste costs. By choosing a cloud-based system, restaurants can reliably guarantee a seamless experience within their mobile and online ecosystems. A cloud-based platform allows restaurant operators to easily scale from a single store to a multi-location chain, all with minimal added infrastructure costs or complexities.
The “Big Five” Canadian banks recently backed Apple Pay and integrated their services with the popular service to finally put the idea of mobile wallets into practice. Having the power of payments on the go makes consumption easier than ever, and a service that the public will quickly come to expect in this fast-evolving world. Quick service restaurants should be prepared for the adoption of mobile payments and contact their service providers to ensure they are or can be enabled in the future. Supporting Apple Pay or other mobile wallet technologies means higher accessibility for customers who want the convenience of a mobile wallet, but also, faster payment options for line-busting and table-side ordering.
The downside? Apple Pay does not currently allow for tipping, a shortcoming that makes it difficult for full-service restaurants to implement. With increasing popularity, however, we hope to see Apple Pay integrate a tipping system that will encourage its use in the hospitality industry.
Key steps in implementing a mobile app and payments system
If you’re considering implementing a mobile app or online ordering, there are many factors to consider, from technology selection to implementation planning. Vital to all of this is that your app or e-commerce platform becomes a permanent fixture within the customer’s choice of experiences on their mobile device.
Mobile apps help businesses engage with customers through gaining insights on their purchases. To gain a permanent spot on their device and retain customers it’s vital to connect with the right information, understand their purchase habits, and provide sufficient value for them to want to return for more. Activities such as personalized offers or relevant promotions are just two methods to encourage repeat usage, thereby inviting them back to the app and creating a consumption cycle. This consumption cycle of connection, understanding and retention sustains your mobile app and ensures a greater degree of profitability for this portion of your business.
From an implementation perspective, there are countless questions to be asked. When having your initial consultation with your technology provider, we recommend asking the following key questions to ensure you have the priority bases covered:
- In addition to in-app purchases, does the POS support mobile wallet through multiple platforms like Apple Pay and NFC?
- Does the mobile app provide an open platform with APIs available for third-party developers? For instance, can your mobile app integrate with loyalty or gift card programs to ensure a single, seamless experience for guests?
- Will the mobile app sync with the POS in real-time to allow receipt printing direct to the cashier and kitchen? Up-to-date inventory calculations? Ease of reporting?
Upon deciding on a provider, you should create a plan for your app. Your plan should include the app’s flow or usability, making sure it is intuitive and similar to your in-store experience so that it remains true to your branding. Create the app with pages set up where your customers can receive information, post orders on social media, and give feedback; a place for engagement. Once your customer’s interest is piqued and they have adopted the app as a useful tool, they likelihood of them using it as a regular part of their mobile habits will increase. The final step is to ensure you have a well-thought-out marketing plan to ensure you maintain visibility of your app and it remains relevant.
Keeping up with technology
Mobile technology exists to create new experiences that are more engaging and more efficient for your customer. Customers have continuously changing expectations, so be prepared for different realities in the future by avoiding a “rip-and-replace” technology. Having a system that will grow with you is ideal; having a system that has to go end-of-life and start fresh to keep up with technological advancements will cause your business to lose paying customers and adoption will decrease.
The integration of mobile with POS and back-of-house will continue to refine operational and higher level processes. Apps and payments could revolutionize the way that the restaurant and foodservice industry work behind the scenes. With endless possibilities, cloud-based systems will eventually absorb all restaurant processes into one streamlined system, most likely working from an app-based solution.
Consumers have an innate expectation of a mobile presence; it is now assumed that a business will have a mobile and online presence and that options like menu items, apps, and social media are all active and live. In order to guarantee a seamless experience for your future consumers, have a conversation with your current solutions provider and ensure they are as ready as you are.
About the author:
Erick Kobres is the Chief Technology Officer of Vivonet, a leading provider of consumer, operational, and enterprise level cloud-based technology solutions for the hospitality industry. Processing millions of transactions every month for thousands of customers across Canada and the United States, Vivonet solutions provide hospitality businesses with additional insights and intelligence to help them unlock hidden business potential and improve organizational performance. Learn more at vivonet.com.