Fifty years ago the process by which a customer would pay for goods was a simple, yet time-consuming, ordeal. Fast forward to 2015 and payment can be rendered in multiple ways, from chip cards to Apple Pay, to sending money over social media apps. The technology as it relates to payments is evolving at a rapid pace, creating a premier customer experience. One of the movements in payments is the idea of offering omnichannel service to customers. Throughout the shopping experience, customers can expect concierge-level service and continuity, from their mobile app to their in-store experience.
But some deterrents still exist for omnichannel payments. One of these barriers is time. The saying is “time is money”. Customers do not want to wait in line 10 minutes for a Starbucks coffee when they are running late to work. Businesses are adapting to understand better that their customers are constantly on the go. In response to this, many businesses are now offering mobile order and pay-ahead options.
Pay and Pick Up with a Click of a Button
The concept is simple: download an app, select and customize your order, pay. Once you show up to the merchant, you simply walk in, alert the nearest sales associate or cashier of your mobile order and pick it up. No line, no wait! Taco Bell was the first fast food chain to offer mobile orders and payments. This allowed their customers to choose their food from the comfort of their smartphone, customize their order to “hold the sour cream” and more, and then pick up the food in store. This enhanced customer experience continues to be adapted for a new subset of consumers who are looking for the added value and convenience that ensures repeat business.
Taco Bell is not the only quick serve restaurant cashing in on the order-ahead system, restaurants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have rolled out their versions of pay-ahead technology. Starbucks now offers a smartphone app that allows custom orders, such as extra shots of espresso, and takes payment, too. A customer simply shows up, tells the barista their name and picks up their order. McDonalds is still testing their app while, competitors such as Chipotle have fully implemented theirs.
What if you want actually to dine in at a sit-down restaurant but are pressed for time? BJ’s Restaurant has considered this and offers an app that allows you to check if tables are available at the location of your choice, put your name on the waiting list, order ahead and dine in. Instead of waiting for a server to take your order and process it, your order can be ready to serve by the time you sit down. Also, you can pay through their app for added convenience. This revolutionary change means an increase in revenue by understanding the challenges that people face day-to-day and responding to their needs with innovative solutions. Also, with the creation of an app, BJ’s can promote loyalty and offer rewards, while simultaneously recognizing customer patterns and behaviors in order to better their own processes and create more convenient solutions that increase revenues.
This enhanced customer experience extends to curbside ordering as well, as seen at restaurants like Chili’s. Customers want the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to expediting a take-out process. With the curbside order process, one can pay ahead and have their order brought straight to their vehicle. This is particularly useful if someone has a time restriction or is unable to leave their car.
What does this mean for all businesses?
Many retailers see that convenience and streamlining a customer’s path to purchase is paramount in staying competitive and being considerate of consumers’ needs. The real beauty of paying ahead is that consumers carry their smartphones with them or are usually within an arm’s reach of their devices. By developing an app, a business can extend their influence while continuously marketing to their customers on a device they always carry.
This concept does not stop at restaurants, however. Babies R Us is making it easier for parents to engage with their print catalog by using their smartphones to scan and read product descriptions, videos, reviews and more. Best Buy and Walmart were early adopters of a version of pay-ahead technology that allows online purchases to be picked up in-store so as to avoid exorbitant shipping charges. Fandango is another company built on the premise of buying ahead. A smart idea in one industry has found numerous parallels that can span across many industries, only increasing opportunity for brand loyalty and revenue.
Now this idea is expanding into curbside service for retail goods. Using a smartphone app called Curbside, customers place orders on their mobile phones for same-day pickup and head to a local Curbside location to retrieve their purchased items. When they arrive, a representative brings the items to the customer – much like a drive-thru.
What is the value to the merchant and consumer?
Gauging value can be tricky. However, consumers will embrace and adopt new technology if it streamlines their experience and makes their life easier. Sheer use of these newly implemented ideas gives us a preview to their future successes. As these technologies become more widely available and develop into the standard way of doing business, consumers will grow to expect this level of service from most retailers. The omnichannel approach aims to transform the status quo while changing the expectations of consumers on a mass scale. This in turn offers gains to merchants by building brand loyalty through streamlined services to their customers. Through a simple, user-friendly app, retailers can improve customer satisfaction, catalog customer purchases, target preferences and offer rewards. This not only drives sales but also creates loyalty.
Outlook: Moving Forward
No doubt, mobile devices are becoming the platform everyone wants to use. It offers the unique combination of convenience – since the consumer already owns the device – and speed by which a transaction can be completed. The possibilities for mobile payments and ordering in the next five years will add value to consumers and businesses alike. How will it evolve in the future and how can merchants take advantage of the technology? Companies may want to consider what the payments landscape might be in the next 5-10 years and consider adapting now, offering solutions to perceived problems to stay ahead of the curve.