Not too long ago the idea of using a mobile phone to not only order a skinny latte in advance, but also receive a discount for it, as well as coupons for the local fitness gym, would be preposterous. Yet today, these capabilities are essential to Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) aiming to enhance and personalize the customer experience. The fundamental goal is to create a destination where customers feel at home – where you get your regular order quickly and conveniently, and where (as the old Cheers sitcom stated), everybody knows your name.
Getting to Know You
Insight into the habits of specific customers begins with seeing patterns – let’s say “Mary” comes to my store each morning between 7 and 7:30, and always orders black coffee. I need to ensure that her coffee is ready and piping hot right on time and that she is rewarded for her loyalty with free coffee every few visits. It’s also nice if I can send her offers from local businesses comprising cross-brand and partner advertising deals to add a new layer to the segmentation strategy. “Susan,” meanwhile, regularly buys a salad – she might receive a coupon for fitness clothing or a health club. Then there’s “Joe,” the guy who brings his kids in for hot chocolate and cookies, and who may be interested in a coupon for a laser tag pavilion.
The key to such a QSR segmentation strategy is a foundation of data collection and analysis. At a high level, buying patterns can be identified from store receipts, while beacons, in-store cameras and face recognition technology can collect volumes of individual customer data on-site. The challenge lies in gaining insight from all these data points and applying that insight to tailored and effective programs. Here, the rapidly developing field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is breaking new ground. Specifically, cognitive tools that apply pattern recognition to analyze mountains of data have the capability to identify connections between seemingly random data points to help QSRs find a pattern and assess what works and what doesn’t.
Providing a De Facto Office
In the age of telecommuting, QSRs are learning that today’s patrons are not only demanding convenience and a personalized touch, but they are also viewing their local QSR as a de facto office, where they can connect to Wi-Fi and work without interruption. QSRs that can provide this combination enjoy a real competitive advantage. Starbucks, for example, with its targeted loyalty incentives and convenience programs and Wi-Fi access, has become a social community with regular patrons who use the space as an ad hoc home office. Starbucks has not only differentiated itself by offering this amenity, but has attracted a huge, loyal customer base.
The Tricks of the Trade – Other Tools and Technologies that Make it all Happen
For QSRs looking to connect with their customers, the mobile device has become the key data provider, capturing information about buying habits through loyalty cards and advanced ordering apps. It also has become the vehicle for delivering information to the customer in the form of special offers, cross-promotions and other notices. All of this accumulated data and analysis means more personalized connections between the QSR and the customer.
Realizing the wide range of in-store opportunities enabled by mobile devices and analytics, beacons, face recognition and digital signage requires network infrastructure to deliver greater communications bandwidth. While the next-generation network technology needed to support customer-focused applications is certainly available, the cost of installation in multiple QSR locations can make network upgrades cost prohibitive. Even when cost is not a primary consideration, network upgrades require a phased approach and can’t happen overnight. And adding bandwidth is only part of the challenge – developing and managing customer-focused applications requires fundamentally new skill sets and significant changes in organizational alignment.
Because of these challenges, QSRs need to work closely with their telecommunications carriers and advisors to innovate new solutions that enable them to offer great Wi-Fi user experiences more easily and securely. They also need to make sure they are not just building a new infrastructure for today’s requirements, but for changing needs two to three years down the road as well. This requires contractual flexibility to redefine service level agreements (SLAs) to adapt to new needs. Simply offering cheaper bandwidth and serving as a transport mechanism isn’t enough.
By leveraging advances in mobile technologies, innovative telecommunications capabilities and advanced analytics solutions, QSRs are getting closer and closer to their customers, and those customers are reaping the rewards for their loyalty with fast, personalized and convenient experiences. It’s a direction the whole restaurant industry is fast embracing.