Websites and technology are pretty much ubiquitous these days, no matter what industry you work in, but there are challenges that can come with incorporating technology into an existing business model, especially in more traditional industries like food retail and restaurants.
As consumers become more connected via smartphones and other gadgets and technology like mobile payment systems take root across industries, it is vital that retailers and restaurants keep pace with technology and keep customers engaged. And sometimes that means facing the challenges that come with such technology head-on and overcoming them.
Mobile payments is an arena in which retailers and restaurants are seeing a lot of change right now, especially with the introduction and increasing adoption of Apple Pay. High-profile chains and smaller merchants alike are incorporating Apple Pay into their point-of-sale systems, just as customers are starting to incorporate paying without cash or a card into their daily routines.
Bend, Ore.-based specialty grocer Newport Avenue Market saw the importance of adopting Apple Pay into their business as part of the retailer’s efforts to remain a leader in technology in the minds of its customers, according to Lauren G. R. Johnson, Newport Avenue Market’s chief operating officer. Incorporating mobile payments into their business is among several tech-focused moves the retailer has made to that end.
“Fulfilling the expectation of our customers with technology has been great,” Johnson said.
Newport Avenue Market has also incorporated electronic shelf tags and started using Square as a payment system for some transactions, she said, all as a means toward making the shopping experience better for the retailer’s customers.
Since adopting Apple Pay, a transition that Johnson called “a learned process,” Newport Avenue Market has received positive feedback from customers on social media, saying they choose to shop at the retailer due to the safety of Apple Pay. And incorporating the technology has really paid off. According to Johnson, shoppers who use Apple Pay spend nearly $10 more per transaction compared with shoppers who use other types of payment.
Technology that helps retailers and restaurants bridge the gap between physical locations and online operations carries its own challenges, according to Leeyen Rogers, vice president of marketing for online form-building tool JotForm. But if they can work together, physical stores and their online components can foster customer loyalty, especially in situations that allow the customer to have seamless experiences across channels. For example, Rogers said store workers who are able to help customers choose items and then order them to be shipped directly to customers help set up a positive shopping experience that leads to customer loyalty.
“Brick-and-mortar stores and their online equivalents are intertwined in delivering a great customer experience,” she said. “Online operations and technology need to be top-notch, as even smaller details can work against you and work against developing customer loyalty to your brand.”
When it comes to incorporating online technology like ordering or reservations, there are many tools and techniques retailers and restaurants can keep in mind to help them avoid glitches and ensure a positive user experience, Rogers said. First of all, online tools and websites should match a company’s aesthetic, look and feel, and retailers and restaurants should make them clear and well-organized so shoppers don’t have to click around a lot to find what they’re looking for, she said.
“Your website contributes to your users’ impressions on your brand, so you should put your best effort forward to make it a positive one,” Rogers said.
When retailers and restaurants are looking at designing online forms to assist in ordering or reservations, she said that the workflow of the form itself must be concise and easily understood by the customers filling it out. Giving customers the option of saving their forms is ideal, she added, and efforts like that encourage customers to become return visitors. Rogers also advised adding calendar and time-suggesting features when creating online reservation tools.
Encountering challenges when incorporating new technology is inevitable, Rogers said. But the food industry is well-positioned to deal with them.
“Since the food industry is often faced with the pressures of tight time constraints and last-minute changes, they must be flexible and able to adapt quickly and seamlessly,” Rogers said. “Introducing online operations into your business doesn’t have to be hard.”