The Evolution Of Self-Service

Customers want to purchase what they want, when they want. Most importantly, they want this to be effortless. This time-tested standard has gone through a number of iterations as technology has become an increasing driver of customer success.

The concept of self-service originated in Memphis, Tennessee, at Piggly Wiggly, America’s first self-service grocery store. While the two words ‘Piggly’ and ‘Wiggly’ don’t exude innovation and dynamics, the store’s owner, Clarence Saunders, is lauded for revolutionizing the entire shopping experience.

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(Source: Piggly Wiggly)

Prior to Piggly Wiggly, store clerks would receive the customers’ shopping list, collect the items, wrap them up, and take the payment. Saunders noticed that this method was a huge time suck and waste of money and thus launched the first checkout stand.

This introduced a new way to shop and a more efficient way to run and manage a business. The idea of self-service has most famously manifested itself in the form of outdoor self-service kiosks, the drive thru. Today, the drive-thru represents around 70% of a quick service restaurant’s (QSR) income and has become a nearly $300 billion-industry.

In response to the huge success of outdoor self-service kiosks, kiosk technology has become common inside establishments. For example, Wendy’s has championed self-service technology by rolling out kiosks in more than 1,000 North American restaurants as well as deploying mobile ordering in half of their locations.

The pace of adoption is driven largely by consumer demand, and this demand is taking off. QSR Web found that, “[J]ust under half of consumers said they prefer to order the old-fashioned way from someone at the counter, a more than 20 percent decrease from the 70 percent who reported that they prefer to do so in 2015.”

Why are consumers quick to relinquish assisted service? In many ways, self-service is empowering customers and enhancing their experience. It is an ideal way to service time-starved consumers who want to get what they want faster. Often, assisted service establishments are understaffed, resulting in long lines and wait times, and in today's culture of instant gratification, long wait times can drive away customers.

Research is showing that more and more consumers want to be the driver of their own experience. From customizing sneakers online to choosing how you want to pay at a self-service kiosk, consumers are customizing their experience to their exact needs.

Consumers are more and more accepting of automated interactions, like choosing an ATM over a bank teller. This is not just another millennial use-case; research by Tillster shows that more than half of older consumers would still visit a restaurant more often if there were self-service kiosks. 

Self-service technology aims to rid its stigma that it is a “one size fits all” solution, devoid of personalization. QSR technology is constantly undergoing innovation, and user personalization will be a key focal point. Customer Relationship Management technology can be seamlessly integrated into self-service kiosks where consumers can easily reorder past orders, see suggested items, redeem rewards, all from of a comprehensive customer profile.

Additionally, self-service technology will take on an omni-channel form. With more and more ordering taking place from consumers’ phones, mobile and online ordering will be seamlessly integrated into kiosks. Mobile’s influence will extend beyond ordering, businesses will share special promos, loyalty program offerings, and news via text message which can be redeemed at the kiosk.

As we said, customers want to purchase what they want, when they want, and they want this to be effortless. Start giving your customers the ability to place orders and reorder prior orders, choose their own modifiers, and even apply coupons to their orders with Revel’s Self-Service Kiosk. With seamless usability and flexible orderings you can increase customer satisfaction, reduce wait times, and process more orders.