Revel CSO Chris Lybeer returns as a guest blog contributor to share his perspective on why restaurants and retailers are readying for major point of sale hardware and software upgrades, and how those upgrades will help meet post-pandemic customer demands.
Make no mistake, I think we are collectively far from normalcy as it relates to the effects of COVID-19. However, I hope I speak for many when I say I can see the light at the end of the pandemic-ridden tunnel.
Over the past year, customer preferences have rightfully shifted as they sought out contactless, off-premises means of purchasing in response to the stay at home mandates that swept the world. In many ways, preferences during the pandemic aligned with strategic directions that were already in motion. Many businesses were beginning to draw up plans for brick-and-mortar locations that cater to customers who are digitally enabled, especially for the off-premises and on-the-go diner.
I expect most of these customer preferences to outlast the pandemic. The pandemic has only fast-tracked many businesses' plans to shift their operations to better suit the digital customer. As businesses prepare for a mass return to dining, merchants that had the capital to survive are taking a hard look at the technology powering their businesses today. It’s worth noting that the time to review this technology is now; when guests return in full force, it may be too late for brands with lagging tech solutions to catch up and stay competitive.
The pandemic forced many restaurants and retailers to forcibly plug in bolt-on solutions at a breakneck pace in order to address the resulting challenges head on, or face collapse. Now, these quick fixes have left many with pieced together technology solutions that lack full integration and efficiencies.
With lessons from the pandemic top-of-mind—and slightly more mental space to be proactive rather than reactive—merchants are preparing to untangle their short-term solutions and make hardware and software upgrades that will ready their business to serve the post-pandemic customer. I think the best term for this is “platforming for the future.”
Now that we’ve established the need to address the digital consumer long term and debriefed on the current state of many businesses’ pieced together technology, let’s focus on just some of the strategies that will be key to help businesses thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Merchants who found themselves unable to quickly support omnichannel commerce perhaps hurt the most in the early days of the pandemic. The omnichannel approach—which fully integrates the shopping experience across brick and mortar, in-app online ordering, and more—was and will continue to be an essential asset to businesses both big and small.
Your business must meet your customer wherever they are to accept their order, whether it be in person or on the move, and the number of available channels will continually expand. As just one example, voice ordering in your car at a drive thru is coming soon! You need solutions in place that allow you to implement new channels quickly, and fulfill these omnichannel orders with ease and without mistakes. In other words, you need to be platformed for the future!
On top of that, say a customer is intrigued by a social media advertisement to try a new restaurant. If they’re prompted to input their information via a customer relationship management (CRM) tool at checkout, businesses can continue messaging the customer with various promotions. Fully integrated technology solutions add a layer of engagement to omnichannel commerce.
Indoor dining is gradually re-opening which is a great win for restaurants. However, I expect many customers will continue to opt for takeout and delivery beyond the pandemic. It’s contactless, easy, and many of us are creatures of habit. In light of that trend, it’s critical to have the right technology in place to help you capitalize on those orders.
Many merchants who relied on third-party delivery services throughout the pandemic quickly began to feel the effects of the steep fees—often costing them 30 percent or more of their profits for off-site orders. In some cases, the toll third-party delivery providers take on businesses leaves them with hardly enough margin to survive.
I encourage businesses that want to be present on high-demand digital consumer channels—like in-app online ordering—to turn to native ordering channels through their point of sale (POS) platform. Outside of maintaining more of your profits by eliminating third-party fees, merchants own and control the customer experience. From consistent branding to more effective customer communication, native off-premises management puts the power back in a merchant’s hands.
Adaptability is also a key win when considering native off-premises management. The pandemic forced merchants to be nimble, and owning your own off-premise channels allows you to flex your operations at will. One additional bonus—more native solutions means less service charges, but also less vendors, less support channels, and less complexity.
The pandemic has taught many merchants the importance of staying on top of trends and advancements in technology, and my hope is that technology continues to empower them to both reclaim their customer base and drive new business. Advancements in technology will continue to change the way merchants serve their customers, and hopefully only improve upon the sometimes fragmented customer experience that still exists today.
Change is not only constant, but speeding up. The digital consumer will drive new channels for you to support every year. Platforming your business to support this is no longer a nice-to-have, but a mission-critical component of your operations. Now is the time to position yourself for long-term technology success.