By Alistair Venn, Managing Director, Menulog Group
We are fast moving towards a world where almost anything will be accessible at the touch of a button. The rapid evolution of technology over the past decade has not only seen a shift in consumer expectation of the speed in which they can transact, but the increasingly digitised transaction process means consumers now expect a highly personalised retail experience—be this in store or online.
The restaurant industry is a prime example of this, where consumer demand for more choice, faster service and tailored recommendations, has been largely driven by technology innovation. Food delivery services, such as Menulog, have enabled restaurants to capitalise on this trend, by not only providing world-class online ordering and delivery technology to businesses of all sizes, but the data, insights and systems to be able to tailor the experience for each and every customer.
With exponential growth over the past few years, online food delivery offers some important learnings for the entire retail sector. In order to thrive in this ‘always on’ world, retailers must adapt their approach and tailor the customer journey to the individual shopper.
As technology continues to progress beyond ‘mobile only’, the use of data and integration of this across all touch points will not only see the best possible customer experience, but also greater efficiency in operations for retailers. Increased digitisation will continue to help retailers streamline operations, while data will help drive informed decision making to help businesses grow and succeed.
Customer Experience at the Heart
Regardless of how a business evolves, being customer-focussed should remain the constant for any retailer. Technology innovation is key for retailers to find new ways to engage with and support their customers, wherever they are.
Again looking at the restaurant industry, 10 years ago, the majority of customer engagement was face-to-face, but now, people have the ability to engage with hundreds of restaurants in their local area using a few taps of their smartphone. For example, Menulog has more than 11,000 restaurant partners and processes more than 15 million orders each year via its mobile apps and website. Similarly, where customers previously had a small selection of restaurants that could deliver to their home, customers can now access countless cuisines, delivered to their location of choice.
It is innovation in online food ordering and delivery technology that has driven this shift and will continue to allow retailers to meet consumers where they are. While smartphones have been the leading channel in this space, technology innovation on other devices, such as gaming consoles, are giving retailers new opportunities to engage with more consumers.
Menulog’s parent company, Just Eat, has led the industry when it comes to online ordering across multiple devices. Its integration with Xbox means customers can now engage with local food retailers without even interrupting their game! With the ability to reorder previous meals and receive real-time status updates on orders on the Xbox, the entire experience is personalised for the consumer.
The next phase of technology will lose the screen all together, where we’ll continue to see voice technology play a more dominant role in the retail sector. Voice is a convenience and natural way for people to engage and so it’s no surprise major technology players such as Google, Amazon and Apple have put enormous resource into driving the development of voice technology using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Just Eat’s global partnership with Amazon Alexa provides a practical application of voice technology, which makes an already simple process of ordering food via a mobile app even simpler. Data showed Just Eat customers often ordered their favourite meals habitually and so the company sought to surpass consumer expectations by making its easy reorder process even easier with voice.
By simply speaking to Alexa, customers can reorder a previous meal, with Alexa learning from each order and storing previous transaction history. Customers can also check the status of their order, addressing a key pain point for customers, providing greater visibility end-to-end and an even more enjoyable experience.
A Individual Experience, Every Time
Personalisation extends beyond catering to existing customer preferences. As Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning continues to advance, retailers will be able to provide a highly tailored, individual experience, regardless of channel, by helping customers find and select exactly what they are looking for, using data from tracking preferences and buying patterns.
A world-class example is Amazon Go’s Artificial Intelligence-powered, ‘checkout-free’ store in the U.S., which offers an integrated, digitised and personalised in-store experience. With its built-in sensors that track the customers’ movements as they shop, a virtual cart adds items to the customer’s account once they have left the store.
This kind of technology can be applied at varying scales, to personalise the customer shopping experience across all touchpoints. Menulog utilises Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide tailored suggestions of restaurants and cuisine types direct to customers and, will continue to provide better sorting and filtering when customers search for meals, across all platforms, be it app, mobile web or desktop.
From a retailers perspective, the use of Artificial Intelligence allows restaurant owners to ‘get to know’ their customers without ever meeting them. The data Menulog provides to its restaurants allows them to tailor their products and services in order to suit local preferences - this can range from menu optimisation to setting minimum orders or delivery fees in line with local customer expectations. In addition, recommendation engines will enable predictive ordering and tailored communication, allowing restaurants to continue to build a relationship with online customers.
Technology innovation is not only driving an easier customer experience, but is making it easier for retailers to manage business operations. Across the retail sector, smart technology is enhancing the way businesses manage everything from inventories to employees to payments, with data enabling better business practices.
Restaurants that utilising Menulog’s online ordering and delivery technology gain better insight into such factors as peak ordering times and popular dishes by location, and can more accurately manage yield and staffing based on data. In turn, the way this data is utilised to adapt a restaurants offer will again breed better customer experiences.
Similarly, the introduction of chatbots for retail businesses have the dual benefit of enhancing customer experience and streamlining operations. Bots enable an immediate and more consistent customer response and will continue to play a bigger role in customer service. In turn, chatbots can reduce resource retail businesses invest in customers service, as well as the risk of inconsistent communication with multiple customer service agents.
Navigating the Market
With technology evolving at an increasing rate, one of the biggest challenges for retailers is to be able to stay ahead of trends and implement technology solutions that are going to drive the biggest result for their business. It is important for retailers to work with technology providers that offer products and services relevant for the retailer’s customer base and that will enhance the customer’s experience.