What the Future Holds for Restaurants and Retail

     

Our world is changing, quicker than some of us would like and for others, not quick enough.  All this change affects restaurants and retail like no other because your customers are on the forefront of these changes.  As your trusted Point of Sale (POS) provider, we find ourselves changing too.  We can’t just be a company that provides for you today, we also have to be able to provide for your future.  To help us do this, Skurla’s has been a member of RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) for the better part of 40 years.  RSPA isn’t just for retail though.  At its heart are hundreds of POS providers and vendors, working together for a common cause: to help you.

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Every year, RSPA members, vendors and partners meet at an event called RetailNOW.  I was fortunate to be able to attend and see what the future holds for restaurants and retail.  There were too many things to cover here but there were a few that stood out as key areas for merchants to take note of.

Customer engagement was one of the most popular areas that other POS dealers such as us were interested in.  A lot of this revolved around things like customer loyalty, data analytics (using it) and mobility.  These three things are fast becoming inseparable to the modern merchant.  They don’t have to exist together but when they do, it’s a big win for the customer and the merchant. 

  • Customer loyalty is a system that rewards the customer for coming back to a merchant and giving them repeat business. It’s usually offered up in the way of points that are redeemed for good and/or services.  The big change here is making it as easy as possible for not only the customers to participate but having the merchants staff understand the process and help the customers engage.  Your staff are the “face” of the business and if they are engaged in the process, they will sell it like no other.  But to make it easy, you need to make another change: mobility.
  • Mobility is a two-way street and your customers are already experts. If you don’t have the right mobility options to engage them, you’re falling behind.  New POS options have beacon technology, which enable merchants to know who is in the store or if they are close.  Utilizing this, smart merchants can know what a particular customer likes and market or sell to them direct and the customer will cheer you on for it!  But in-depth knowledge of your customer preferences takes more than just data.
  • Data analytics isn’t enough – utilizing it is key. There are plenty of companies out there who will gather data for you but what do you do with it?  Using that data in a meaningful way is the third piece of customer engagement.  Have you ever been to a store or restaurant and filled out a comment card and never received a follow up call or email?  Or maybe not seen the changes that you would have expected?  Sadly, customers see this all too often and the result is that they don’t patronize that merchant again or are dissatisfied and share their experiences with other potential or existing customers.  Having tools and systems in place to act on your data will help you better serve your customers and turn them into raving fans.

At the show, I was in a class that a data consultant was giving about using customer data.  He gave an example of two companies he worked with, both major fast food chains, who were looking to improve their service.  The first had spent several million on a data analytics program and touted all the insights they were gathering on their customer base.  Unfortunately, they hadn’t really given much thought as to what they would do with information.  The second company had a different approach.  Instead of focusing on gathering all the information they could, they focused on certain KPI’s (key performance indicators) they had identified that had the most impact for their customers.  This enabled their staff to concentrate on data they could affect and in real time.  Managers were alerted of long order times for a particular cashier would walk up, identify the solution and give a quick training session, all within a couple of minutes.  Because they could get meaningful customer data in real time, via their tablets, they improved their service and customer satisfaction easily.

You may be telling yourself that your business could never do the above.  That a major fast food chain has a bigger budget than you could ever afford.  You may even think that customers aren’t expecting that kind of service.  The fact the technology is here and is affordable.  And your customers are rapidly expecting that kind of service, that is if they aren’t already.  Most Americans, around 95%, own a cellphone.  Of that, around 77% of them use a smart phone.  Compare that with 8 in 10 U.S. adult own a computer and it’s easy to see that technology is becoming cheaper, more reliable and is a part of our everyday lives.  These changes aren’t just the future, they are here today.

Since 1976 Skurla’s has been helping Alaskans with their POS needs – that part has never changed.  Let us help you take your business to the next level.  We offer financing, merchant services, POS and solutions to help you get started with customer loyalty, mobility and data analytics in your business.

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About The Author

Thomas Greenman is the Service and Operation's Manager for Skurla's POS Solutions. Besides knowing all about Point of Sale inside and out, Thomas is also an ETA Certified Payments Professional (CPP)