Saturday 20 July 2013

Loyalty has to keep up with ever increasing customer expectations

Inamo smlBack in 2010, pioneering restaurant inamo launched a whole new user experience for diners.

Using a combination of computers, projectors and software, inamo provides an immersive ordering solution that literally cuts out the middleman (the waiter) from the process and enables each individual diner to browse the menu, build up their order and then send it directly to the kitchen.  While ordering, the possible food choices are projected onto your currently empty plate, allowing you to see virtually what may be in store.  The next time you see a staff member is when the food is placed in front of you.

Having experienced it recently, it was certainly entertaining and different.  What did become apparent very quickly though is how fast things move.

In 2010, not only was inamo launching their interactive e-tables, but Apple was launching their first iPad.  Prior to the launch of the iPad, the human/computer interface had changed very little; we'd all become accustomed to keyboards and some kind of mouse pointer solution and were adept at using them.  The iPad however changed that and began to educate the public on a new way of interacting - touch.

This is no where more apparent than when your fellow diners keep pressing on the inamo menu options projected onto the table, even when they already know that it is driven solely by a mouse touch pad.  The urge to just naturally touch the item being displayed kept coming up and suddenly the innovative dining experience felt.. well a little less innovative.

Pizza Express in the UK  also looked to change the dining user experience as I've written about before.
Their solution utilises technology already available to the customer -  their mobile phone - and provides a means to pay the bill whenever they want and simply walk out of the restaurant.

This is helping to address one of the most annoying parts of the whole dining experience; that time where you've had a lovely meal and now, wanting to go, there is suddenly a desert landscape when it comes to table service.

Unfortunately this also falls a little flat in the user experience stakes though as you need to request a code upfront from your server to make the whole "innovative" experience work - and to be honest, I'm not thinking about the lack of service later when I'm currently getting service now.

I think the real innovation in the area at the moment is coming from technology payment start-up Square.... and the first innovation is that they don't see themselves as a payments company at all.
Founder Jack Dorsey is looking to create "frictionless commerce" with his long term aim to "to make accepting payments a breeze for businesses, and [..] to make paying for stuff invisible—for everyone, across the entire economy, for all types of goods and services".
Their first move into this area was to enable the smaller merchants to accept card payments cheaply and simply through just their iPad app and the Square device.  This single app took the place of the cash register, ePOS and payments terminal.  This changed the user experience for the merchant, but did little for the customer.

Their next move though, firstly known as Card Case and more recently "Square Wallet" changed this by improving the user experience for both parties.  Using the app installed on the users phone, the merchant or restaurant is able to simply see the customers at the till and, clicking on their photo, authorise payment.

For the customer you simply say who you are such as "Hi, I'm Mark" and the cashier will probably already know this as they can see you on their iPad.  Compared to the current payments dance we do with chip&pin or the increasingly sterile process that contactless enables, this is a breath of fresh air.
No cards, no pins, just a simple, friendly hello.

Square report that for the 75k+ merchants currently using it, they see greater footfall and loyalty from Square equipped customers.  This is not surprising and really doesn't have anything to do with points or prizes or emails or offers - this is simply to do with making the experience more frictionless.

inamo with their self-ordering tables are trying to streamline the process to make it more frictionless.  Pizza Express with their self-checkout are trying to make the process more frictionless.

I think we sometimes forget that loyalty marketing is also about reducing friction.

Like inamo, we may feel our programme is innovative, and when it launched it may have been.  However, customer expectations change and competitors keep moving ever forward.

Like Square, we shouldn't be just thinking about how to make each individual part of the process easier, instead we should be thinking about making the whole process "a breeze" - using data and technology to reduce friction and increase loyalty.