John Lamb is the Chief Marketing Officer at Elo.
Consumer-centric technology has rapidly evolved over the past several years. Now, point-of-sale (POS) innovations have passed their testing phase to become a nearly nonnegotiable requirement for businesses hoping to provide convenience and remain competitive. The rapid evolution of technology innovations has challenged IT systems, hardware requirements and the way retail and hospitality businesses operate. But the result is a modular-by-design approach to developing systems that is inherently adaptable to address inevitable future challenges.
As the chief marketing officer of a company that offers technology with integrated modularity, including touchscreens for retail, self-ordering, POS and other applications, I’ve found that the advantage of using solutions with built-in flexibility is that they allow businesses to deploy and redeploy technology as they pivot in the face of changing market and labor conditions.
One key to scaling and optimizing your business, even through economic downturns and pandemics, is to innovate fast and move forward. This often involves using technology that caters to preferences and convenience and drives that momentum forward.
Younger generations are the leading edge of changing consumer patterns. In my experience, they’re unlikely to want to wait in long lines when ordering food and are accustomed to finding out when their orders will be ready through push notifications. Businesses that do not provide this kind of convenience may ultimately be left behind.
Innovation continues to accelerate, and the strategic use of technology could be the difference between winners and losers. I believe this strategic use requires becoming more modular and fueling the drive toward containerization—the bundling of everything required to run software when moving between locations—and migration to the cloud.
For retailers, a computer or touchscreen is a baseline requirement. But true modularity comes with the ability to add components such as scanners, cameras or different payment devices, allowing the same screen to be configured or reconfigured and moved throughout various touchpoints.
Employing innovative technology based on your customers’ needs and wants also opens doors for you to improve the consumer experience. One use scenario is offering a complete mobile app that combines a rewards or loyalty program, bespoke coupons sent via notifications and the ability to speed in-store engagement through geofencing and tap functions. Offerings like these can show your customers that you’re willing and able to go the extra mile to provide convenient and personalized solutions catering to their needs.
Additional peripherals are all pieces of an individual business’s solution to providing a next-generation customer experience. The onus is on businesses to challenge their core partners to set up an innovation team that ensures they are driving toward that next level of consumer experience.
The ability to move technology or components of a product around—known as “modular by design”— can help accelerate innovation. It can also help protect businesses from the decisions they make by allowing them to pivot quickly into other use cases and applications.
Each of the components added to the base technology are akin to Lego blocks. Forward-thinking businesses can take all those pieces and build just about any interactive solution they want in industries such as retail and hospitality. In hospitality, they could automate front-of-house ordering so staff can work in a more strategic customer experience role. They could later deploy the same screen as a bump bar, a kitchen management system or a drive-through timer platform.
Modular technology is less foreign than it may seem, and most businesses and consumers unknowingly use it all the time. Modular furniture like LoveSac couches allows users to design and redesign their furniture whenever they want. Modular smartwatches allow you to change out your watch strap or add additional features.
For legacy businesses like food trucks, modular technology may look like kiosks that allow customers to order food and receive a text whenever it’s ready for pickup. The common denominator here is convenience. Regardless of your industry, there is likely a process or product within your business that can be optimized to offer your consumers a smoother customer experience.
Once there is a food truck at a festival offering that level of convenience, it becomes the new standard. We have already seen this phenomenon in retail and hospitality. People who have created successful systems can gain an advantage even when costs are rising, while businesses that don’t put a premium on convenience are more likely to fail.
Many companies also make the mistake of prioritizing new technology before understanding changing consumer expectations. By getting to know your customers first, you can choose the right building blocks to anticipate consumers’ needs, even before they voice them. As the market evolves, businesses can continuously adapt by adding new components.
Steve Jobs once cited the world’s first small laser printer as an example of a product that Apple anticipated being able to sell successfully. “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology,” he said of a principle as relevant as ever today. “You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.”
There is no argument anymore: Many consumers will move on to a competitor the moment their expectations are not met. Optimizations ensure that the creativity, blood and sweat that people have put into their businesses prepare them for what could happen in the future.
Businesses looking to adopt new technology and start the innovation process should first focus on aspects of the business that customers are least satisfied with. Evaluate customer pain points, brainstorm solutions that resolve those issues, and then consider looking for technology that can ultimately make the customer experience better.
As one Harvard Business Review article (paywall) explains, the ability to pivot fast in the face of rapidly evolving market conditions is essential to making businesses “future ready.” The stakes are survival and growth. There are already winners and losers in this area, with the smart adopters providing an optimized new-world experience in partnership with their innovation teams. From my perspective, offering convenience is no longer value-adding—it’s a competitive necessity.
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