Within a few years, it may begin to seem a little anachronistic to celebrate that winning poker hand with a hearty ‘ker-ching!’, as the traditional cash register is set to go the way of the passenger pigeon. While we’re a long way from a truly cashless society, plastic and electronic transactions are gradually taking every corner of the marketplace – and here’s how a few industry leaders are making the leap.
Image Courtesy of Robin Ashford on Flickr.com
Few franchises can come close to beating Starbucks when it comes to cultivating brand loyalty, so it’s no surprise that the coffee kings would lead the way in making its clientele feel part of something new. And given that the percentage of patrons who use the company’s ‘point of sale’ (POS) smartphone app – a strong dose of fun blended with smooth practicality – Starbucks must be doing something right.
From the easy-on-the-eyes dashboard, visitors can do everything from checking in on rewards claims, viewing recent transactions and even tipping the staff. Still, it’s the app’s unique counter payment feature that’s really shaking things up. When customers are ready to pony up for their lattes, simply giving their phones a friendly shake will pull up a barcode for baristas to scan. While the app is still new, its mix of quirkiness and ritual is likely to be just what the chain’s clientele ordered.
At every scale of business from burger vans to huge franchises, retailers are streamlining (and personalising) the POS process with the use of tablets in lieu of old-fashioned cash registers. Responding to the trend, the eCommerce company Shopify has branched out into in-store sales through their fabulous all-in-one iPad app that covers all of a traditional register’s functions and more. Shopify offers customised peripherals such a credit card scanner and receipt printer for effortless interface with the software, but the true innovation for vendors vying for their place in today’s morphing manifold marketplace is Shopify’s syncing tool, which tracks both online and brick-and-mortar inventory in one place.
Not so long ago, fast food chains were dragging their feet in the transition away from cash-only counters. However, with current cost-effective tech now available that makes sense even for side-order micro-transactions, franchises like Burger King and Wendy’s are putting state-of-the-art purchasing on the front burner.
Wendy’s and Burger King’s apps are similar and together are a fairly representative window onto the fast food state of play. To begin, purchases are facilitated through a dedicated rechargeable fund, not through your bank account, thereby allaying the reasonable anxieties of cyber-weary customers. Better yet, you can place custom orders even before you arrive at the franchise location, a brilliant way to stave off images of faceless food factories.
Surprisingly, fast food pioneers McDonald’s are a little slow in coming up with a highly functional app – the chain’s current incarnation is inciting grimaces among pundits – but it’s a safe bet that the industry will be collectively clamouring for POS innovations that let you have it your way.
Just as many of today’s dine-in customers often take a back seat to a long queue of drive-through patrons, hungry shut-ins similarly find frustration in getting shuffled behind in-store customers when calling in orders. Perhaps no customers are more impatient than munchie-stricken pizza lovers, so Domino’s, Papa John’s, and other key players in the biz are using online ordering to serve up patrons on the quick. Using in-house POS or hosts like Restaurant Manager, pizza houses can integrate the flow of online for cook staff, and conversely, alert patrons as to out-of-stock items -- and maximize the sales pie.
All of these apps are already exciting, and you can rest assured they are only the beginning of a new age of customer service. Until we see apps that tuck customers into bed at night, today’s programmers are sure to stay hungry.
Camille McClane is a writer, researcher and editor who frequently blogs about about web hosting and social media. Her favourite subject to focus on is emerging technology trends and its overall effect within business expansion and relations. She hopes the readers of Lovefone.co.uk enjoy this article as much as she enjoyed writing it.