Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mobile Technologies

Imagine commuting home on the train and pre ordering and paying for your Indian take-away via the mobile. Walk in pick it up or get it delivered at a set time, no credit cards and certainly no cash. Simply a text confirms your order and approved payment credentials. It even tells you what you ordered last time and offers you the loyalty points or free beer right there and then. Payment is verified via a mobile virtual voucher the charge appears on your mobile bill. You then decide to send your sister £50 for her birthday and you ping her the amount via a text message and she can walk into any retailer (not a bank) and collect her birthday money. Don’t imagine any longer just move to Kenya where this actually is in practice now.

Ask any western mobile service provider or certainly any restaurant voucher or discount club provider to name one of the biggest mobile pre order/pre-payment companies in this Kenyan example who operates in ‘mobile intelligent payment sectors’ and they will not know of txteagle ( 2 billion customers in 80 Countries!)

Recent research in the U.K. and U.S. by mobile transaction network mBlox found that British shoppers use mobile coupons more than their American counterparts – 29% vs. 15%.

These figures will rise in 2011/12 as 71% of British and 42% of American consumers expressed an interest in having coupons delivered to their mobile handsets. Coupons alone will not be the only answer.

So you can see why we have seen a rise in investment by Restaurant chains to invest in this early first stage of mobile technology. Ask any IT Directors in the Catering sector and they think if they have a Voucher or Coupon based CRM mobile solution they have a mobile strategy, so VERY wrong indeed.

Apps are NOT the answer as they are limited, unique to vendor and often the designed iPhone app only reaches the 14% of Iphone owners and not open to other mobile infra structures like Blackberry or new 3G and 4G mobile next generation models.

“2011 is poised to be a huge year in the advancement of mobile for retail,” said Sean M. Alexander, technology analyst at IHL Group. “iPhones, iPads and Android devices have all moved past the stage of being cool and into the mainstream.”

The mobile device is here to stay and grow in popularity especially for pre ordering or pre paying for retail goods, discounting or marketing through the mobile device has shaken off any stigma attached to its use, perhaps in part due to the convenience of electronic and mobile formats. While only 1.5% of all coupons are currently distributed digitally, redemption rates are impressive at around 10-15% or as Pizza Express recently stated over 30% compared to an overall paper voucher or direct mailing campaign of 1.2% redemption rates.

Clearly the phone is challenging the way business is carried out in our new mobile world.

“The EPOS providers have had it their own way for long enough say Technology experts in the USA, after all most FPOS/EPOS systems are not complicated technical pieces of kit running equally complicated programs any more (the fear factor within) ..They are only overly priced PC’s with a cash drawer”.

If you assume this stance from the beginning you can begin to appreciate the huge cultural change in how Restaurant and Hotel Brands will take orders or payment or even do their necessary stock control in the very near future. From the how employees will track these orders, how consumers will pay for goods and even to the how CRM/Loyalty schemes operate will change inevitably from paper and plastic cards to consumer’s mobile screens. This viral existence, this dramatic change, will come with next generation mobile phones and the launch of iBook’s. From Australia to USA to Finland to Kenya this is already happening. If in the UK our present Blackberry’s, iPhones and 3G networks can handle this system now why are we not seeing this happening here? The answer is the banks and credit cards control and influence over our finance acts.
So where does this take us here in UK? It’s time for a rethink so be prepared for change. Just Google mobile payments and read the worlds move to this technology. If Japan has it, as does Scandinavia how long before we order our pizza not by APPS but by simple text recognition or by QR Codes to give them their correct title (QR stands for Quick Read) these new square chequered boxes we’re seeing increasingly in advertisements, on products and in our papers can hold millions of pieces of data, the best CRM/Loyalty schemes embedded in their millions of pixel points running loyalty schemes for pennies not pounds The airlines and the rail authorities are already issuing these as e-tickets.

Moving Food Ltd and Juniper Research estimate 15 billion e-tickets will be issued by 2014 in the UK alone!! (From cinemas to stadiums to air/rail and events) So why not in our Catering arenas?

Well nor surprisingly in Scandinavia you can now charge anything up to €25 to your mobile phone bill bypassing the Credit Card companies or Banks, so from parking to your Latte appears on your phone bill, France just passed a new finance act allowing €10 to be their set limit. UK governed by the banks and credit card companies will be slow to adopt legislation, but it’s coming this year.

This new way to order or pay does not require a brand specific app or log into the brands web site to order, all done by a central one number code like a pin number that applies across ALL retailers of your choice.

The scary thing is, and this really does challenge the EPOS providers, most of these mobile systems are free, no infrastructure costs, no maintenance fees and no hard ware to break down…the Restaurant operators will pay for the system through a small transaction fee to manage their menu content, their payments and CRM/Loyalty schemes. Updating promotions or new menu’s takes hours not days. These new innovators in mobile technologies offer added revenue streams as the consumer can be charged for using the system too. Data can be with consumer approval matched with other retailers (Starbucks customers share points with Interflora) this e-tailing is also available now. Your Floor manager will have their own Blackberry where the payment is verified, just as the Parking Attendants do on the high street when you pre pay via your phone now.

Checking into Hotels and pre ordering payment of the room and checking out already exists in Scandinavia, with built in CRM and is coming into the UK in 2011.

Imagine this for a moment: I book my airline and my meal and my duty free and my drinks via my mobile device, a QR Code is flashed back and this gets me onto the aeroplane. A text message arrives when I am in Departures and says, “Did you want the normal Chanel No 5 and Bottle of Gordon’s Gin to await you when you return to London or shall we deliver to your house”? Imagine no longer, this is getting launched this year by several airlines!

So loyalty is rewarded immediately, latte’s to sandwiches to pints of beer will appear on your mobile phone bill and no longer will you need to stand in line at the till to order or waive down a waiter for payment. What is more you will not have to search for a brands app or squint at your screen searching for a brands web site to order or review their menu for payment…well just as they do in Kenya enter via your own personalised shopping site accessed via your mobile and use your secure pin to shop or eat away.

Watch this space and watch this revolution takeplace.

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