QSR - Technology Changes the Relationship with the Customer
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QSR - Technology Changes the Relationship with the Customer

Kevin Vasconi, CIO, EVP, Domino's Pizza

I get up most days thinking about how I can make our customers’ lives just a little easier. That might seem like an odd thing for a CIO to do, but don’t forget-I am also a customer of both my company’s products and our technology. More importantly: so are my family and friends.

“Domino’s embraces this philosophy: technology needs to make our lives easier”

So I attempt to take a broader view of how technology impacts my family’s life and its potential impact to our business. I have two labs: one at home (my family, who doesn’t hesitate to give honest feedback) and one at work. Peer pressure is a great motivator/innovator. Technology, after all, is supposed to make our lives better.

Domino’s embraces this philosophy: technology needs to make our lives easier. Domino’s is a brand that was built on convenience and value. We practically invented pizza delivery.

The fascinating thing to me as a “new comer” to the QSR industry (having joined Domino’s in 2011), is how impactful technology-especially ecommerce and big data-have been in the QSR industry as a whole and Domino’s in particular.

It’s all about the customer. We love our customers, but sometimes (inadvertently) we don’t treat them that way. On the phone in the middle of a rush, we can make customers feel…well, rushed. They shouldn’t have to feel like there’s a stopwatch on them while they’re placing an order for their family’s meal. The clock is on us, not them.

Enter a digital ordering platform that’s easy and fun to use, ubiquitous in terms of how and when you want to use it and best of all, knows a little bit about what you might want to order or remembers what you ordered last time. If that is not your QSR ordering experience, shouldn’t it be? After all, my dry cleaner knows me; so does my bar tender. Shouldn’t the company that feeds my family?

So let’s dissect the impact on the customer and look at the underlying technology.

Omni Channel Ubiquity = the Ultimate Convenience

It was not that long ago that your two choices at a QSR were: 1. Walk-in & order or 2. Phone in your order. These methods served (and in some cases, still serve) the industry well for 50 years. But it’s a relationship on the retailer’s terms and experience is inconsistent and mostly impersonal-speed was everything. The advent of digital changed the relationship to the customer’s terms: Whenever, wherever and however the customers want to engage with you. Most retailers have a digital presence, but ask yourself: does it make your customers’ lives easier? I firmly believe that that a rich, easy to use Omni channel experience is what the customer wants, what the customer deserves and is a significant competitive advantage for the retailers that get it right. On your laptop, your mobile, your tablet, your car, your wearable, or an in-store kiosk, however the customer wants to interact with your brand is what retailers should be providing.

The platform is only half the battle; a suboptimal Omni channel experience is worse than no digital experience at all. The retailers that “get it” are using analytics and big data to understand and fine tune the customer interaction. My customer doesn’t always order on the same day, or at the same time, or for the same reason or occasion. I’m not talking about basic day part analytics; I am talking about tuning the experience to our customer’s real life. Sometimes they need to order really fast; sometimes they need to feed a large group of people; sometimes they are planning a celebration and sometimes they just want to explore. The digital experience needs to be tuned to make each of those experiences the best it can be. That experience needs to be consistent, multi-channel and measureable.

Personalization Changes the QSR Relationship

Knowing your customer when they walk into your store, call you on the phone or use your digital platform is a huge competitive advantage. After all, we all like to be treated special. This has traditionally been hard to do in the QSR environment. Many retailers, Domino’s included, have made great strides on the digital platforms. The next frontier is applying all that digital learning to the store experience: the end game being a richer, more personal in-store relationship. This technology investment in store infrastructure to support the customer can also be leveraged for operational improvements. I think we sometimes overlook how the technology we deploy for our customers can also help our employees. Location and voice are the two technologies; I am most excited about for in-store operational improvements.

The impact and challenge of big data

Of course, much of this is guess work or “gut feel” without the underlying measurement, data and analytics. I think traditional Brick & Mortar Retail has finally embraced analytics, driven by the need to compete with the virtual (digital) retailers who pioneered the space. This is an area of retail that can have the biggest impact on the individual consumer experience. The challenge will be to get good data (fast) and correlate it (fast) and delivery it (fast) across the Omni channel experience.

This is a really exciting time to be in retail; the convergence, maturation and affordability of technology is creating truly unique opportunities. The companies that understand the opportunity and are willing to invest, will build deep and long term relationships with their customers, and that is the ultimate competitive advantage.

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