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How Tech is Shaped by the Consumer Food Experience

Insights & Innovation |  11.13.2018

Technology is rapidly changing and reshaping the way the world works today. While technology itself is both exciting and formative, we’re exploring how the consumer experience surrounding the tech can shape the solutions we provide. For us, the food industry is no exception to technological disruption, which is exactly what attracted Baker Smith to join our team as Vice President of Consumer Technology. He was actively seeking an opportunity with a company that was ripe for digital transformation and innovation, “I wanted to work for a company with a change agenda. Technology, particularly digital, needs to be a part of that change to make it happen,” he says.

Purposeful Tech Enables Experiences

As new technologies are developed, we’re faced with a delicate situation of deciding the right types of tech that can help us best serve our consumers. If it’s going to improve the consumer experience and help our clients meet their goals, we’re on board. Smith says, “Our approach for consumer technology is not just about throwing new gadgets out there, but making the technology a part of the experience.” It doesn’t stop at developing a mobile app or putting a kiosk into a location – what it comes down to is making sure the tech enhances the surrounding consumer experience.

Kiosk and web-based ordering technology remember guest preferences while providing the convenience of a text when the order is ready.

Kiosks and ordering ahead allow consumers to skip the traditional process of waiting to place an order, waiting for their food, and waiting to pay, and head straight to pick up their order. This gives an opportunity to adapt the experience, so guests can enjoy other parts of the café while waiting for their food.

"Technology can play a role in the consumer experience, but it’s also about the physical environment and human interaction, through the things they can smell, touch, and see."
- Baker Smith, Vice President of Technology

When a consumer walks into a location with newly installed kiosks, they’re going to notice more than the technology itself. Sure, the features of the kiosk may pique their interest, but the reason they’ve stopped in is to get something to eat and to have a comfortable experience doing so, not to play with technology. Keeping consumers engaged on a human level will remain the most important factor no matter how much tech evolves in the future.

Learning to Test, Testing to Learn

Understanding the realities technology presents can only truly be learned through real-life applications. A culture of iterative testing, and the willingness to learn, fail, implement, and improve is absolutely necessary to foster an environment of growth in this space. By working with numerous partners to pilot different technologies, we’re able to find the most innovative and unique ways to serve consumers.

One of our latest proofs of concepts we’ve been very excited about is Brew2U, a service powered by Apple Business Chat, where sports fans can scan a code on the back of the stadium seat in front of them and order a beer straight to their seat through texting and AI. Smith notes, “This approach to engaging with the consumer starts a dialogue on their terms, where we can learn what they like and what they don’t like.”

Fans can order beverages using their iPhone without missing a minute of on-field action.

Another pilot included the Mashgin intelligent self-checkout, a kiosk which uses color, shape, dimension and other visual features to recognize the items being purchased. This means no barcodes are required, since the kiosk uses deep learning and real-time 3D technology. Multiple items can be rung up at once – in seconds – moving consumers through the line ten times faster than usual. 

Putting Data into Action

Consumers look to technology to give them more control over their order as well as offer them convenience. While they’re receiving these benefits, we’re simultaneously gaining valuable insights. Listening to consumer feedback can sometimes only tell half of the story – this data tells us the full story – since there might be a difference in what people are telling us they want and what they are actually buying. We can then leverage this data to put the items consumers want in front of them.

Smith explains how this benefit compounds, “When you give people what they want, they grow an affinity towards you and keep coming back, which gives you more and more data on that affinity. This allows us to hone our operations to focus on an experience the consumer wants, and not on one they don’t.”

Technology enables a closed loop process of engaging with consumers, seeing what they want, providing it to them, and then continually repeating this cycle to improve the overall experience. This results in a process which Smith encourages, “We can be operationally efficient while also delighting the customer. It’s not one or the other, it’s both, and that’s the real beauty of it.”

The insights provided by technology allow us to learn and innovate in an informed manner. We are committed to continually improving our consumer’s experience and technology is an enabler of that effort. The opportunities and benefits for clients and consumers provided by digital transformation are ripe and cannot be overlooked. By evolving along with the technology landscape, we can stay in step with the desires of our consumers.

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