Tips to evolving how we provide services in a post-COVID 19 world.
As the owner of a small business myself, the last few weeks have been horrific. No value proposition could stop the budgets from freezing and projects postponed in the year. It is tough to watch otherwise great businesses shutter and be threatened in this way. While there may be many pieces to put back together, we still have to move forward. I am compelled to help engineer solutions with the discussions of re-opening the economy.
All small businesses in the retail and restaurant industries will need to adopt contactless customer journeys as they begin to re-open and serve customers again. I have spent the past decade creating mobile digital experiences, including evaluating different contactless interactions. As a way to help, I’m sharing some learnings from my career and from running VIEWN. For those businesses scrambling to evolve to this new world, here are some contactless tips for the different phases of the typical customer journey:
The Research phase of the customer journey is perhaps the most critical. Businesses must lead customers through a most-likely new decision-making process. While a product manager at a restaurant management platform in a different life, I worked with different restaurants to digitize menu displays and developed customer self-ordering software for digital and mobile devices. Don’t overcomplicate screens with too much detail,l especially if you don’t have complete details for everything. This can cause a lot of interface issues with wasted white space. My recommendation was to go through the pains of figuring out how to keep your content simple and logically categorized. Digitization of content on screens has sanitary benefits even over disposable paper menus: ordering payment and pick-up instructions can be updated on the fly.
To bring interest to locations that may be “off the beaten path” more hidden, geo-fencing may help enhance the research experience. Geo-fencing notifications for local businesses may also prove an innovative solution to contactless in-context advertising. As a mobile user physically enters an area, a shopping mall, or even different parts of a store, retailers can provide push notifications with links to promotions to draw customers in a moment that you can catch them.
Even in physical stores, instructions and more detailed information can be available via QR code to provide relevant in-person communication without having actually to speak to someone or clutter your shelves. Museums have been doing this for years. Stores can keep the information updated easier as well. We can even use these to trigger augmented reality (AR) demonstrations. SAVR is a startup that is looking to gamify the retail AR experience. They say times of constraint trigger the best inventions.
Still, there will always be information that requires more personalization, and virtualization solutions can bridge the gap. Banks have moved to virtual tellers, for example, because customers still need that sense of security they have processed the transaction correctly. I soon expect do-it-yourself stores like Lowes and Home Depot to adopt similar services for home improvement experts. Imagine actually being able to find a person in the aisle to get your question answered every time! Virtualization now has mass adoption with the boom of Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom, so now is the time to leverage it for contactless customer experiences.
Mobile self-ordering platforms
Geo-fencing and push notifications
Virtualized conversations with experts
Self-service interfaces will have to be re-thought in the contactless world. I hope we continue to innovate here, although in the last few weeks, resorting to telephone calling directly seems to be the most reliable contactless ordering point. That's not scalable for small businesses.
One reason for this is the difficulty in designing intuitive order flows for customizations and special orders. Simplifying the menu down to what sells best and bundling options simplifies the work the customers need to get what they want. Big chains like Dominos Pizza have figured out the simplification in ordering and tracking with their pizza tracker. How do smaller businesses and restaurants compete without this now? Easy adds, favorites, and recent order saves time and enhances the overall experience. Often images can take up real-estate on that important first screen, leading the customer to scroll or click through pages to find what they need. This is better used for the research phase.
As someone who loves the Internet of Things (IoT), I anticipate the voice-assisted ordering from home devices could be worth cracking as a viable channel for sales. I have explored providing on-demand home services and found that sensors can order or notify customers when it is time to order something. Amazon has started to figure out how to get orders from home, and brands can also benefit from novel direct ordering experiences.
-Web and mobile self-ordering
- Saved items and favorites
- Home voice assistants
Several contactless payment solutions have real traction. Credit card chips and tapping features need to be encouraged more than ever. I have also noticed stores working with their credit card processor to up the limits needed before signing. For those where a pen is still necessary, I found one clever approach recently that had a cup of unused pens on the left and a cup of used pens on the right. And the worker would sanitize the pens before other customers used them again. Even better if customers carried their own pens.
Mobile payment adoption for cash-based businesses is the final contactless innovation worth mentioning here. Many of us have started using Cash App and Venmo to split the check amongst coworkers, but I have also seen valet services, food service, and car washes start adopting these new digital cash payments as well.
Credit card chips and taps
Higher limits before signing
Segregated pen cups
Mobile cash payment apps
While designing LavuToGo, we found that restaurants could utilize messaging so customers can track their orders as it gets prepared. We did notifications in-app and could even trigger a text message to the customer’s smartphone. The feedback received was that the customers appreciated being able to time pick-ups when the food was still hot and around the lunch rush. We also found lower customer complaint levels as better expectations were set, and communicating any delays showed an extra level of responsiveness.
Finally, I have used more pickup services lately and noticed social distancing purchases left alphabetically to make the process clearer and smoother for these self-service customers. Similarly, displaying order numbers in plain view and with large print on a receipt can help those waiting to understand if they are early or not. For drive-up pickup services like for groceries, mobile check-ins that auto-populate order numbers can be a time saver operationally and improve customer satisfaction.
Large print receipts
Pickup displays with order numbers
Metrics for the whole customer journey
As you begin to adapt your customer journeys to meet the new demands of social distancing and minimization of human contact, you will begin to find out the collecting metrics for analysis can actually become easier than your more traditional off-line approaches. Basically, with many contactless solutions, you have added digital touchpoints to your off-line service. In my projects for VIEWN, we break these tactics down to the micro-moment level to inform the customer's experience. Collecting and measuring data at the micro-moment level is building customer journey analytics.
These digital touchpoints collected and then analyzed unlock insights on who your customers are. Insights can give you the much-needed visibility to how customers now prefer to do business with you and why specifically make customers so loyal to your offering. Start with which of these new tactics are working and by how much. By measuring, you can improve personalization in the right direction.
Many of these contactless and digital solutions are opportunities to capture, learn, and iterate.
Even if it requires the use of multiple different applications to deliver these solutions end-to-end, marketers should focus on delivering the customer experience because the technology is moving so the data can be shared and integrated. The point of a customer data platform is to gather the information together to see the full customer journey and analyze it.
User contactless touchpoint data to inform off-line services.
Use a Customer Data Platform to bring in data from different applications.
Capture, learn and iterate.