Beyond the smartphone: Restaurants and retailers challenged to reach consumers everywhere

One of the biggest challenges restaurants and retailers face today is how they go about reaching consumers anywhere at any time.

While no single restaurant or retailer has the magic formula to this problem, it’s a task that’s top of mind with c-level executives at a time when consumers are more connected than ever whether it’s with a smartphone, television, wearable or even a refrigerator.

The game has changed thanks to technology.

“The traditional buying model is dead; it’s not there anymore,” Rick Ruskin, marketing and product of online commerce at General Motors, said during a panel discussion at the recent CONNECT Mobile Innovation Summit. “As we look at this customer journey changing, the buying process is done before you talk to the customer.”

Ruskin knows plenty about this as he’s helping to lead some of this change at General Motors. The company, which owns OnStar, in 2015 launched what can be best described as a “connected commerce” experience that enables drivers to make purchases on-the-go from a vehicle’s dashboard using the OnStar system that’s best known as a navigation tool.

General Motors’ OnStar system has become another way for retailers to reach consumers where they spend the most time.

“When you think about beyond the phone, you still have to be in apps and mobile web no matter what,” Ruskin said. “You need to make sure your organization is on the same page in this area.”

And that in itself is another problem brought on by technology.

Omnichannel is everyone’s favorite buzzword these days, but the concept is something every restaurant and retailer is striving to perfect.

“Every aspect of the brand has to carry that brand feel whether it’s mobile, in person or anywhere else,” Graham Gunst, an associate partner at IBM Interactive Experience, said during a panel discussion. “The idea is that those experiences need to have the same emulation of the brand no matter where you interact with it. And as soon as you have a bad experience, that is what you are going to remember.”

Douglas Kwong, digital director at Cicis Pizza, told audience members during one CONNECT panel that companies should talk to their customers about how best to copy an experience across different areas, whether it’s in store or via a mobile device.

“It’s important to be able to engage with them based on their own preferences,” he said. “When you’re getting involved in something like mobile, do consumer research. Ultimately, it’s about understanding your guests and exceeding their expectations.”

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