A panel of retail experts shared what technologies became critical during COVID-10 and which of these solutions will be important to retail post-pandemic during the recent #ElevateICX virtual symposium presented by the ICX Association.

COVID forced many restaurants to deploy buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS), curbside delivery and contactless. Those retailers who were ahead of the curve with these technologies found themselves in a better competitive position than their competitors.

Several of those retailers shared their strategies and insight on successful technology deployments in a panel talk, “BOPIS, Curbside and Contactless: Lessons Learned From the Past Year,” during the one-day #ElevateICX virtual symposium presented by the ICX Association last week.

“It’s safe to say that the pandemic hastened retail adoption of contactless technology,” said panel moderator Elliot Maras, editor of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times .

As a result, more retailers are now using theses technologies for a seamless and contactless transaction process.

Technology pioneers step forward

Rise Southern Biscuits and Righteous Chicken is a QSR that has been on a fast growth curve through the pandemic. The company added self-order kiosks, followed by delivery ordering and online ordering.

This resulted in three separate delivery platforms, said panelist Tom Ferguson, Jr., Rise Southern Biscuits and Righteous Chicken CEO.

“It made it really havoc on the kitchen because they could get slammed…to put out the output to the customers in a decent amount of time,” said Ferguson.

The company worked with a company called Warfare that offered a dashboard that streamlined the different delivery services.

The next step was a technology from Checkmate that allowed the orders to flow directly to the company’s POS system.

When the pandemic hit, the company removed the cashiers, and the online, kiosk and delivery order systems were able to meet customers’ needs.

“We were ready right out of the go,” said Ferguson.

Being one of the first QSRs to offer kiosks, Ferguson anticipated some customer resistance, but customers were able to adapt quicker than he thought. The kiosks, for their part, have become more intuitive with time.

The company then introduced a food locker to help manage the high volume of online and delivery orders. The customers could see when their order was ready on the screen and then pick it up in the food locker.

“They made the deliveries easier to do,” Ferguson said for the food lockers. “The stores that have a food locker now are growing faster than the other stores.”

HMS Host meets travelers’ needs

HMS Host, which provides foodservice to airports and travel centers, was also ahead of the curve when COVID-19 hit with a self-checkout food and beverage cooler from Sandstar called “Swipe, Grab and Go” in an airport.

The system met airport sanitation standards, having built-in UV rays which sanitize any surface that human hands touch, said Neil Thompson, vice president of digital at HMS Host, who was also on the event panel. The unit also gives alerts if temperatures inside the cooler reach a critical level.

The system is also helpful tracking sales.

“We’re able to get a really detailed look at product mix and be able to continue to provide exactly the right kind of product that the traveler is looking for at that particular time,” he said.

HMS Host has also uses an AI powered, contactless self-checkout machine from Mashgin that has a camera to take pictures of items on a tray.

“Travelers like the fact that it’s both quick and very sanitary,” Thompson said.

Retailers must be versatile

Flora Delaney, president of Delaney Consulting who also was on the panel talk, described the need for retailers to recognize customers no matter what buying channel they use.

“A customer might choose the different retail channels at any shopping visit,” she said. A customer is not always a BOPIS customer or always a brick-and-mortar customer. The channel they use depends on their particular visit, their timing or other factors influencing their customer journey.

“Recognizing customers across the omnichannel journey is one of the toughest things for retailers,” Delaney said. “Retailers are going to have to give them the opportunity to shop the way they want to.”

“How could you take the drudgery of shopping and automate that and then turn your store into something like a farmer’s market that is actually kind of enjoyable to browse and shop?” she asked. “I think there could be tremendous change there.”

Delaney stressed that while technology is replacing some functions, the need for employees to deliver good customer service remains as critical as ever.

“If I can get assistance in getting my shelves remerchandised, if I can make it faster at the checkout, that still doesn’t replace what people most want from employees, which is to be smart, friendly and helpful,” she said. “That’s a piece we’re not going to replace with AI, with machine learning, with technology.”

An exciting future

One common thread among all three panelists’ feedback is optimism about the future.

Ferguson said he has seen a tighter unit of people working together. Thompson said having a strategic approach on how to roll it out and message to the customer and the staff is important. Delaney concurred, adding, “Customers have more choice with how they engage with brands and retailers than ever before.”

The #ElevateICX event, hosted by Networld Media Group and the ICX Association, provides leaders from retail, restaurants, banks, hotels and other B2C companies an opportunity to learn from CX thought leaders about what’s working, what’s not and how to create amazing experiences for their own customers.

To hear more from the panel talk click here.

About Networld Media Group

Founded in 2000, Networld Media Group is a leading business-to-business (B2B) media communications company specializing in digital media, associations and events in the tech, banking, retail and food service industries. Online properties include ATMmarketplace.com, DigitalSignageToday.com, FastCasual.com, KioskMarketplace.com, FoodTruckOperator.com, QSRweb.com, PizzaMarketplace.com, RetailCustomerExperience.com, VendingTimes.com and BiblicalLeadership.com. Annual events include the Fast Casual Executive Summit, the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, the Bank Customer Experience Summit (BCX), the Interactive Customer Experience Summit (ICX) and the Self-Service Innovation Summit.

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