Foodservice Forecast: Technology and the Consumer-Brand Relationship

Part 3 in Fare’s look at the future of foodservice at retail

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

Tesco's QR code ordering wall

You can’t discuss the future of any consumer-driven industry without falling down the rabbit hole of technology. Social media, smartphones and even in-store equipment evolutions are greatly influencing how companies bring food to the marketplace while delivering on the consumer demand for interaction, customization and control.

The one trend all tech heads have their eyes on is the mobile wallet. A fourth-quarter 2011 study from marketing firm Moosylvania found 19% of adult men and 15% of women had a payment service on their smartphone to make purchases at retail. Meanwhile, Juniper Research expects mobile transactions will increase fourfold to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017. Rodney Mason, CMO of Moosylvania, St. Louis, sees PayPal as a major player in the mobile-wallet explosion, thanks in part to its brand recognition and trust, as well as Square, with help from its partnership with Starbucks.

Mason expects a major revolution in mobile to come from the sheer speed of the Internet. “When the [Federal Communications Commission] releases the 700-megahertz spectrum we once used for analog TV, the Internet will be omnipresent and run at speeds 30 times anything we have today,” he says. “When you have that speed and microprocessors, mobile takes on a completely revolutionary role in lives.”

Michelle Barry, president and CEO of Centric, a “brand anthropology” consultancy in Seattle, is watching the ways companies are straddling the line between online and physical spaces. “Some of them don’t seem so fabulous, like the in-person and/or kiosk-type incarnations of Living Social and other similar coupon vendors. But other ideas actually do solve issues for shoppers, like Amazon partnering with c-stores to provide a place for people to pick up things they ordered online.”

The “ordering wall” that British grocer Tesco is testing in Asian markets and grocery delivery provider Peapod is testing stateside—which allows commuters to take pictures of products on a billboard with their phone, capturing the image’s QR code and sending the order to the company to be delivered to their homes—is clever, says Barry, but “dry goods only go so far.”

“Partnering with local restaurants would be a great add-on to bring fresh foods to the working person who arrives home from a commute famished, and might like something better than a frozen or boxed meal,” she says. “Really, at that point, all you want is comfort and relaxation.”

Further down the road, data will play an increasingly important role in how brands and consumers interact. “The comingling of physical location with transaction and search history will proactively serve up special suggestions and offers at a moment’s notice,” explains Mason. He points to the customization available in loyalty programs as the first step.

Jimmy Matorin, self-described business catalyst and owner of consultancy Smartketing, also sees data mining as a major element to the future of marketing and technology. Many consumers, he says, will opt in to sharing more and more information about themselves in exchange for deals and promotions that—thanks to smartphones—are also location-based.

“People are going to sell out for a little extra income,” he says. “It’s happening in Japan.”

What excites Mason about the future of marketing and technology is that every company, big or small, has a shot at gaining awareness and driving traffic.

“What’s scary is the apathy by many businesses who believe the rules don’t apply, and continue to do things the way they have always been done,” says Mason. “Every day, businesses are learning hard lessons, and for many when the lesson is learned, it is too late.”

Part 3 in Fare's Foodservice Forecast. Click here for the entire feature.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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