Opinion: Digitisation in the Leisure Sector

Author: Paul Manktelow, Strategic New Business Manager at Barclaycard

A few years ago, mobile applications in the food & beverage sector were, in the majority, just a way to access simple ‘store finder’ capabilities. These helped consumers to locate their nearest chicken shop or cocktail bar, which was helpful if you knew the name of the outlet you wanted to find – but less helpful in gaining inspiration for where to eat and drink. In brief, it was a limited user experience that did not drive customer engagement with the brand. 

Fast forward to 2016 and the digital landscape for restaurants and bars has completely changed.  Consumers engage with mobile applications at every turn, from reading recommendations on social media to booking a table, through to ordering ahead and paying. Apps can even be used outside the immediate dining experience, such as for receiving and redeeming coupons, managing loyalty schemes, and even for gamification.

This revolution has been driven by numerous technological advances, including the rise in the adoption of smartphones and tablets, and a new wave of social media platforms. Furthermore, retailers can choose to adopt any of the constantly evolving technology, such as QR codes in media publications, transport hubs or on tables via beacon technology that can geo-locate the consumer. The myriad of choice, coupled with increasing customer demand, mean today’s environment is very different from that of just a few years ago. How can food and beverage operators make sense of this new landscape?

A few tips and tricks

Barclaycard has 50 years’ experience helping retailers sell, enabling them to make sense of emerging trends over the decades. The digital revolution in this industry is no different, and we have worked with a number of retailers to help them understand how they can better engage with the consumer on multiple platforms, including apps. This includes flawlessly executing at key touch points in the end-to-end customer journey: differentiating the brand, building a seamless booking experience, developing the appropriate payment processes, and re-engaging with customers post experience such as inviting them to leave a review. All this is to drive repeat visits and increase revenue.

Succeeding in building a first-class app may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. When I am consulting with operators, the first questions I ask are “Why do you wish to build a mobile app? What are you looking to achieve?”  The familiar reply is usually, “because my biggest competitor has one”. On the face of it, it is right to keep in step with competition, however, the lack of strategy usually only delivers poor consumer adoption, so I always urge my clients to map the whole customer journey which outlines what their customers need, when, and how.

The app payment journey is equally as important. Get this wrong and the best case scenario is that the consumer will pay via another mechanism. The worst case is for them to abandon your app and go elsewhere – it is human nature to seek the path of least resistance. Ask a trusted payments partner what may best suit your customers’ needs, and how to build in features that keep data secure while encouraging conversion.

Lastly, a major challenge that operators face when looking to build an app is screen space. Because mobile devices are small, every inch is precious retail space. Using the app should be appealing, fun and frictionless. Eight in 10 smartphone users delete a mobile application after one use.  Only 16 per cent of users will try an app more than twice, and six in 10 will periodically perform ‘clear outs’[1].  Engagement, delivering a benefit, and ease of use are critically important items to consider when looking at entering the world of apps. 

The industry has come a long way from the early days of mobile. Far from being just a navigation tool, food and beverage apps have become a gateway for customers to not only perform day-to-day actions such as ordering and paying, but also a way to engage with your brand. Getting the mobile experience right will pay dividends not just now, but put you in good stead for the future.

Barclaycard is proud to sponsor the 2016 Future of Finance & Development Seminar. 

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