Self-ordering is trending. The technology, which offers consumers greater convenience and merchants increased efficiency, is growing at a phenomenal rate. Furthermore, self-ordering solutions are cropping up in other businesses, including big box stores enabling customers to order large or high-ticket items, pay, and have their purchases brought to the door to theater and transportation ticketing.
“The growth is really exciting,” Frank Anzures, Product Manager at Epson America, Inc., comments. “We’re seeing self-ordering in more places, enhancing customer experiences and improving operational efficiency.”
Factors Driving Self-Ordering
Allowing consumers to place their own orders is an idea whose time has definitely come. Instead of waiting for assistance from a sales associate or restaurant employee, customers use a free-standing or tabletop kiosk to place orders themselves. Self-ordering allows consumers to browse the entire menu or endless aisle catalog and take their time to ensure their orders are exactly what they want.
In addition, Anzures points out that there are even more reasons that merchants and their customers are embracing self-ordering:
- Social distancing: As COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, people want to minimize interactions with others. Self-ordering eliminates the need to place orders face-to-face with store or restaurant employees and allows people to keep their distance.
- Labor shortages: Businesses struggling to recruit and retain employees can use self-ordering solutions to manage the relatively simple task of entering an order and reassigning their team members to other jobs, effectively managing short-staffed operations. Anzures comments that the range of kiosks available makes this a viable option for businesses of all sizes, even SMBs and micro-merchants. “The ability to cost-justify adding them is more readily available,” he says.
- Supply chain issues: In the current climate, consumers ready to place orders may be unable to find the exact items they want. A self-ordering solution allows them to explore options and order alternatives without requiring assistance from a store or restaurant employee.
In-Demand Self-Ordering Features
Software developers building self-ordering solutions can increase the value they deliver by keeping a few things in mind. First, self-ordering solutions need to be simple and intuitive. “If they’re hard to use, customers will be deterred,” Anzures says.
He adds the possibility that developers incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) as part of the solution might provide more targeted and intuitive options to accommodate various challenges regarding age demographics. For example, developers can allow users to increase the font size or enable audio. “Sophisticated software can predict the customer’s needs and be more proactive to assist them and ease their hesitancy,” Anzures says.
Next, consider your clients’ needs for mobility – a stationary kiosk may work in some use cases, but in others, flexibility is essential. “Some merchants need solutions they can quickly deploy,” says Anzures. “Consider providing them with line-busting options. So, if POS lanes are filled, the merchant can cost-effectively add a self-ordering lane, but then take it down when it’s not needed.” For example, the Epson OmniLink TM-m30II-SL POS thermal receipt printer has a tablet mount. It supports up to four USB peripheral devices, enabling a merchant to create a self-ordering kiosk with printing capabilities and deploy it wherever needed, even where space is limited.
Also, self-ordering solutions will give merchants additional value-added ways to connect with their customers – an essential feature since the business is losing an opportunity for face-to-face interactions. For example, as part of the ordering process, customers may be prompted to provide or join the business’ loyalty program or log in and activate or redeem loyalty points. It can also offer suggestions for complementary items or add a tip.
Finally, expect your clients to demand customizations. “Businesses will want a look and feel that complements their brands and integrations with other systems in their IT ecosystems,” he says.
Anzures adds that software developers who use data from their solutions and identify ways to improve functionality in future releases will provide their users with added value.
View Self-Ordering as Part of an Overall Customer Experience Strategy
Anzures advises ISVs and software developers to take a holistic view of their clients’ operations and recognize the part that self-ordering can play in efficient processes and excellent customer experiences. Furthermore, ISVs need to realize that the merchant may not be attempting to build a purely self-service environment but simply adding a self-ordering option.
“Finding a balance between incorporating technology in the POS process and maintaining an employee’s physical presence will be key,” Anzures says. “A business may offer self-ordering, but it may be beneficial to have employees available to assist or build that personal relationship the business desires. Self-ordering is one great option your business can offer clients they will value.”
Anzures concludes, “Developers listening to users will be at the forefront and drive better experiences and better business outcomes.”