Technology is evolving faster than most people can keep up with, so it can be difficult to know which technological innovations are going to be seen and tangibly realized. In the last two years, franchise businesses have adopted digitalization strategies, or greatly accelerated them to cope with the new normal brought about by the pandemic.
While the world has not moved away from the pandemic completely, businesses are beginning to emerge through to the other side; franchisors can now look forward and innovate instead of responding.
Growth in use of A.I.
Artificial intelligence (A.I.) isn’t new to franchising, but its uptake has been slow, and typically only by brands that have tech partners or are particularly tech-literate.
The gains a brand can make by feeding all of its data into machine learning systems are twofold; it can save time and help spot new opportunities. Marketing is a core activity in which A.I. will play a significant role. Companies like Scorpion are leading the charge with A.I. in franchising.
A.I. technology can automize many tasks and learn at the same time. This means that marketers will have less tasks to perform in the day, devoting more time to strategy.
Alongside real estate or license costs, employees can be amongst a business’s biggest costs. Automatization is intended to reduce the number of employees needed, and have a simple, repeatable task be performed by a piece of technology.
Brands will begin to hyper-automate as much as they can in 2022. This will involve looking at every facet of the business, from marketing and finance to operations. For example, the use of A.I. in marketing to produce quarterly reports.
There are huge efficiency savings to be made in hyper automatization, so expect to see in 2022.
The importance of sustainability, and brands’ commitment to it deepens every year. Large franchise systems can affect a great deal of change by opting for eco-friendly materials and methods.
Sustainability can be difficult for some businesses; new, sustainable methods and equipment may be more costly than the brand can afford, or the impetus to make the shift just isn’t strong enough.
With sustainability solutions slowly getting cheaper as a result of innovation and research, consumers will also pile on the pressure to opt for sustainable alternatives, leaving brands with no option.
Voice control tech
Many restaurant brands have done away with registers where customers dictate their order to a member of staff behind a till. Ordering screens are now par for the course and have been taken up comfortably by consumers.
While voice controlled-technology itself is not ground-breaking, its implementation across hundreds and thousands of stores would be. Checkers & Rally’s has begun to roll out voice control tech at all of its corporate-owned stores.
Avoiding commonly touched areas is now a part of the collective human psyche around the world now, and voice-controlled tech could provide consumers with the solution to that problem.
Contactless ordering to become standard
The COVID-19 induced pandemic made contactless the modus operandi for restaurants around the world, as it was the only way to safely remain in operation.
Contactless ordering removes layers from the ordering and delivery process and can save time and money. It also provides a new, easily accessible trove of data for a brand that it can later use to improve its service. Kitchen staff will also receive 100 per cent accurate orders in real-time, creating a smoother workflow.
Contactless ordering will become the standard as the alternatives have no real, measurable benefits.
Mobile phones are our window to the world; therefore, it stands to reason that a brand must have a presence on its customers’ phones, via an app.
An app can help a customer interact with a brand’s service or product in a personalized manner without the customer having to get up and go anywhere. Home service brands that use apps can inform homeowners exactly when the plumber, for example, will arrive, or can update the job over the app itself.
Mobile applications give customers increased accessibility to a brand’s service and products, in return the brand gets an assortment of data that it can later learn from.
Omnichannel retailing and messaging
With the number of channels available for marketing and selling, brands can struggle to make use of them all.
Tech solutions should allow brands to access every channel in 2022. It’s essential too, since customers will carry out different parts of their journey on different channels. Some aspects of the experience will take place on social media, the brand website and even a third-party e-commerce retailer.
It’s essential to knit every channel together to provide a seamless customer journey, otherwise, customers will jump ship to a competitor who can provide a more holistic and smoother customer journey.
Entrance into the Metaverse
Whether the Metaverse kicks off in the future is a question to be asked, but brands will certainly want to make early moves while they can.
It represents a huge space for brands to market their services and pick up new customers. TRIB3 has already set itself up the Metaverse and more brands could follow. The digital nature of Metaverse could mean that data collection becomes even easier, helping a brand to improve its offering and image.
2022 will see more brands enter the Metaverse, but it’s difficult to predict to what extent. Some brands are more likely to experiment with it and see where they go from there.
Digital payment as the preferred standard
Digital payment adoption rates are at 86 per cent in the U.K. It’s already widely accepted and used, and brands would be well placed to facilitate it as the standard.
This follows the contactless ordering trend in terms of its adoption and growth over the last two years. Many businesses completely stopped accepting cash payments to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and consumers quickly got used to it.
This, once again, provides an opportunity for brands to gather useful sales data that is instantly available. The data can be used to inform future sales and marketing strategies.
Investment into loyalty programs
Loyalty programs are a consumer-friendly way to get a brand’s customers to keep interacting with the brand, and incentivize more spending.
Committed customers can be encouraged to spend more if they know there are loyalty-based bonuses or free products/services. It allows a brand to give back to customers and provide some value. These types of programs are typically available through an app.
Loyalty programs can provide useful data. This data can be used to create more profitable loyalty programs and target specific customers with unique promotions.