Retail Redefined: Balancing Technology and Authentic Experience, Part 2
Local retailers serve a critical role in our lives as places that feed and nurture us, supply our basic needs, and contribute to the local and national economy. This interview is the second in a three-part series with my friend and mentor Jocelyn Mangan, CEO and founder of CEO and founder of Him For Her, a social impact venture aimed at accelerating diversity on corporate boards. Jocelyn serves on the boards of directors of ChowNow and Papa John’s Pizza, spent 10 years as senior vice president of product management design at OpenTable, and knows a few things about the business. (You can read part one of this series here.)
Kashyap Deorah: You and I both sold technology to small businesses. The age-old question among small business owners is, “Does this technology help me get more business? If I’m a restaurant owner, does this help me put more butts in seats and sell more steaks?” If so, it’s a buy. But anything less tangible, such as automation and efficiency tools, is usually a pass. In 2020, technology went from being an enabler to being more core in every industry. How will retailers embrace this reality of software eating the world? Are we ready for that? Is it already happening?
Jocelyn Mangan: Before the crisis we had already seen a surge in technology providers for restaurants. In some ways it made the small business owner’s job harder. Now they’re getting 10 different sales calls about 10 different products. Owners already have a busy to-do list, so choosing between 10 technologies may not be the highest priority.
I think it does come down to, “how do I get customers now and what technology is going to help me do that in the best and in the most streamlined way?” That’s going to require some sort of technology consolidation or integration. As a small independent business owner, I don’t want to choose or pay for 10 different systems. And I certainly don’t want to train my staff on them.
Everyone has to have a point-of-sale system. It’s really hard to operate a store or restaurant if you can’t sell the clothes or food. The second piece is customer acquisition. When people can’t walk by a restaurant and read a menu, they’re figuring out what to eat on their phones and computers. You’ve got to be digitally present, digitally available, and be able to deliver that food in a digital way.
I think that digital element lives with us going forward. And I actually think that the operational efficiency piece will be inherently built into those conversations.
KD: Customers want to track orders in real time, especially food. “How far away is it? Will it be fresh when it gets here?” How do you see location technology driving this automation and customer acquisition?
JM: Consumers want good food delivered in a way that tastes like it would in a restaurant, and in the quickest path possible. That’s a pretty simple desire from the consumer side, but quite difficult logistically.
Like everything in this post-pandemic world, retailers have to develop new ways to meet consumers’ needs and expectations. And thanks to Amazon.com, we’ve been trained to expect that we can get anything we want within 24 hours or less. My kids, who are eight and 10, don’t understand that we used to have to wait seven weeks for that toy that they now can get right away.
So, I do believe there's a big opportunity for delivery location technology to almost become a consumer product and experience. Translating that to food that must arrive fresh and hot and right-side up is significantly different from a plastic toy in a cardboard box.
There’s a big piece in here, which is quality vs. speed. What remains to be seen is will customers develop a brand loyalty for that more personalized experience, or will they only care that something is delivered, and delivered quickly — and how will that affect retailers’ technology investments?
In the third and final part of this series, Jocelyn and I zero in on the role of the customer — at both the beginning and the end of the value chain.
Kashyap Deorah is founder and CEO of HyperTrack, the live location cloud for deliveries, visits, and rides. Hundreds of retail, service, and e-commerce companies from every inhabited continent use HyperTrack to power operations efficiency, field productivity, customer experience, and financial payouts.
Kashyap Deorah is founder and CEO of HyperTrack, the live location cloud for deliveries, visits, and rides. Hundreds of retail, service, and ecommerce companies from every inhabited continent use HyperTrack to power operations efficiency, field productivity, customer experience, and financial payouts. Deorah is a four-time founder who previously sold companies to OpenTable and Future Group. He is also a best-selling author and investor.