IT in retail 4: Multi-channel in action

By Andrew Charlesworth
21 Sep 2011 View Comments
Pizza Express by Ewan M

Loved by ladies who lunch and middleclass parents with well-behaved young teenagers, the launch pad for many a girls’ night out and the resting place after many a shopping spree, Pizza Express sits in a vast £20-a-head market between fast food and white tablecloths.

The restaurant’s customers are rarely in a big hurry and the service is crisp. But after coffee, there’s little incentive to hang around – except to pay the bill – which is where the chain’s in-restaurant payment app comes into play.

The iPhone app developed by 2ergo enables customers to skip waiting for the bill and pay it from the table using Pay Pal’s payment system. The app is integrated with the restaurant’s Torex till system in real time to validate customer payments so that waiting staff know the customers haven’t simply done a runner. It also allows customers to redeem offers or vouchers, of which Pizza Express is a prolific issuer.

Auto-payment is a convenience for waiting staff and customers alike, but of itself it is hardly likely to increase business volumes significantly. However, the app also allows customers to find and book a restaurant, using LiveBookings, view the menu and save receipts, bookings and favourite restaurants; neatly combining auto-payment with m-commerce features that will drive traffic.

Launched in June 2011, the app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first week and notched up £10,000 in takings. Bookings via the app in the first month exceeded the restaurant’s 10,000 target by 50 per cent.

So what can other retailers learn from the example of Pizza Express? Above all it is the integrated nature of the app to bring real value to the consumer. There has to be a good reason to download it and it has to provide the customer with a seamless experience.

“Customers can go into your store, read through your catalogue, explore your website from wherever they have web access be that at home, work or on their mobile. The way you communicate with them has to be seamless, because their perception is – should be – that however they access your company, it’s always the same company they’re dealing with,” says Tony Bryant, head of business development at K3 Retail, a solutions provider that works with retailers from Carpetright to Agent Provocateur.

“It’s crucial to remember that whatever medium or media they use to communicate with you they remain the same customer. And yet so few retailers have actually understood this essential,” adds Bryant.

Multi-channel FCUK

Fashion retailer French Connection aims for this with an iPhone app (pictured right) developed by mobile strategist Answer. Hosted in the cloud, the app showcases the entire range of garments. Consumers can consult a “look book” for outfit combinations, instantly buy and show off their new garb on Facebook and Twitter.

“Mobile commerce was the next step in our multi-platform digital strategy,” says Jennifer Roebuck, digital director at French Connection. “The cloud-based app model means… someone can start browsing online on their computer in the morning, try on in store at lunch and then checkout on their mobile to avoid queuing at the tills.”

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