food trucks combine fast food and m-commerce

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"Le Camion qui fume" (literally “the Smoking Truck”) is one of the first food trucks in France, and so far it’s been a huge success. Across the world, food trucks are everywhere! You can find them in every major city and they’re attracting more and more customers. Their secret: fresh products, the mouthwatering scent of barbecue, and customers who mostly pay in cash. Of course, this new trend has aroused the ire and anxiety of big fast food names such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

fast food giants will have to watch out

Unlike their French counterparts, American food trucks are already taking advantage of new technologies. Of course, since they have to cook, serve and cash out customers in a small space, they must make do with minimal equipment. Cash registers are cumbersome, and credit card readers slow down payments. That’s where online payment comes in. Having the option to pay by mobile phone or online from home makes the customer experience a whole lot easier. Customers know they will be served and, even better, they just need to show a receipt or their smartphone to confirm their order. The "new technology" aspect helps attract a young, trendy crowd on the lookout for new culinary adventures. Just look at Austin Food Carts, a collection of food truck restaurateurs. At the 2011 South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, festival goers could already scan a QR code to access a list of participating truck locations, a Twitter feed and further information about the Austin food scene.

connected burgers

No matter what, the big names in the biz will have to turn this challenge into a solution. Let’s be practical: anyone who has ever enjoyed a fast food burger has certainly gotten stuck in an endless line. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s simply decided to walk out and find a good meal somewhere else. But more and more often nowadays, I can order and pay from my office or smartphone, making life a lot easier (especially during lunch breaks at work). How to do it? By paying for lunch with a smartphone beforehand using NFC technology or the company’s website, and then showing a QR code or SMS at the counter. Then I just have to go and pick it up. It’s a huge timesaver for both me and whichever restaurants I go to. They have a much more efficient way to manage their burger stock, and lines are a lot shorter. But new payment methods aren’t the only advantage these new customer relations tools have to offer big and small companies alike.

Big Data and profile analysis, for example, can help define target groups, what they want, when they want it, and what communications channels they use. In terms of marketing, these are essential tools for managing a good restaurant. They help companies learn where and how to reach their core markets, decide where to place new locations, see which marketing channels to use, and find out how to attract new customers.

Geofencing, or virtual babysitting, can also be useful for big fast food groups. Normally used for security purposes – making sure your child doesn’t leave a certain area, for example – it can also be used with customers. Geofencing can actually help identify the most loyal customers and direct them to the nearest location! For many customers, this will make it even easier to find their favorite fast food. And it’s an easy and effective way to counter food trucks, which can simply move to wherever their target customers are.

M-coupons on smartphones are also a good way to attract and retain customers. It’s true what they say: a happy customer will generally come back. And nothing makes customers happier than getting discounts to their favorite stores. M-coupons can be used to boost a specific location’s activity by offering a free dessert or a small discount.

new ideas

The answer to most problems in the fast food market is already in pocket. It’s in our mobile phones and especially our smartphones. They’re now a huge part of our daily lives, seeing as how we rarely, if ever, put them down. So whether it’s a mobile app for m-coupons, m-payments or geolocation, anything is possible with the high-speed Internet that’s now at our fingertips.

For small businesses and food trucks, mobile services can set them apart from the competition and help them fight against big groups with exponentially more financial resources.

As for the burger and chicken multinationals, they’re slowly starting to see the advantages of m-marketing. For example, KFC recently launched Fast Track, which enables customers to pay for their orders by mobile phone a block away from the local KFC. They can then cut the line at the store and simply pick up their order. McDonald’s and Belgian chain Quick have also jumped on the bandwagon. Their customers can now place orders using interactive stands and avoid standing in line while waiting for their food. McDonald’s is going even further with its smartphone app, which customers can use to pay for their orders prior to pick-up. Though there are still a couple of bugs to work out, the app will certainly help bring in new customers.

For anyone trying to attract new customers, new technologies are now essential. Online orders, easy payments, NFC, m-coupons and geolocation are smart ways to appeal to more customers and a connected segment. Fast food now has every interest in becoming the biggest m-payment market and the icon of "fast payment."

Yann Merian

Source: mobile commerce daily

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Yann Merian

I'm in charge of communications in the operational marketing department and external communications in Customer Contact Solutions.

Half Breton, half Brazilian; partly sunny, partly rainy; partly salty, partly sweet, I'll do my best to share with you some useful information about the customer relationship management universe!