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The Art of Selling Mobile Solutions
By Jeff Riley
To start, a definition: for purposes of this article, I am using mobile POS to describe all mobile hardware and application solutions which target the restaurant employee as a user to streamline workflow within the restaurant. Specifically I am referring to handheld POS devices used for line busting, order taking, and paying at the table.
Topic #1: Refreshing your Mobile POS plan
Mobile POS offerings surfaced in the late ‘90s and became more prevalent globally over the past decade. In fact, most established POS system vendors have had mobile POS offerings in place for years, but adoption rates for restaurants in the U.S. have remained very low up to present day. The chief concerns amongst restaurateurs have been ease of use and reliability, and the fear of a mobile device interfering with a guest’s interactions with his or her waitperson. As a result, many VARs have dismissed mobile POS offerings unless specifically requested by their customers. The key recommendation I make is to revisit your mobile POS offering in light of rapidly changing technologies and adoption trends by restaurants. Smartphones and tablets have achieved such broad consumer adoption that restaurant owners now see mobile tools and services in a new light, and I am seeing unprecedented levels of customer interest in using these devices.
Mobile POS recommendations for VARs:
Topic #2: Becoming a mobile marketing service provider
- Critically re-examine your mobile POS offering: Due to the unveiling of iOS-and Android-based POS systems over the past two years—particularly in light of the tablet device form factor—it is a good time to revisit competitive offerings, along with pricing and functionality, in order to ensure your mobile- (and terminal-based) POS offering is competitively priced and relevant in its feature set. One thing to consider when doing so: it’s no longer the case that your range of mobile POS solutions is limited to your immediate POS vendor relationship. If your POS vendor has not kept pace with the innovation of mobile POS offerings provided by others, there are a number of third-party mobile application developers who integrate with common POS systems to provide order taking and pay at the table solutions.
- It’s a good time to refresh your sales team on the positioning and pricing of handheld POS offerings that you provide. The most effective handheld VARs are proficient at helping their customers calculate an ROI projection that is specific to each restaurant’s workflow productivity improvements. While this sounds complex, a good, simple ROI model including the number of reduced trips between table and terminal for each server during a meal period should be adequate for most customers. Pointing out the potential for increased table turns and speed of service is what restaurateurs care about and going mobile internally definitely helps to achieve those objectives.
Whatever your action plan is to stay ahead of the curve, I’d strongly caution adopting a skeptical and defensive position. Regardless of all historical pitfalls with mobile POS, remember the primary purpose of a POS system is to streamline communications amongst restaurant employees, and the more streamlined solution will be immediately accessible to each employee. That means mobile.
The proliferation of mobile applications and restaurant related websites has created a whole new growth opportunity for VARs. But how do you make sense out of so many offerings and where to get started? My sense of it is to start where the value to your customer is greatest and your knowledge is most valuable. There is a new category of marketing application available which (as a non-marketer) I’ll call the “POS-integrated marketing application.” These restaurant marketing automation suites are used to send targeted offers out to all loyalty program members based specifically about their actual dining history with that restaurant. These applications identify guests based on their mobile phone number or e-mail (thus eliminating the need for plastic cards), and support integrations with all the popular social media sites.
While the capabilities of both offerings vary greatly, in both cases revenue that results from marketing outreach can be unambiguously tracked to prove ROI. In specific cases I have seen marketing efforts to build loyalty memberships grow to thousands of members for a single restaurant within five weeks. The secret ingredient to these applications’ success is tight integration with a restaurant’s point-of-sale system. This makes your position as VAR indispensable for unlocking the potential for higher ROI marketing results for your customers. Making a decision to expand the scope of your business can be daunting, but getting started doesn’t necessarily require a large investment or even a significant amount of new expertise. If you are seriously interested in exploring the opportunity to add a mobile marketing solution to your product offering, here are a few recommendations to help you get started:
- Contact a marketing application provider and examine their offerings and dealer programs. The applicable providers may vary based on which POS system you represent, but most major restaurant POS providers support at least one of these types of vendors. When you meet with them, ask for case studies and success stories, and also ask about what lessons they’ve learned so far, and what areas of focus their product development is targeting. This market is new and while their current offerings already offer great value, these vendors are developing new features at a very rapid pace.
- Hold a customer focus group: Invite five to seven of your best restaurant customers to an open forum discussion around mobile apps and marketing. At the meeting, be honest with your customers and tell them you are considering how you can provide greater value by offering integrated marketing applications with their POS system. Ask them which mobile solutions they are most interested in and which ones they already use. What do they feel offers the greatest impact to their restaurant and why? How could customer sales history and frequency data from the POS affect more targeted outcomes and greater results with these tools? What types of marketing offers are these customers most interested in providing. Gaining customer insight will be very helpful in determining if this is a business you’d like to pursue based on the marketing applications currently available for your POS system. Note: It’s a good idea to not mention a single product or vendor during this focus group. Your real objective should be to gain insight in the perceptions, hopes, and challenges your customers face so that you can better qualify your decision to enter this business.
- If 1 & 2 proceed smoothly, identify two to three customers who are interested in piloting these offerings (and position it as a pilot). Customers who know they are guinea pigs ahead of time are a lot more satisfied and end up being the most positive and influential testimonials. At this point, there should be no explicit sales goals, just the objective to learn and develop a plan that serves your business and customers well over time. In my experience, the application providers in this field are VAR-friendly and have realistic expectations of what they need to do in order to develop strong and productive relationships with POS VARs. Basically they make it very easy to get started no matter what level of familiarity and experience you have in marketing. Sales support, training, and even introduction-based referral sales models are commonly offered to help you get started.
The promise of more effective marketing for restaurants is real, and VARs have a unique opportunity to help their customers grow their business successfully by offering POS integrated marketing automation tools and services. By pursuing this new revenue stream you will add revenue potential to every customer you already have, and help differentiate your business from the rest of the pack.
Jeff Riley is CEO
at Dinerware. He
can be reached at
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