Food

30 posts categorized

February 05, 2016

Can Mobile Tech Solve Long Lines at the Grocery Store?

 

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Retailers are regularly on the lookout for ways to improve the customer experience and cut costs—if there’s a way to do both at the same time, that’s even better. One emerging trend in this area involves utilizing mobile technology to help expedite certain transactions. Tech companies, restaurant chains, clothing stores, and more businesses have implemented cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) systems in an effort to reduce long lines and other potentially problematic retail behaviors.

 

What Is a Cloud-based POS System?

 

Traditionally, when you go to the grocery store, the final step in your customer service journey includes the interaction you have with a checker tending a stationary till at the front of the store. The number of checkers and cash registers is limited by the resources available. As a result, customers might have to wait in long lines to make their purchases. If this sounds like a familiar scene, you’re not alone.

 

What is less familiar (but currently growing in popularity) is the mobile POS system, which manages transactions and other customer-related actions exclusively online. As a result, the transaction is accessed remotely using a mobile technology device like a smartphone, tablet, or iPad. 

 

Is a Cloud-based POS System Safe? 

 

Customers not accustomed to making purchases online might find the mobile POS a little intimidating, especially if they’re fearful of online corruption or attacks. For customers who are comfortable with making online purchases, the process is only slightly different from buying goods at popular online retailers like Amazon or eBay. 

 

For customers, cloud-based POS systems are just as secure as traditional transaction methods. Security features include encryptions and fire walls to protect incoming and outgoing personal data. 

 

From a retailer’s perspective, the shift to a mobile POS system actually mitigates some risk of fraudulent activity. In the future, credit card companies are expected to make good on all purchases (even fraudulent purchases) so long as the vendor has upgraded to a mobile system. 

 

A Better Customer Experience 

 

One of the greatest advantages of using a mobile POS is that customers can make purchases from anywhere in the store. Moreover, with sales associates standing by, customers can get answers and assistance for a broader range of needs, including inventory, warranty specifics, price checks, and more. 

 

By making this information mobile, retailers stand to save money on overhead while simultaneously making more money on the sales floor. Imagine how much potential business is lost because a customer doesn’t want to wait in line to ask an inventory question. By offering a mobile solution, associates can deliver expedited service to customers that would otherwise never make it to checkout. Meanwhile, giving sales associates more flexibility on the floor will make them more productive and likely reduce the number of required sales associates.  

It’s not a matter of if retailers will decide to make the switch to mobile POS; it’s really a matter of when. Several retailers have already made the transition and are offering customers a wide range of transaction options like mobile receipts and quicker checkout times. As the technology develops further, this trend will become as prolific as retail stores themselves, ultimately changing the way we do business on a daily basis. 

 

December 07, 2015

Holiday Party Calendar

Planning a holiday event is one thing. Making sure everyone shows up at the right time and place is another. To help you manage the party season more effectively, we've put together a Communications Calendar. Don't let anyone miss the memo. Or the fun. Happy Holidays!

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October 08, 2015

6 Halloween Marketing Ideas for SMBs

 

Everyone’s favorite spook-tactular holiday is approaching, and with it comes the opportunity to drive more customers to your small business. Check out a few of the super-cool Halloween-related possibilities for small business marketing to implement while you enjoy the beautiful fall season: 

 

Welcome Trick-or-Treaters

Participate in a trick-or-treat event with other area businesses, or simply welcome costumed tykes into your store. Put treats that relate to your business in bags, such as candy featuring your business name, pencils, erasers, small note pads, and pencils. Kids love getting small toys in addition to candy, so feel free to be as creative as you want.

 

Create a Haunted House

Turn your business into a haunted attraction, and have your employees dress up as various ghosts and goblins. For example, if you have a retail business with aisles of merchandise, turn each aisle into its own special “haunt.” Encourage employees to get really creative with their costumes, which they’ll be all about if they love Halloween. Provide a discount that’s attractive to parents bringing their kids to your business, such as 10 or 15 percent off certain merchandise. Giving away coupons to customers upon their completion of a haunted house is also a fun possibility. 

 

Offer a Halloween Promotion

Send email coupons or codes to customers that are only good on or around Halloween. Text message codes are another possibility. Decorate your store as extensively as you want—or as much as your budget allows—to further draw people in and look for decorations in dollar and “five below” stores. Dress up in a creative costume and have employees do the same, which again they’ll likely be excited about. 

 

Hold a Costume Exchange

Show your dedication to the community by hosting a costume exchange. It’s not only a great way for customers and potential customers to cull and subsequently procure new costumes for cheap, but it’s also a way to familiarize locals with what you offer. Besides, people will likely jump at the chance to get rid of old masks of politicians and find something fun without spending a small fortune. Halloween costumes are expensive, after all!

 

Throw a Halloween Party

Make your business Halloween party central! Host an open house that allows consumers to learn more about your business while enjoying mystery punch and pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. Designate a section for games, which will keep kiddies occupied, and offer freebies such as temporary tattoos, face painting, and of course plenty of candy. Ensure party-goers leave with goodie bags that feature more freebies and lots of information about your business, including business cards. For best results, make certain all freebies feature your business name and contact information. 

These are just some of the many ways to use Halloween to your small business’s marketing advantage. Have fun and get creative, and don’t forget to ask employees for their input and help. Most people love Halloween, and are excited to participate in anything involving the spooky holiday. Have fun! 

April 05, 2015

Mobile Messaging: The Ultimate Customer Service Helpdesk

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Mobile marketing has witnessed a decade of innovation during which thousands upon thousands of apps have flooded the marketplace, doing everything from fitness tracking to spread betting. But what if there was no need for a separate app for each task? What if you could use a single interface to request and receive goods and services? 

The rise of apps like Magic has brought ‘conversational commerce’ - in which customers can make specific requests via SMS messaging - to the forefront. Facebook is soon to launch it’s own Magic-like on-demand text service. Meanwhile, messaging app SnapChat is expanding to offer a commercial iteration of its service - SnapCash - which allows users to make transactions for products. 

This is all relatively new stuff in the United States, but Asia has been harnessing the full potential of SMS messaging as a catch-all service tool for some years. In China, WeChat gives its 440 million users a single portal through which they can pay bills, order taxis and shop; the app has generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue since launching in 2011. In Japan, LinePay provides a similar service. 

In the U.S., most of the recent buzz around ‘conversational commerce’ has focused on Magic, the app that allows you to request any service that exists in the real world, from dry cleaning to dry stonewalling. The so-called ‘concierge’ service uses a winning combination of human and artificial intelligence to meet the demands of its growing customer base.

Other start-ups have followed suit. Scratch, for instance, offers a ‘professional shopper’ to not only help facilitate purchases, but actually offer fashion advice along the way. Native pulls off a similar trick in the travel world, working as a personalized travel assistant to help you plan every part of your trip via SMS messaging. 

The implications of this development are significant for the future of mobile. The limitations of the mobile interface have always been down to the problems of shrinking a desktop internet onto small screens. Fiddly shopping carts and multiple apps make for a fractious, incomplete experience. But the text message was made for small screen devices. Now it is liberating us from the process of browsing, comparing and purchasing goods which, even on a mobile-friendly site or app, is a little unwieldy.

 

March 30, 2015

Maestro PMS Add SMS to Customer Service Platform

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Maestro PMS Enterprise Property Management recently announced the addition of SMS messaging to its customer service platform. The communication module is meant to make personal guest communication that much easier, and is fully integrated with Maestro PMS. It offers convenient messages for early check-in room availability, as well as spa appointment notifications, group message alerts, concierge services, and property promotions. The text message module is available thanks in part to Maestro PMS’s partnership Swift SMS Gateway® Inc., a global company supplying mobile text messaging services since 2007.

"With more guests relying on their mobile devices, Maestro launched proactive SMS communications to serve guests on property,” said Warren Dehan, President of Maestro PMS. “We partnered with Swift SMS Gateway to provide the platform to allow Maestro PMS to communicate directly with cell phone networks. Swift SMS Gateway supports international phone protocols which enables Maestro operators to reach their global visitors regardless of their phone carrier.”  

Celebrated as a highly-flexible guest engagement tool, the SMS text solution allows “independents” to update individual guests directly from Maestro PMS, such as when their rooms are ready for check-in. The tool also instantly reaches all guests in the event of an emergency, as well as specific guest populations, such as those on a business trip. 

An ideal option for independent operators looking to cultivate more personal relationships with their guests, the system also includes an app that allows housekeeping teams to efficiently coordinate their tasks. Considered perfect for any operation, no matter the size, the app provides protected access to staff and includes room attendant and supervisor modes that limit views to relevant assignments.  

“All room statuses are updated in real-time,” Dehan remarked.  “The system helps housekeeping teams coordinate their tasks with updated room assignment information to work more efficiently. Our mobile housekeeping platform puts clipboards and telephone room reporting in the rearview mirror.”  

Maestro PMS provides over 20 hotel and reservation software solutions for the industry’s “leading independent hotels, resorts, and multi-property groups.” 

Brian J. Johnson, President, Swift SMS Gateway Inc., said his company was delighted to partner with Maestro PMS.  

"Our system provides a simple seamless integration of text messaging into Maestro's front desk Guest Messaging and its back of house systems,” he said.  

Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Blackberry handheld and tablet devices, hotel groups may supply their employees with handhelds, though room attendants may also use their own devices for greater ease of use.

March 05, 2015

SMS Alert System for Pregnant Cows is Up for Design of the Year

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There are some weird and wonderful uses for SMS messaging out there, but one of the innovations up for this year’s Design of the Year award is milking the technology for all its worth.

The 76 nominees were announced last week by London’s Design Museum; they will go on display from March 25 to August 23, with the winner announced in June. Designs range from new Norwegian banknotes to high-profile projects like Google’s self-driving car.

But the gadget that’s got us most excited is a new SMS-based monitoring system that tells farmers when their cows are going into labor. If you’ve never had any experience of dairy farming you’ve probably never even realized such a gizmo was necessary, but the brilliantly-named Moocall is a promising solution to a problem that’s largely invisible to the general public.

The gadget hooks onto the tail of a pregnant cow and sends a text message to the farmer when the animal is within an hour of giving birth. It uses 3-D motion sensors and a roaming M2M SIM card to ascertain when a cow is going into labor. Other birthing monitors exist, but they are notoriously invasive and uncomfortable for the cow. Most farmers simply opt to keep vigil over pregnant cows in order to maximize the chances of a live birth. Moocall promises a reliable alert system that causes minimal discomfort and frees up vital resources that would otherwise be spent on watching and waiting. 

Designer Niall Austin first conceived the device for use on his own farm in County Offaly, Ireland, and hopes to break into cattle markets in North and South America. He told Irish Tech News: “Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable.” 

Created with the help of Irish tech firms Motech Engineering and Dolmen, Austin’s innovation went through a long development process, with a series of prototypes - tried ‘in the field’ so to speak - helping them shape the design to withstand the elements and the animal’s clumsy heft (sorry, cows - no offence).

Moocall is another example of the diversity of SMS messaging. If it didn’t send a text message it would require some other pieces of hardware for farmers to receive the alerts. That would drive the cost up and give farmers more hassle. It would also make the gadget a much less marketable product. By combining sophisticated birthing monitor technology with the simplicity and near-universal availability of text messaging, Moocall seems to provide a solution to a major setback facing dairy farmers worldwide.

February 10, 2015

5 Mobile Marketing Lovebombs for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day might be harvest time for the jewelers, florists and chocolatiers of this world, but almost every industry can tweak its marketing strategy to take advantage of the holiday which, after Christmas, sees more spending than any other. 

According to recent research from the National Retail Foundation, Valentine spending will go up 13% from last year, and much of that revenue will come from smartphones and tablets, with mobile coupons and special offers playing a significant role. To give your mobile marketing strategy some heart-shaped oomph this year, try these six ideas to help your audience get engaged in more ways than one!

 

1) ‘Bring a Partner’ Discounts

For Valentine’s-themed mobile coupons, why not offer a 2-for-1 deal? Intuitively suitable for restaurants, spas, hotels, mobile coupons can drive traffic to virtually any type of business.

 

2) Social Media Makeover

In the run up to the big day, overhaul your social media presence to give off a hearts ’n’ flowers vibe. Facebook should be a primarily visual medium, so focus on creating strong images with a lovelorn bent (a themed variation of your logo is a good start). Humor is key, as it makes your posts more shareable, so if you can find a way to poke fun at the holiday whilst invoking its warm center, you’ve hit the Valentine’s mobile marketing jackpot. Whatever you do, social media should be front and center of your mobile marketing strategy.

 

3) Dedicated Microsite 

To reinforce your Valentine’s Day message, create a separate landing page or microsite. Forget about using it as a direct sales channel. Instead, hand it over to your most creative people to showcase their talents. Run a themed competition such as a Saint Valentine quiz with a romantic vacation as the prize. A separate site provides a chance to amplify the themed design elements and show your customers you’re serious about whatever Valentine offers you’re making. Plus, the SEO value of a dedicated holiday site is huge. If it works, use the same tactic for July 4, Thanksgiving and any other national holiday you can make use of.

 

4) Be Ready for ‘the Last Minute-men’

In 2013, Adobe found that spending on gifts steadily increased throughout January and early February, but spiked during the last five days before the 14th. Much like at Christmas, there’s a significant portion of consumers who leave their Valentine’s shopping until the last minute, so pushing last minute mobile coupons and other mobile marketing tactics can really pay off. And with Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, the ‘last minute’ effect promises to be even greater this year.

 

5) Originality Breeds Attention

Ok, so this applies to all mobile marketing tactics, irrespective of the time of year, but if your strategy has been lacking in originality, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to try something fresh for Q1. Encourage user engagement by asking them to share love stories, or take a leaf out of Tiffany’s book and try something along the lines of their ‘Concierge of Love’ campaign. If you have the resources to create a Valentine’s app with your original idea, go for it - you can resurrect it every year to maximize your ROI.

Whichever mobile marketing strategy you adopt, be sure to combine your approaches in a creative, engaging fashion. Give your mobile marketing strategy some love this Valentine’s Day and your bottom line will come up smelling of roses.

 

December 02, 2014

Crank Up Your Marketing Efforts for Christmas

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As the holiday shopping season draws near, it’s important to “amp up” marketing efforts. Let’s check out a few holiday promotional tactics small businesses can implement and subsequently increase brand recognition while ensuring customer loyalty.

 

Email Marketing

A straightforward option, email assorted blasts to opted-in customers about deals, sales and other promotions, and create holiday messages discussing new promo codes or other exclusive, limited-time offers. Existing customer discounts and free gift cards with purchase are generally the most successful email blast options, as they build brand loyalty and referrals in addition to increasing sales. Find an appealing holiday template, add the right information, and go from there.

 

Content Marketing

Whatever you “put out there” for your customers should engage them--don’t simply go for the boring sales pitch. Place attention-grabbing content on social media channels, blogs, press releases, articles, videos...think funny holiday clips, last-minute tips, guides on using your products, fun and helpful newsletters, and more. Information on day-before-Christmas ordering is another great content marketing method.

 

Social Media

Social media is a viable option for promoting your brand and products. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all provide real-time access to customers and their online communities, with social media marketing even more essential during the holiday season. Upload holiday-themed images to your accounts, such as product shots in holiday settings or stores/offices decorated for the season. Provide regular updates on holiday promotions, sales, return policies and shipping cut-off dates, but don’t forget to add fun seasonal facts and similar information as well. Promoting gift card opportunities with links back to official websites is another option.

 

SMS Marketing

Text message marketing is becoming more and more prevalent, as it provides an easy, cost-effective method for reaching the vast majority of your customers instantly. Send holiday promo codes to opted-in customers, as well as exclusive holiday coupons and sales alerts. Advertise Christmas-themed discounts and specials to potential customers who opt-in, and enjoy a larger database you can utilize all year long.

 

Open House 

Another excellent Christmastime marketing idea is to host an open house at your place of business if applicable. Provide cookies and warm cider and or mulled wine, as well as free gift-wrapping for shoppers. Raffles, discounts and other special promos also work when advertising an open house, as do cross-promotional efforts, such as offering handmade chocolates from the confectionary across the street. If your business caters to children, have a friend or co-worker dress up as Santa and hand out candy canes or Christmas-themed coloring books while taking free photos with customers and their little ones.

These are just some of many marketing options to try this holiday season. Good luck, and Happy Holidays. 

November 24, 2014

6 Thanskgiving Ideas for Restaurants

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Thanksgiving is a tricky time for restaurateurs to negotiate. Many eating establishments simply close for the day, unwilling to compete with the home-cooked fare being prepared in homes across the country. 

For most restaurants, that’s probably a fairly sensible idea. But just because you’re closed doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize on the holiday. In fact, by giving your staff the day off and minimizing your overheads, and helping customers prepare for their family Thanksgiving meal, your business could turn a bigger profit closed than open. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some top tips for making the most out of this year’s Turkey Day.

Make Dessert

With so much food to prepare for the big day, the idea of outsourcing some of the culinary responsibility is very appealing. Why not use your expertise to sell desserts or side dishes to customers as a way of relieving the pressure? Take pre-orders so you know exactly how much you need to order, and ask customers to pick their dishes up on Wednesday before 2pm so you can close early, safe in the knowledge you’ve made some extra cash.

Provide Supplies

In the same vein, you can make the most of your unused assets when closed for Thanksgiving. Offer chairs, tables and utensils at knock-down rental prices. Even if you throw in the washing up, your costs will be minimal. 

Offer a Seasonal Incentive

Take a holly leaf out of Christmas’ book and run a promotional schedule that counts down to the big day. Starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving, offer customers a 20% on wine one day, a half-off coupon for entrees the next, and so on up until you close. It’s a good way to generate more business to see you through the Thanksgiving slump.

Christmas Meal Vouchers

With Christmas around the corner, why not tie in your Thanksgiving promotions to the upcoming holiday season? Unlike Thanksgiving, it’s not uncommon for people to eat out on Christmas Day, so offer a deal on the latter that only applies if they buy before the former. Use the opportunity to entice customers to sign up for text alerts – it’s one of the most effective mobile marketing tactics there is.

Takeout Deals the Night Before

Again, you are well-positioned to alleviate the pressure on Thanksgiving cooks by eliminating the need for themcto make dinner the night before. Offer mobile coupons for takeout boxes on Wednesday November 26. Even if you don’t usually offer a takeout service, it’s a winning mobile marketing strategy; you can make a selling point of the service being a one-off, never-to-be-repeated deal.

Close for the entire weekend

Here’s an interesting one. It might seem counter-intuitive to close shop for the days following Thanksgiving, but it can work wonders for staff morale, bringing them back to the restaurant with renewed energy. Remember, most people are thinking about retail - not restaurants - on Black Friday, and between shopping for deals they’re working their way through all the leftovers. Instead of risking a quiet couple of days, close on Friday and Saturday and return with a bang on Sunday for the start of the Christmas craziness.

 

 

 

 

November 20, 2014

How Clubs & Bars Can Grow Their SMS Lists

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SMS marketing may be a new concept to club and bar owners, however many are finding the dramatic difference this strategy makes in terms of customer satisfaction, revenue and much more. Since text messaging is now one of the most effective forms of marketing available, let’s check out how bar and club owners can grow their SMS lists and therefore their customer base:

 

Focused Campaigns

Focused campaigns directly targeting those interested in your particular bar or club is a strategy that meets the needs of customers. Because of such direct targeting, no resource is wasted and the right messages go to the right consumers. And since SMS marketing lists generally require opting in, you’re assured the messages you send are read by interested customers, some of whom may visit your establishment the day the message is sent.

 

Incentives

Incentives are a huge part of attracting customers, so adding an exclusive coupon code or deal for consumers in text messages is an ideal way to get the positive response you want. Feel free to get as creative as you want, from codes that translate to free drinks to deals that include discounted entry.

 

Blogging

Everyone is blogging these days...including bars and clubs. Use this medium to grow your client base and spread your message. Write about upcoming events and specials, holiday parties, happy hour, and anything else that’s relevant. Include funny images of employees, amusing top 10 lists, and more. Add information about text message opt-ins at the end of each blog and watch your SMS list lengthen.

 

Social Media

Social media tools are yet another effective way of reaching consumers and letting them know about your SMS list(s). Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram...use these tools to let people know why they should join your list and how it will benefit them.

 

Referral Bonuses

Increase your customer base via referral bonuses. Provide existing customers with free food, drinks and other specials for referring friends and family to your business. Not only are you growing your SMS list, you’re also ensuring existing customers remain happy.

 

Wrap-Up

Bar and club owners are utilizing other means to let customers know about SMS lists, such as print media. Advertising in newspapers and magazines are two options, though you may want to go beyond print and use email or other means. Whatever you decide, know that SMS marketing lists are a fantastic way of increasing business as well as brand awareness.