Panera, Wayfair hone in on mobile commerce

28. March 2018.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Retail Customer Experience, a Mobile Payments Today sister publication.

Wayfair is a retailer founded by engineers, so it’s not a big stretch to understand its love for technology when it comes to selling its 8 million products to 10 million customers.

The $4 billion ecommerce furniture and home accessories seller is embracing today’s consumer love of mobile commerce as a retail strategy.

“Our culture is deeply rooted in data, in technology,” said Ed Macri, chief product and marketing officer, during a panel discussion at the recent NRF “Big Show” held at the Javits Conference Center in New York City. “[Mobile] presents a new way to shop, with consumers searching for products on their phone, snapping photos of products and searching for them. It’s making shopping for the home magical.”

Mobile tech eliminates consumer pain points

Macri spoke to how Wayfair has “solved one of the biggest pain points” when it comes to shopping for furniture – thanks to its new View in Room 3D mobile app and features that let consumers view an item in their home before purchase. He also noted how Wayfair is delivering a seamless payment process with Apple Pay.

Such technologies, he said, are proving to be “game changers” that are helping Wayfair “make shopping for the home easier for everyone.”

The NRF keynote discussion, led by Jennifer Bailey, vice president, internet services, Apple Pay, also included Panera Bread CEO and President Blaine Hurst.

The trio discussed how retailers, using tools such as Apple Pay as well as augmented reality technology, are crafting more connected and deeper curated experiences for customers along with delivering faster, easier and more secure checkout options. And, just as importantly, the mobile tools are advancing ways consumers can interact with retailers and merchandise.

How mobile is boosting the Panera experience

“Mobile technology is innovating the customer experience,” said Hurst, who described himself as an old school programmer who was sharing a stage with such innovators like Apple. “It’s been a wild ride,” he said, mentioning he came to Panera initially as a wanna-be franchisee.

“But it didn’t work out,” he said with a smile. What did work out was Panera’s invite to help advance the Panera 2.0 strategy, Hurst noted, given he’s now CEO.

Panera served as one of Apple’s initial launch partners for Apple Pay.

“Over 70 percent of our customers are now using Apple Pay,” Hurst said, adding it’s been a “total integrated experience and it has transformed the guest experience.”

The once long lines at Panera order and pickup areas are fast fading, the CEO said, noting the $1.3 billion company is fulfilling 3.1 million orders a week via its digital platform, and 30 percent of its total sales are now digital. In fact, 75 percent of its digital orders are now mobile device based, he said. The mobile strategy has also grown the restaurant’s loyalty base to 30 million, which the CEO said is the largest among all restaurants.

“Mobile has unlocked a customer-centric ecosystem,” he noted, adding options such as mobile ordering and ordering from the table are “changing the guest experience.”

Panera is also finding big success with kiosks, which represent 15 percent of sales in stores where available.

“If you’re using our kiosks, your frequency (to visit Panera) is up 12 percent after 12 months,” said Hurst, adding the frequency among consumers using kiosks, and the rapid pickup option, is revealing a 45 percent frequency spike. The increased sales are a critical part of Panera’s tech strategy, he noted.

“That’s how we have paid for this technology,” he said.

The mobile, kiosk and digital platform efforts are providing Panera with more than just increased sales, however, as it’s leading to a more satisfied consumer. It’s also providing insightful and invaluable data on what customers want and need.

“We know who the customer is,” Hurst said. “It’s a design-centered experience; it’s a great customer experience.”

The CEO also noted how digital and mobile tech are helping Panera associates better engage with customers.

“Associates can spend more time helping the customer, and that leads to a better customer experience,” he said.

Photo courtesy of NRF.

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