From wearables, to 3D printing, to phablets, to cloud computing, to smart machines, it seemed at times as if it was impossible to keep up with the pace at which technology was evolving over the past year. And the speed will only increase in 2015.
Are you ready? Is your business?
I was lucky enough to have become a “technophile” early in life. From the day I opened my first flower shop as a teenager, I recognized that by unleashing the power of technology I could significantly enhance my marketing capabilities, streamline my operations and provide the means to drive sales like few other tools. In fact, I created my first technology company because of an inability to find “off-the-shelf” solutions that met the needs of my business.
There is no doubt that we were able to grow Edible Arrangements into a global icon so quickly because of our ability to embrace and take advantage of emerging technologies that allowed us to be more efficient, effective and have a farther reach.
Interestingly enough, however, I have found that there are many companies that still don’t understand the positive impact that technology can have on their business.
This seems especially true in franchising and, to a degree, that is understandable. Keeping up with advances in technology can be overwhelming and even a little scary.
Not adapting to emerging technologies, however, guarantees that you risk falling behind your competition and, over time, will do so at a faster and faster rate. Take the dramatic expansion of mobile technology, for example. Perhaps the biggest opportunity for the franchise community is in the area of mobile computing. If your online marketing and communications strategy is built around the static desktop environment, you are already at a disadvantage.
Today’s consumers are on the move and expect you to move with them and be there when they want you and where they want you, whether it’s on their phone, their tablet, their laptop, their smart glasses or maybe even their game system. Your ability to transfer your message and your brand quickly and seamlessly between platforms is critical and will become even more important in the coming year.
Your customers want immediate access to your locations, to online ordering, e-payments and individually customized promotions. They want to share their experience with friends as easily as they share holiday photos on Facebook.
In the restaurant industry alone, a recent survey showed that more than one-third of consumers are now more likely to use technology related options than they did just two years ago. And nearly one-third who own smartphones say they would prefer to use them to pay for their check instead of cash or a credit card. Most are already using their devices to check out menus, read online reviews, and place orders.
From an operational standpoint, the same is true.
Just like your customers, your field staff and your franchisees essentially manage their lives through their mobile devices so it only makes sense that they want to run their businesses from them too. No longer are they sitting behind a desk checking emails and reviewing sales data. They, too, are on the move and need the tools that fit their new mobile world so that they can spend more time focused on growing their business rather than running it.
What can we expect as technology evolves?
Franchisees will be able to access real-time sales data from their stores and provide immediate input to their teams while on the road. Store managers will have the ability to update digital menu boards or even change the store’s background music from their phones.
Training? Advances in digital imaging will make it easy to create training or best practices videos that can be updated and shared immediately. Field teams can already upload photos and videos during compliance visits, providing more accurate documentation of how things are going. Next will be the ability to conduct virtual audits of stores along with both franchisees and the corporate office in real time, creating better and more effective communications between franchisor and franchisee.
In the area of franchise development, the sales team will have the ability to continue the monitoring, nurturing and management of their leads while out on the road closing deals.
These are just a very few examples of the ways that forward-thinking franchises are already beginning to embrace technology.
They realize that the old way of doing business has been turned on its head. The old approach of taking the entire desktop view and trying to squeeze it into a mobile environment didn’t really work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.
All tools — from the company website to the training program — must be designed for mobile application first and then, if necessary, they can be converted to a more static desktop format. Voice and video capabilities will become more important text-based capabilities. Speed and flexibility will rule.
The bottom line is that everyone — from customers to your franchisees — expect technology to make their lives easier. In fact, that is the point of technology — to make life easier. Does your technology do this?
The coming year promises many more exciting advances and breakthroughs when it comes to technology. And the franchises that take advantage of these breakthroughs will have a tremendous advantage over their competition. Those who do not take advantage will quickly find themselves falling farther and farther behind.
Tariq Farid, founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements, just launched his second technology company, Naranga, providing a total suite of technology solutions for the franchising industry.