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Panera exec: Personalization, loyalty paramount to new mobile initiatives

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June 18, 2015

Panera's mobile ordering has placed it at the forefront of the food industry

Panera’s mobile ordering has placed it at the forefront of the food industry

NEW YORK – Executives from Panera Bread and Westfield Group claimed at CXNYC 2015 that mobile has a critical role in driving the future of commerce at shopping centers and restaurant locations, thanks to disruptive innovations and the growing use of technology such as beacons.

During the “Innovating the Customer Experience” session, the executives discussed their respective brands’ innovation efforts, highlighting how personalization and customer loyalty are paramount in rolling out new digital initiatives. Panera Bread has experienced momentous growth in mobile as a result of its mobile ordering and Rapid Pickup option, as well as the MyPanera Rewards platform.

“It’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience, from ordering to how you pay, to how you eat your food,” said Blaine E. Hurst, executive vice president and chief transformation and growth officer at Panera Bread, St. Louis, MO. “We basically say that technology is nothing more than an enabler, but in the end it’s about how we execute.”

CXNYC 2015 is a forum for customer experience professionals organized by Forrester Research.

Panera’s mobile uptick
The executive revealed Panera’s digital statistics as a crucial part of the Panera 2.0 initiative, which saw the food and beverage brand become a mobile leader in its industry. Panera sees more than 45,000 orders come each day from digital channels, with total company orders on digital clocking in at 9 percent.

The brand’s application, which enables customers to place orders on their smartphones as well as pay in advance, has had 2 million downloads since its introduction last fall. Mobile ordering is becoming an imperative feature for fast-food chains to offer their guests, as it provides an optimal way of cutting down in-store traffic and streamlining long lines during prime times of eating.

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Panera’s Rapid Pickup is able to offer a more seamless dining experience

Panera frequently looks to its customers to provide real feedback on how digital and mobile can help improve the experience in its restaurants. The Rapid Pickup option also allows guests to order online or on mobile and have their food waiting for them at a designated shelf once they arrive at the location.

“We have 100 to 150 thousand responses a month giving us feedback on [the customer] experience,” Mr. Hurst said. “We’re always looking for a better way.”

The MyPanera Rewards program currently has 19 million members, and the brand sees nearly 50 percent of its system-wide transactions include the loyalty identifier. This provdes the marketer with important information about its consumers and their preferences.

Recently, Panera has also become an Apple Pay partner and rolled out digital catering capabilities.

Mobile’s role in shopping
Meanwhile, the Westfield Group executive discussed mobile’s growing role in driving future commerce in shopping malls. A company executive revealed that consumers crave sensory experiences while in the physical space of a shopping center, which can be augmented by the use of beacon-enabled messages or personalized features on smartphones.

“We have to pay a ton of attention not just to what’s happening in our stores, but really understanding the behaviors that are taking place when people are purchasing online,” said Beth Ann Kaminkow, chief marketing officer of Westfield Group, Los Angeles. “Because of this convenience, people want more choices but in less time, and they want it with more personalization.”

Consumers are now in a constant state of shopping, thanks to the increased rollout of buy buttons on social media channels. The frequent posting of outfits on apps such as Instagram has made marketers realize that younger generations dislike being seen in the same clothing twice.

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Users can peruse food options on Westfield’s Dine on Time app

This prompted Westfield to introduce its searchable mall app to customers in 2013, which enables users to search for desired products online or on mobile prior to visiting a shopping center, and save their results to their Westfield accounts.

The executive showcased an example of how this app can augment the shopping experience and increase time spent in the mall. A woman seeking a black dress for an office party can browse products within the app and bookmark her favorites to try on in-store.

Once she arrives at the mall, she can take her car to the express parking section and receive a text message informing her which spot she may take. Inside the center, the shopper will be greeted with a welcome message from a nearby beacon that pulls up recent searches and shows complementary pieces, such as shoes or jackets.

Westfield is also working on expanding its Dine on Time app, which will enable guests to order food from malls’ restaurants or eateries and view prices as well as wait times. They will then receive a text message telling them once their order is ready to be picked up.

The company focused on identifying the pain points that may occur during customers’ experiences in its centers, and making the process as seamless as possible.

“We know that the mobile device is so important to the shopping trip,” Ms. Kaminkow said. “We’re not thinking of ourselves as a mall anymore.

“It’s a physical venue,” she said. “The future is open.

“We know people are craving this sense of social engagement in the physical world.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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