Ordering by App: The Next Step in Combatting Long Wait Times

June 12, 2014Perry Kuklin

Imagine it is Monday morning and you are rushing out the front door. As you make your way to your car, you pull out your smart phone, open an app, and carefully select a Grande latte and a blueberry scone. You drive to the nearest coffee shop and upon arrival, your order is already waiting for you saving you valuable time as you proceed with the rest of your morning routine.  According to a Bloomberg Report, Starbucks may soon make this scenario a reality. This year, the company is testing a mobile ordering feature for their app that will allow customers to order food and drinks while they are either waiting in line or before they even enter the coffee shop with the goal of decreasing overall wait times for their customers. Starbucks has already been investing heavily in advanced and mobile technologies. Their venture into coffee machines with internet connectivity provides the capability for remote monitoring of the machine’s performance and automatic updates for recipes as well as providing preference tracking for frequent customers. Additionally, Starbuck’s currently processes 5 million mobile transactions per week including its app’s “Shake to Pay” feature and digital tip function that provides an easy way for customers to say, “thank you” to their baristas. They also offer rewards through their app that can be redeemed right from mobile devices for on-the-spot complementary food and drinks.  The ultimate goal is to combine mobile and in-store technologies for an even more streamlined process. As customers order via the Starbuck’s app, the coffee machines will automatically program to make the customer’s cup of coffee per exact specifications.

To renege or not to renege?

Why did the world’s largest coffee-shop operator even start down the road to designing a mobile ordering feature for their app? They claim because their customers have been asking for it, but there may be another more important reason. There is a queuing theory that states if you get people started, they are less likely to renege. By getting customers to order the moment they think about wanting a coffee or muffin, they get customers to commit “right now” leaving little wiggle room to say, “never mind” due to a long waiting line or change of heart as they head towards the coffee shop. Leading brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s understand the business impact of shorter wait times. Additionally, they realize today’s “always-on” generation relies on mobile payments and electronic commerce for more than convenience, but as an everyday necessity. And with approximately 58 percent of adults in America owning smartphones as of January 2014, according to the Pew Research Center in Washington, capitalizing on the mobile market should be a no-brainer. How will you take advantage of an ever growing mobile society to effectively manage your queue?

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