Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

-William Pollard

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of Retail Innovations 12, a publication containing case studies of the very best in futuristic and innovative retailing from across the globe. Congratulations to this year’s winning global innovation candidate, Eatsa in San Francisco, California.

Does the customer experience require human interaction to maximize the customer satisfaction factor? Could it be done without human interaction where technology, process, efficiency and quality underpin the customer experience?

Welcome to Eatsa. Since opening in 2015, Eatsa has revolutionised fast food with a new store concept offering the latest technological automation and sustainable, affordable and healthy meals for people who otherwise may not have time to eat nutritiously (or don’t want to pay a large amount for the privilege). This is true omnichannel retailing, using technology to drive efficiency and improved customer experience by building a customer focused retail ecosystem.

With such a targeted, relevant and attractive offer, it is no surprise that Eatsa has experienced runaway success and sustained international attention.  Technology fuels convenience and speed in an automated ordering process completely driven by digital screens and menu options, with a clear emphasis on a sustainable and nutritious proposition. This appeals to the modern health and socially conscious consumer.

This restaurant functions like a vending machine, reinvented for the digital age: customers order via an iPad kiosk or by using the customised app.  Their food appears when ready in a glass cubby on the adjoining wall.

Eatsa-store-interiorFrom an Australian perspective, all you need to do is walk into your local McDonald’s in a CBD location to see this trend in action. Interactive ordering screens now provide an efficient and cost-effective means for customers to generate and customise their own order. For no additional staffing cost outlay, McDonald’s can improve their order times and other experience factors such as frequency of cleaning, focusing on delivering a faster and more satisfying experience to their customers, as delivered by their existing customer service team. Compared to international best practice however, these screens are overly complicated (especially due to the larger offer and varied pricing). Barriers exist for a proportion members of the existing McDonald’s target customer base when it comes to the uptake of technology, and therefore there is no immediate possibility to entirely migrate to a truly innovative application.

So why is this innovative, and what improvements have been realised? Now, there are no queues and cashiers are not required. The company is focused on its kitchen, because this is where the real experience begins. Customers find order placement to be quick and easy, the offer and pricing is easy to understand and well communicated, and customers can easily opt-in to the rewards program and rate their experience.

Change can come at any time and most unexpectedly so, with fascinating consequences – just ask the taxi drivers of Australia’s major cities.  Is your business prepared and fit for business?

First published InsideRetail on May 26 2017