As Amazon announces the opening of their 10th brick-and-mortar store, some smaller retailers are contemplating how to compete with a powerhouse that not only dominates online but is now making strides in physical retail.
But Flying Saucer Pizza in Seattle, in partnership with Revel, is defying the odds by leveraging mobile technology to remain nimble in the age of Amazon.
The restaurant, described as a "fast casual sci-fi pizzeria," has been in business for 12 years and serves personal pizzas and craft-brewed beers. The customer demographic ranges from millennials to baby boomers.
Owner Aaron Roberts says that mobile has been at the core of the business's growth strategy. To achieve scale, the pizzeria teamed up with Revel and found that its cloud-based model was perfect—key to a market flooded with competitors.
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"We leverage mobile technology through Revel; it has ease of deployment, management and maintenance," Roberts said. "As an added bonus, mobile devices are second nature to today's food service workforce, and because we use Revel's mobile technology, we have seen huge cost reductions in hardware and software and we're able to run with lighter staff."
The company has also embraced single-touch mobile ordering. Through a third-party mobile ordering platform, customers can find and order food, and regular customers can reorder with a single touch.
In addition, kiosks have been an important part of Flying Saucer Pizza's mobile strategy. Revel's kiosks are deployed not only in-store, but Flying Saucer Pizza has also placed them inside local businesses who want easy access to ordering.
Consumers value local businesses
According to a recently published Revel report, Retail Revelations, which takes a deeper look at the retail industry, loyalty to local businesses has proven to be a matter of pride for many consumers. The report found that more than 94% of respondents believe it is important to support independent, local businesses.
"While online shopping has risen in prominence for many, it will never replace the experience a customer has when they are in a physical store: the face-to-face interaction, the desire to test products and interact with employees and other shoppers," said Bobby Marhamat, COO, Revel. "It’s clear people look for a connection or interaction, not just a transaction. The study showed that more than 63% of people have purchased goods at a physical store at least four times in a month, compared to 28% who shopped online at least four times a month."
In order to set themselves apart, Marhamat recommends that businesses offer excellent service and distinct experiences that retailers such as Amazon cannot offer, while still providing the data and intelligence to best serve their customers, based on consumer behavior. Other enhancements include customer-friendly payment methods, a mobile-responsive website or mobile app, and engaging with consumers through social media.
"Using Revel along with the same devices we use in our restaurant, we can Tweet or Instagram pictures of customer pizzas as they come out of the oven. It's engaging and compelling," Roberts said.
There have been lessons learned along the way, as Flying Saucer Pizza is open to trying new things on mobile. For instance, they recently tried a smart button. The idea was to provide a $200 smart button to top-tier customers with a dollar spend of more than $2,000 a year, so they would push the button and get white-glove service. The technology didn't work as it should, so the idea has been put back on the shelf for now.
As a small business, Roberts admits that money is always a big challenge.
"But with great challenges come great innovations. We're now doing things that our biggest competitors couldn't do because it would take them years to implement and millions of dollars," he said.
What's up next for Flying Saucer Pizza? Real-time digital menu boards are something they are discussing with Revel. The ability to switch menus seamlessly would allow menus to change with the time of day. The company is also looking into Revel's mobile inventory management.
Marhamat especially stresses the importance of mobile as it is the best way to continue the conversation and engage through push notifications, mobile apps and mobile-enabled loyalty programs.
There are still challenges that small businesses will need to overcome. Marhamat stresses that many of them lack access to the data needed to stay competitive.
"Before Revel started, the founders saw a tremendous void in retail technology as many small business owners were stuck with archaic systems that weren’t capable of simplifying and optimizing the work involved in maintaining and running their business," he said. "Retailers, small and large, should observe Amazon and the ways they are utilizing data; they know how to collect and analyze customer data that has led to insightful and intelligent business decisions."