For many of us, our smartphone serves less of a purpose as an actual phone and instead, is becoming increasingly more about the services it connects us to and the other gadgets or processes it replaces. We don’t use watches to check the time, we don’t use alarm clocks to wake up in the morning, we don’t use phone books, we don’t write letters on paper, or pull out an atlas for road trips. We don’t carry an MP3 player, digital camera, or day planner anymore, either. All of these things (and more) are part of the device we already carry everywhere we go.
Apple founder Steve Jobs often talked about the place technology has in our lives. He said on multiple occasions that the best implementation of technology is the kind that empowers you to do things, but without requiring a new learned process or behavior.
One thing we can add to that list that wasn’t possible just a few years ago: ordering and paying for food. We’ve talked about Amazon Fresh, the grocery delivery service you can access from your computer, tablet or smartphone, but that’s just the beginning.
Large restaurants and grocery stores are launching new mobile apps that enable you to order and pay with your smartphone.
Already, you can build your perfect Chipotle burrito and pay for it before ever stepping foot in the door. In fact, they’ll have it waiting for you at the register. Talk about grab and go.
Pizza Hut also has a mobile app you can use to craft the perfect pie. Delivery or carry out? Cash or credit? And most importantly, how long until it’s ready? Their mobile apps have you covered.
Retail giant Wal-Mart is in the final stages of testing a new type of shopping app, which should be ready later this year. When it goes live, you’ll be able to scan the barcodes of everything you throw in your basket, essentially ringing up your groceries as you go. When you’re finished, proceed to the checkout and your phone will sync with the cash register so the only thing left to do is pay. Take a minute to ponder what you’d do with all the time you’ve spent waiting in line if you could get it all back.
Starbucks was one of the first major chains to offer a mobile payments app. You still have to give your order to a barista, but your digital Starbucks card keeps track of a prepaid cash balance and deducts each cup of Joe accordingly. The app will also help you find the closest store if you’re in a city that doesn’t have one on every corner.
Another restaurant jumping on the mobile app bandwagon: Taco Bell. Later this year, they’ll also launch an iPhone and Android app that will let you place your order, complete with pictures and customization options (hold the onions!), then pay for it before you step foot in their store. McDonalds has also said they’re in the final stages of testing a similar mobile app.
What’s the goal of all of this? Convenience and customer retention. If you can avoid waiting in long lines to order or pay; if you can carry less (or no) cash or cards; if you can ensure accuracy and efficiency; aren’t you more likely to continue patronizing places that make all this possible.