Artificial intelligence has gotten a great deal of interest since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Mobile Payments Today interviewed president and CEO of Rekor, Robert Berman, on an AI Powered Drive Through Platform his company worked on with Mastercard and how that platform can add a new dimension to the customer experience.
Artificial intelligence has gotten a great deal of interest since the coronavirus pandemic came on the scene. With concern over health and safety, many consumers turned to contactless and touchless alternatives when it came to banking.
Consumers searched for a way that they could remain safe when performing banking transactions or ordering food but still have that same personal experience they had prior to the pandemic with their local bank branch or favorite restaurant.
“Consumers have long sought better customer experiences with quick service restaurants and other retailers. They
|Robert Berman, CEO, Rekor Systems|
want the retailer to know who they are and what they like from the minute they come into a location, use a retailer’s app or visit their website. They want businesses to customize their services based on those preferences and not serve up a one-size-fits-all experience,” Robert Berman, president and CEO, Rekor Systems, told Mobile Payments Today.
That need for a personal experience is why QSRs have had a tremendous impact on commerce, Berman said.
“QSRs help to retain customers and encourage repeat visits, all of which positively impact revenue. Of course, in 2020, a great customer experience must not only be personalized and fast, it must also be frictionless.” Berman said.
Since the pandemic hit in March, consumers have increasingly turned to QSRs and retailers to not only give them a quality experience, but make the ordering experience touchless in order to be safe.
“To fulfill this requirement and meet the other needs of consumers and QSRs, it was imperative [to business] to understand who the customer was as early in the drive-through process as possible,” Berman said.
“This required the ability to quickly identify a vehicle in a drive-through or a drive-in situation and associate it accurately with a customer or order. With that knowledge, the QSR could then take the experience to the next level by customizing menu options and offers to that specific customer. By layering on voice ordering and frictionless payments, QSRs could deliver a great, fast and touchless customer experience,” said Berman.
And frictionless payments, coupled with a positive sales experience, according to Berman, is the key to customer retention and repeat business.
“QSRs and other retailers have always recognized that eliminating obstacles — or what consumers see as wasted time — whether large or small, can improve the customer experience dramatically,” he said.
According to Berman, to help create both a positive experience and a rapid order sequence, Mastercard and Rekor Systems introduced the AI Powered Drive Through platform that helps QSRs address the most important points of friction in today’s environment.
This AI solution offers a way to eliminate or dramatically reduce the wait time for consumers. Once a retailer frees staff from taking orders and payments, that staff member can then focus on fulfilling the order quickly and accurately.
The good news for retailers? The vehicle recognition component of Mastercard’s AI platform requires no additional investment in infrastructure.
“The power of artificial intelligence in vehicle recognition, for instance, can deliver highly accurate results in real time.”
Rekor’s technology is used to identify vehicles by their license plate along with make, model and color to pinpoint the correct customer from the moment they approach a location.
“This allows the QSR to delight their customer more quickly with a personalized ordering experience and touchless payments to keep them coming back,” Berman said.
QSRs that currently deploy security cameras can likely use both the existing cameras and point-of-sale technology, so little investment is needed to use the AI platform. And according to Berman, the payoffs are fast.
“QSRs can use their existing IP-enabled cameras to power the customer journey if they are positioned appropriately in the drive-through. The software integrates with existing point-of-sale and customer systems, making this system almost as easy to install and adopt and it is for customers to use,” Berman said.
This platform, Berman explained, comes at the right moment in time for retailers. “Operationally, it helps make staff more efficient and effective and speeds the customer journey from end to end. It also addresses the immediate and passionate concerns of consumers for their safety and comfort.”
Beyond the reduction of friction, Berman explained, consumers receive a greatly improved experience.
“By leveraging aggregated spending patterns on a store or customer level, QSRs can easily deliver personalized and dynamic menu offerings for each customer,” Berman said. “They can also test new menu offerings to select customers and receive immediate feedback, making the experience fun and exciting for the customer and allow the QSR to bring better options to the market, faster.”
A variety of uses
The use of the AI platform isn’t just limited to the banking or restaurant industries, Berman said.
“The use cases in other markets are endless. A car wash can use the system to identify rewards customers and preprogram the system for their preferred wash cycle,” Berman said. “Automatic payments would also be enabled, making it fast and touchless for consumers. Parking garages could identify and process payments from permit or prepaid parkers and move them quickly to the front of a line. Imagine a high value hotel guest approaching the valet stand and being identified before they even lower their window. Even tipping could take place in a frictionless manner all powered by the vehicle’s initial identification.”
According to Berman, for the last several years, businesses have struggled to adapt to a consumer base that now expects overnight and same-day shipping. These same consumers expect highly personalized experiences at every retail and hospitality level from QSRs and discount stores to luxury brands.
“This year, businesses were hit with another seismic shift when they were forced to rethink their traditional operations almost overnight. The Mastercard AI Powered Drive Through system is an approach that addresses both shifts in expectations, and it helps retailers and QSRs at a time when many are struggling to stay afloat,” said Berman.
So, what is the future of AI and QSRs in e-commerce? According to Berman, the future is personalized experiences that can result in more stability for retailers, an increase in sales and a reduction in costs.
“When stability, sales and cost reduction come together successfully, we know from experience that retailers have an opportunity to increase both the size of the order and the likelihood of return business,” Berman said.
“In short, the system will prove its success quickly because it delivers clear value to both the consumer and the restaurant. It can increase both overall throughput revenue per order and reduce operational costs, all while improving the customer experience and increasing loyalty,” Berman said. “This win/win for everyone involved is a recipe for success in this tumultuous market, and it will retain its value long after 2020 is a distant memory.”