I recently went to a fantastic event held in an abandoned warehouse in South London.
Each room was designed as a set from The Great Gatsby, and you’d walk through scenes as they were acted out.
When there was a break in the action, actors would grab you for “backstage” scenes, or you could head to the bar for a period relevant drink.
But here’s the best bit.
The evening was a completely cashless event.
Not one note or coin exchanged hands.
All drinks were paid for through card transactions on portable tablet devices.
And it was glorious.
But here’s the cool thing about this cashless event, it’s not the first of its kind.
More and more business are moving away from cash in favor of digital payment.
The term “cash is king” may soon be dead, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
And if we’re being honest, it’s been a long time coming.
Over the last few decades, financial institutions the world over have offered innovative solutions that have made cash almost replaceable.
First, it was credit and debit cards.
It’s far easier to access your funds on one card than suffer periodic visits to your local bank branch to withdraw money.
Then, with the popularisation of the internet, came online payment processing services like Paypal and Stripe.
Square built on this by allowing merchants of all sizes, even independent food trucks, to use Paypal and Stripe to accept payment offline.
And now, there’s an increasing number of people who are turning to their mobile devices for payment solutions.
Every year, non-cash payments grow in popularity whilst the use of cash falls. There are already talks of which country will be the first to go “cashless” (my money’s on China).
Consumers for every kind of business are searching for the most streamlined, efficient method of purchasing their goods.
And right now, the one method that looks set to overtake all others is social commerce.
What is Social Commerce?
Social commerce is the ability to take orders directly through your social media accounts.
It adds to the popularity of cashless payments by bringing the ordering process to digital channels as well.
For example, let’s say you’ve just launched a new burger on your menu and you share an image of it through your Facebook account.
Right now, you’d hope a person would remember that burger next time they want to order. Or that they’d then seek out your website to place an order.
However, with social commerce any comments on that post could automatically begin the order process.
Everything from their cooking preferences, to side dishes, and even payment is handled within Facebook.
No need for redirects to your order page. No multiple step checkouts. No friction which causes you to lose orders.
Just a simple 2-step checkout process that moves the user from engaging with you on social media to payment.
It’s much simpler for the consumer, and gives you a great way to increase your conversions.
But more importantly, it’s what the consumer wants.
The number of people using mobile devices to pay for goods is increasing and, at the end of this year, has hit 20.2% of the total population in the US.
That’s a lot of money being processed through mobile.
But that’s not all from social commerce, right?
Perhaps not. But as services progress, we’re positive that more and more people are going to turn to social to make their purchases.
What makes us so confident?
Why Restaurants Should Take a Leaf out of China’s Social Strategy
If you look at the developments the big social networks have made in the last few years you’ll notice a startling trend.
They’re following a path that’s already been forged by the large Chinese social networks.
In particular, their social commerce functionality through Messenger follows the same steps WeChat has.
But why is that important?
Well, in China, mobile commerce is already dominating payment methods.
And with huge networks like Facebook and Google following China’s lead, it’s reasonable to expect the US and Europe to follow.
But here’s the most interesting piece of information.
Nearly ALL dining establishments in China accept some form of mobile payment.
That could be something as simple as a mobile wallet which, when tapped to a reader, pays for your dinner.
Or it could be as advanced as digitizing the whole experience as demonstrated with this mobile specific menu below.
Sure, China might be years ahead of the West when it comes to mobile payments, but we’re slowly catching up.
More and more people are favoring mobile payments, and the channel is predicted to explode over the next few years.
With the increase in user interest and use, and the fact China has already proved that mobile payments at scale are possible, the answer to whether you should accept mobile payments is simple.
It’s a resounding yes.
However, the real question is, what can you do today to get your mobile commerce strategy underway?
Can Your Restaurant Get a Head Start on the Mobile Payments?
In the West, we don’t yet have the all-encompassing solution like WeChat Pay so there’s no way to fully replicate the pervasiveness of mobile commerce in China.
However, there are more than a few workarounds to getting mobile payments up and running in your restaurant.
The first is to use something like Square.
Square’s not really a new solution, but it is a good introduction to mobile payments as users can use their Apple wallet to pay.
If you want to take the mobile integrations one step further and allow users to also order from mobile (effectively taking the whole order and payment process to mobile devices) then check out something like jumper.
Our native integration with Square will allow you to do everything through your social media channels.
It means that lady from the office – the one who’s always too busy to stay and eat – can fire up her last Messenger convo with you order and pay on her walk to your restaurant, and simply jump in to grab her takeout bag.
The guy who’s feeling hungry but doesn’t know what he wants can order a delivery of that great looking burger you shared on Facebook with 2 clicks from his sofa.
It’s super simple, and it results in massive conversions for your brand.
If this sounds like something your restaurant could benefit from (which it definitely is) all you need is a Square account and a free jumper account.
Once you’re signed up, it’s a simple case of adding your menu and syncing your social accounts.
Simple, effective, profitable.
What are the Benefits of Social Commerce for the Food Industry?
The only real benefit you should be caring about is that offering a simpler, more streamlined method for both ordering and payment is great for your customers.
However, as business owners ourselves, we know that a happy customer isn’t necessarily going to keep the lights on and bills paid.
So, let’s look at some of the other business benefits to implementing a social commerce strategy.
Language barriers, bad connections, or miscommunications. Three reasons that ordering over the phone has often lead to incorrect orders and unhappy customers.
By letting the customer literally write out what they want you’ll find fewer errors and, as a result, fewer unhappy customers.
Streamlines Your Operations
With fewer people needed to man the phones or double check orders, they can focus on other areas of the business to keep things working smoothly.
It seems like a small thing, but when attention isn’t divided, you can better maintain quality.
Better Experience for the Customer
Ordering from the device your users spend most of their time on is simpler. Ordering through the channels they spend most of their time using is convenient.
Adding a social commerce strategy to your restaurant is simply smart business.
Easy to Scale
One of the biggest problems with growing any sort of business is managing operations as the business grows.
Training new members of staff on station X, looking after an increasing number of staff, and handling a growing number of orders can become overwhelming.
But with social commerce, it’s a 10-minute training job for new staff and, once they’re trained, it doesn’t take a tonne of time to manage.
Social ordering, when integrated well, scales seamlessly with your business.
Lowers Service Charges
Credit card companies often charge hefty service charges for transactions. With social commerce, you may be able to lower your fee per transaction.
A week or so ago I stumbled across an old BBC article which detailed a bar in the UK that is now completely cashless.
The reason these guys decided to stop taking cash payments was because it made them a target for robberies.
After multiple break-ins, the bar owners had enough and decided to do away with cash. Apparently, it was also a simple decision to make as only 10-13% of payments were cash at the time.
Should Your Restaurant Pursue Social Commerce?
We are, as a social commerce solution provider, biased.
We do believe that there will always be a place for cash payments. People don’t want to forever do away with cash, and if they do, it’ll be a couple of decades out as there are still a lot of folk who don’t trust technology.
However, the trends and behavior of your customers are undeniable.
Social commerce, digital payments, and cashless checkouts are growing in popularity.
We don’t think you’ll go bankrupt if you refuse to adapt to these modern trends, but you will be missing out on a tonne of potential sales.
Now is the perfect time to get your social commerce strategy underway. Very few restaurants out there are offering it so it’s much easier to stand out from the competition.
If you want to start taking orders and payments through social channels, sign up for a free jumper account here.