How Consumer Services Companies Are Innovating With App Features

How Consumer Service Firms Use Innovative Apps

To help improve their operations, consumer services companies appear to have some very specific ideas about digital technology. Firms in this space, which include entertainment venues, garages and contractors, show a lot of interest in consumer applications – and seem to be more interested in some features than others.

These companies are most interested in payments acceptance, digital receipts and customer satisfaction rankings when it comes to features offered by consumer applications, according to the most recent PYMNTS Retail Innovation Readiness Index. The report also noted that many firms believe technology could also bolster their back-office operations.

From Yelp to Apple, technology companies are providing solutions that could serve retail environments. Here are just some of the ways these firms are providing consumer-facing applications with features that could catch the interest of consumer services firms.

Approximately three-quarters – or 75.6 percent – of firms are interested in payment acceptance applications for consumers. And tech companies are already working with retailers on payments innovation. Apple is teaming with partners such as the Bonobos clothing store and Bird scooters. Special tags can trigger purchases with Apple Pay without the need for a special app. iPhones can read a near-field communication (NFC) tag that is specially encoded to display an interface for an Apple Pay purchase when a user holds a device near it. Bird customers currently have to download the company’s app and find a nearby scooter before scanning a quick-response (QR) code. With the new implementation, they can simply tap their phones and begin their trips.

More than half – or 57.1 percent – of firms are interested in digital receipt applications for consumers. And legislators are also looking to make paper receipts a thing of past: According to reports in January, California lawmaker Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that would make his state the first to require retailers to offer customers digital receipts by either text or email beginning in 2022. Shoppers, however, would still be able to request a paper receipt. “Most of us don’t need a physical receipt for every transaction,” Ting said, according to reports. “It doesn’t make sense to kill so many trees and produce 12 billion pounds of carbon emissions – the equivalent of one million cars on the road – to make something we don’t often need.”

Just under 17 percent of firms are interested in reservation applications for consumers. And restaurant reservation platforms are gaining traction: According to reports in February, Yelp’s internal data indicates that 22 million diners booked through the app directly in December. That was helped by growth in diners booking directly through the app, a metric that tripled year over year in Q4. At the same time, it was reported that the firm’s reservation software was used by 5.6 million diners during Valentine’s Day week. In other restaurant reservation news, Google had announced earlier this year that its Google Assistant feature, which taps into tech to quickly book restaurant reservations, would soon be available to iPhone users. 

More than 14 percent of firms are interested in taxi-ordering applications for consumers. Even in the rideshare age, digital disruptors are innovating with mobile apps for taxis: Consumers who book through the Oiii taxi app, for instance, can opt for a bid-based offering or choose the company’s meter service. If the rider chooses the bidding method, the app can offer a fare estimate as a guideline. If the app determines that a ride from the city to the airport costs $60, for instance, it might recommend that a driver starts the bid at $50, but doesn’t stop a customer from offering a driver $30 or $40.

And just over one in 10 – or 11.5 percent – of firms are interested in consumer-facing digital menu applications. Digital disruptors, too, are providing businesses without kitchens with customized menus and ordering technology that enables diners to order from kiosks or their phones and have food sent directly to their tables. 2ndKitchen, for instance, is working on an asset-light model: “We’re not opening up kitchens,” Nick Anastasiades, the company’s CEO and co-founder told PYMNTS in a February interview. “We’re not hiring delivery drivers.” Instead, he said, the company is essentially linking two businesses that already exist. Customers can order from kiosks or their phones.

From 2ndKitchen to Apple, digital innovation is changing the economy for retail. And as digital technologies and platforms are making shopping and commerce easier than ever before, no business can afford to ignore the wave.