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It’s been 21 months since Panera rolled out its Panera 2.0 initiative, aimed at enhancing the customer experience at its 1,946 bakery cafes, and the St. Louis-based company is still going full throttle in resetting the client experience at point of purchase and payment transaction.

“We are extremely innovative and we launched Panera 2.0 in an effort to identify the friction and make it easier than ever for the consumer to access our product,” said Brian Backer, director of enterprise architecture, during a panel discussion on future-proofing the retail business at the NRF conference in New York.

The friction Backer referred to included long wait times, order inaccuracy and crowding in the order, pickup and payment environments. Woven into the 2.0 strategy was a mandate to personalize the customer experience.

Since April 2014 Panera has been busy expanding its point of purchase processes to include “Rapid Pickup,” featuring advanced ordering via online or via a mobile device up to five days in advance; online and mobile ordering to a customer’s table, and fast -lane kiosks where customers use iPads to place an order.

At this point Panera is working on an Apple Pay mobile process and loyalty strategy.

“We’ve had great success [with Apple Pay] and it’s still emerging. It’s all about speed to service, allowing customer to skip lines. Our Apple Pay in-app option now represents 24 percent of our transactions, one in four, and we’re very happy with that,” said Backer. “It’s proving to be an extremely easy, positive experience for our customers as has the order ahead option which works extremely well with our demographic.”

When it comes to decision making around retail payment processes Backer said Panera’s strategy team uses evaluation criteria to ensure a proposed project will provide a needed solution.

“It has to stay relevant, it has to be a safe and secure transaction, ensure a great customer experience and feature extremely high reliability,” advised Backer.

Any and all technology efforts must meet business objectives, be operational resilient, enforce compliance mandates and drive a great customer experience, he added.

For retailers looking to deploy their own ‘2.0’ initiative Backer offered up three tips:

  1. Do no harm and focus on speed to service.
  2. Pay attention to the accounting equation as all the reconciliation happens at the payment point.
  3. Ensure the project has top to bottom company support.

“You have to ask yourself how it will impact the dynamic between the cashier and the customer and whether it will enhance or disrupt the experience,” said Backer.

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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