Imagine visiting a restaurant and instead of being greeted by a waiter or a waitress, you are welcomed to your table by a robot. Or imagine you are getting ready to pull out your wallet to pay but realize that your transaction has already been completed when you faced the camera at the checkout counter. This technology may seem unrealistic and out-of-reach, but in fact, WeChat has already brought them to life.
On June 12, WeChat broadcasted a live stream talk on how its mini programs utilize AI and Big Data to improve user experience in the food and beverage industry. ITC had the opportunity to tune in to the WeChat Smart Food Industry Conference that took place in Shenzhen as WeChat discussed how AI technology can be integrated into to catering industry.
Mr. Lei, General manager at WeChat Pay
WeChat's Take on AI and Big Data Role in the F&B Industry
WeChat is China's most popular chat app, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Out of that astonishing amount of users, 50% of them spend over 90 minutes per day inside the app -- giving WeChat an immense amount of consumer data. One way WeChat organizes these data is by assigning an ID for each user and storing all the data associated with an ID tag -- from the messages they sent to their purchasing behavior when using WeChat wallet. So, how can WeChat utilizes its data bank to improve user experience while helping their clients increase customer satisfaction and achieve growth?
The Smart Food Industry Conference was divided into 4 main parts, presented by managers from Pizza Hut, Zhouheiya, Wedome, and Hey Tea. Each of them shared how their businesses found success through utilization of WeChat mini programs.
Let’s dive in and have a look at their experience.
Pizza Hut’s Use of Mini Programs to Bring Robots to Life in Their Smart Restaurant
The first keynote of the day was held by Pizza Hut. Since its entrance in China 20 years ago, Pizza Hut has always been more than just an affordable pizza chain. Pizza Hut has spent two decades crafting an unique dining experience for their guests, and one of their latest move was opening China’s first smart restaurant.
Smart Pizza Hut opened its door in Shanghai during late 2016. In collaboration with Tencent, Pizza Hut created a concept restaurant that allowed customers to order through LED menus placed around the store or through their WeChat mini program. The orders would then be delivered to the table by the same robots that led the guests to their table when they first entered the restaurant.
WeChat mini programs also allow the guests to interact throughout the entire Pizza Hut restaurant. Users of the mini program are given access to a tailored menu that provides promotional discounts based on their taste. Users will then order and pay for the meal all within the mini program itself. In the future, Pizza Hut hopes to create a more extensive mini program that will give the user access to control the dining environment as well - such as the ability to control the lighting of the table or the sound level of the restaurant.
Key takeaway: Mini programs can be used to create a personalized experience and provide discounts based on personal preference
Zhouheiya Opens “Smart WeChat Store”
The second speech was held by Zhouheiya, a company that has always contributed their success to their continuous aim for innovation. Their latest innovation is creating a smart, unmanned store using WeChat mini programs. So how does this smart store work? Zhouheiya utilizes facial payment, RFID systems, and Big Data to streamline the operations in their smart store. In return, the customers will enjoy the benefits of:
- Personalized menu and product recommendation
- Unique shopping experience
- Faster checkout process
The smart store gained tremendous success within the first month of opening. By utilizing the data provided by Wechat and the features available on WeChat mini programs, Zhouheiya enjoyed 100% customer satisfaction, 55% decrease in queue time, and 21% increase in customer retention rate.
Key Takeaway: WeChat can create a no-man store using artificial intelligence technology, utilizing the different functionalities of WeChat mini programs
Wedome’s AI Experience to Improve In-store Traffic Flow
Then, it was Wedome’s turn to share its success story. When you run a store like Wedome that sees over 100,000 daily customers in one city alone, accommodating such big crowd becomes a common cause of headaches. Luckily, Wedome has found the solution to improve customer queue time and satisfaction: a smart kiosk. By installing a kiosk check out the system that runs WeChat mini programs, shoppers are able to enjoy a more personalized shopping experience with AI product recommendation and AI facial payment features.
The installation of the kiosks is cutting down the time spent in the purchase journey by 50%. This means that during rush hour, it used to take almost half an hour for a customer to enter the store, pick out his products, and then wait in long lines before completing his purchase. Now with the kiosk, customers can purchase through Wedome’s WeChat mini program, pick up the order at the store, and check out at any available kiosk machines in all under 10 minutes. On top of that, the kiosks are also expected to save 20% on labor costs.
Following the success of the kiosks, Weiduomei hopes to open an AI Smart Store 2.0 where an AI library will store all the data collected from customers entering the store. From these data, Wedome will be able to provide better product recommendation to users in their mini program. Customers will also benefit from receiving more personalized promotion drafted from their past purchase behavior.
Key takeaway: Mini programs can utilize Big Data and AI to create campaigns that are more personalized and tailored to the loyal members.
The Story Behind the Success of Hey Tea’s GO Mini Program
Last month Hey Tea came out with a solution to a challenge that has become a part of their brand - long lines. It used to perfectly normal for a customer to wait up to two, three hours to just grab a drink from Hey Tea, but now with the introduction of Hey Tea GO, customers can skip the long line and order through Hey Tea’s mini program and pick up the order once it is ready.
According to Mr. Cheng, CTO of Hey Tea, the mini program can:
- Increase user experience by eliminating long wait time
- Collect more user data which can be used to improve the mini programs in the future
- Drastically increase efficiency for both sides -- customers and the company
- Provide a new way to communicate and connect with the customers
Key takeaway: mini programs can decrease in-store traffic by allowing customers to place orders online before visiting the store
Thanks to the WeChat mini programs and its AI and data analytic capabilities, many pain points that have plagued the F&B industry can now be resolved. Here is how:
- Pain point 1: There are not enough waiters available to meet the demands from a large customer base
WeChat's Solution: Create mini programs that allow customers to place orders online before visiting the store to decrease in-store traffic. Install robots in restaurants to meet more demands at once by sharing the responsibilities of the waiters.
- Pain Point 2: Loyal customers don't feel special anymore, which leads to lower customer retention rate.
WeChat's Solution: Utilize Big Data and AI to create campaigns that are more personalized and tailored to the loyal members of our clients. Examples include a special promotion for only long-term members or VIP offers to create a feeling of entitlement and importance.
- Pain point 3: Long queue lines are hindering the customer’s dining experience
WeChat's Solution: Partner with our clients to create a no-man store using artificial intelligence technology and utilizing the different functionalities of WeChat mini programs. This will not only increase usage of mini programs but also provide a unique and innovative user experience.
About the author
Vice President and Co-founder of IT Consultis
Aurélien is an enthusiastic serial entrepreneur, coach for startups and other entrepreneurs, board of Director of EO (Entrepreneur Organization) and French Tech Shanghai. He has founded and currently manages several successful ventures. He is always very keen to meet new people and excited to learn from other success-driven entrepreneurs. As Vice President and co-founder of IT Consultis, a team of 60+ people in 3 countries, Aurelien is responsible for the development and expansion of the company, leading the strategy, sales, and marketing departments.