Like most traditional payments technology providers, Ingenico had a significant learning curve the past few years in establishing its ePayments unit to help merchants establish payments touchpoints for a multi-channel environment.

It's helped the Paris-based terminal manufacturer become more of a "transaction technology" provider and highlights the importance of last week's announcement that it was helping the Five Guys burger restaurant chain in the U.K. and other parts of Europe add mobile order-and-pay-ahead services.

"From a payments perspective, we have to take a step back and work on a client's ideas and then focus on where the payments part can come in," said Chris Harvey, business development manager for Ingenico ePayments.

Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News

Ingenico is not in the business of building websites or apps populated with products and linked to stock control, but the company needs to understand those operations to help merchant clients streamline payments and build efficiencies into those processes, Harvey said.

The payments provider can offer some best-practices ideas, but the merchant has to make sure all of its processes are in place to assure the mobile order-and-pay-ahead service works. In other words, the idea is to avoid the types of problems Starbucks encountered with jam-packed product pickup lines when its mobile ordering took hold earlier this year.

"We want it so people buy products and then come back again and buy from that same retailer," Harvey added.

Much of that philosophy plays out in the mobile order-and-pay-ahead game, making it especially important for terminal providers like Ingenico, Verifone and others to have some footing in that space.

San Carlos, Calif.-based Crone Consulting LLC has researched the mobile order-ahead phenomenon for several months and is projecting that more than half of all quick-service orders in five years will be through mobile order-ahead. In addition, Starbucks, one of the most prolific mobile app providers in the quick-serve field, has projected 1% growth each month for its mobile order-ahead app.

"If you are making equipment for transactions take place at the POS, and half of those transactions go to mobile order-ahead, what will happen to these terminal providers' equipment?" said Richard Crone, chief executive of the company. "It's a big threat to them."

The arrangement between Ingenico and Five Guys doesn't represent the start of a new trend in mobile order-and-pay in the U.K. Kentucky Fried Chicken and tech provider Airtag established a mobile system for the restaurant chain in the U.K. four years ago.

But the mobile concept that shortens lines at quick-service restaurants has been a growing trend in the U.S. as well.

One of the first salvoes fired in the world of mobile and quick-service restaurants came when Softcard worked with McDonald's to accept NFC phone-tap payments in the restaurants.

And it's been five years since Firehorn and Burger King launched a mobile payment setup for the fast-food restaurant's sites in Salt Lake City.

Those examples of early days in mobile has led to McDonald's continuing its push for a national mobile order-and-pay launch, a plan that will change much of the company's infrastructure and customer service functions as customers ordering through a mobile app would pick up their order at the drive through with a kiosk recognizing their profile and stored payment credentials.

Subway, behind Paydiant mobile payment technology and Avanti Commerce for web-based digital ordering, has advanced its mobile capabilities for customers for several years.

"There has been a natural evolution of what is in the mobile order marketplace, so then you want to connect the gaps and try to improve the process," Harvey said. "We are a global company, so we can gather information from multiple verticals using order ahead and find relevant crossover in different functionalities we can learn from."

Even though Ingenico and other payments-centric companies concentrate on integrating payment options, they understand the other features merchants are seeking.

"Some information we get from retailers at the app level, is that they want offline content," Harvey said. "They want to know what goods to retain, they want to know the customer even if they don't make a purchase and they want to know what products they are looking at."

Retailers, even those in the quick-service restaurant field, are learning what to do with that type of information and can translate it to a tokenized method of mobile payment, Harvey said. "That process allows a customer to use the same card and token while generating a history of what was purchased in a store or online through mobile devices," he added.

Mobile order-and-pay-ahead will ultimately be popular for consumers at quick-service, fast casual and fine dining locations, Crone said. "It makes sense at QSR and fast casual, but in fine dining it would work for those customers who order the same thing often."

Ingenico and others likely view the move into multi-channel services like order ahead as a way to stay in the retail game and extend it beyond use of their own hardware, Crone said. "They have to act as the gateway to mobile apps," he added.

While Ingenico's order-ahead setup in the U.K. with Five Guys is provided through a web-based model for mobile browsers, most providers will eventually be developing apps for this service, Crone said.

"If you want customers to use the order ahead on a regular basis, you need an app," Crone said. "It is easier to start with a web-based model, but if you expect heavy enrollment, you want an app."

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