What role can Artificial Intelligence play in franchising?

Most franchises are based on work that is easy to replicate and systemise – exactly the fundamentals that drive successful Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is now becoming a mandatory business tool.

A new digital age has dawned and franchisors can’t afford to be left behind. Not only are the “millenials” becoming a large portion of the customer base but they are also becoming the workforce. Thus to stay current franchisors and franchisees have to start employing the use of technology. These new age tools should start enhancing the product and service offering that we provide to our customers. The AI in what we now perceive as simple parts of our everyday life from in-app ordering to push notifications for something we have been searching to buy is already entrenched in our purchasing habits.

Companies are innovating at a rapid rate and artificial intelligence is becoming part of everyday lives. Platforms are being set up where our customers are talking to robots and not real people. This can aid business and improve the sale process. Franchising is meant to be a business that is easily replicated and thus the inclusion of systems should slot in easily with the way we do business. Introducing additional services such as Chatbots is becoming more popular. Technology allows franchisors of all sizes the ability to manage national and global operations around the clock.

Systems can start to aid our ability to provide the best customer service. It is also particularly useful to provide services to customers in more remote areas, or being available around the clock. This results in better servicing and retention of customers. They can also channel the marketing so it both relevant and personalised – thus tailor making what the client will received as well as when and how. The technology also provides us with the information as to who our most loyal customers are and thus our focus can be on how to reward them for that. Already the loyalty programmes are providing valuable data for franchise networks.

Technology is taking advertising and sales to a realm our previous generations would not even have thought possible. Brand awareness is heightened by digital advertising solutions that target specific customers based on their locations or their buying patterns and interests. Something as simple as a targeted Facebook campaign will allow the advertiser to identify those who are most likely to buy the product or service.

It has further advantages such as those in the arena of site selection. Site selection guidance no longer has to be a complete “gut feel” element but rather a decision based on technological trends and insights offered by Geographic Information Specialists. The compilation of this sort of data saves both time and effort on the part of those having to invest in a location. Furthermore when it comes to opening physical stores the AI gathered and applied can make the process of the build much quicker, more streamlined and with better workflow processes.

Enhancements in AI may mean that the information gathered from our customers allows us to make better decisions in order to increase our revenue – from what to stock to how to merchandise it. AI is not just limited to the customer end but can help franchisees run better businesses. If it is used to invest in systems that drive the “back-end” of the businesses such as logistics and stock management. Technology should be in place to ensure that minimum stock balances are in place and automated ordering is done in time. This would also ensure that there is less waste and storage space could be better managed. The reports and analytics that can be generated should guide informed business decisions about work processes.

We might find soon enough that our mobile apps are integrated with retail POS systems – meaning our coffee is ordered and ready by the time we reach our destination. We should be prepared to see and participate in a massive leap in convenience and capabilities. AI should be used to connect with customers in a more meaningful way not to enhance the impersonal digital divide.

AI should result in more human resources being freed up to focus on greater value adds. It should simplify the roles we play and take on the time consuming tasks.

In order to remain relevant Franchisors have to keep up to date with trends and use technology in such a way that it enhances businesses and ultimately improves the customer experience. A franchisor’s responsibility is to keep abreast of the macro perspective and in order to apply best practice efficiencies into the franchise network their focus will need to include technology trends.

In keeping with moving of the times, Franchise Firm has become the proud sales and support partner in South Africa of the Franchise Infinity Software management system. This is a cloud based software management system that serves as a an effective management tool and communication portal for franchise systems.

For more information visit www.franchisefirm.co.za or phone011 803 0665.