The International Franchise Association’s 2019 Conference in Las Vegas (Feb. 24-27) delivered four invigorating days of education, motivation, and celebration. We flew out of Pittsburgh on a Saturday, eager to reconnect with our franchise partners from around the country who’ve been putting data analytics to work using BlastPoint’s site selection and employee lead generation tools, among others.

Amidst all the networking, inspirational keynotes, expert-led roundtables, and much-needed sunshine, we were floored to hear the many ways franchisors are leveraging technology to shape everything from financial reporting to customer service to employee training.

The consumer landscape is changing—and fast. A new generation of potential customers longs for instantaneous convenience when it comes to exploring and purchasing products and services. In order for franchise businesses to stay revenue-positive over the next five to ten years, they have no choice but to evolve with these consumer demands.

How will they do it? By embracing tech. Below are the Top Tech Trends we took away from IFA 2019:

Utilize Data or Get Left Behind

According to David Long, CEO of Orangetheory Fitness, who spoke on Sunday during the Emerging Franchisor Bootcamp, one of the most important things emerging franchises need to do to be successful is to use data to make decisions like:

  • Where should I locate my next store?
  • How big should it be?
  • Where will I find qualified employees to support my business?
  • What kind of person is my target customer?

David Long should know. Orangetheory saw explosive growth since its 2010 launch. Beyond the wireless, wearable heart monitor devices that members use to get real-time data about their workouts, Orangetheory uses a Business Intelligence (BI) portal that delivers instantaneous reports about customer usage and attendance. This means employees can reach out to someone who hasn’t shown up for class in a while, find out why, and address their needs head-on. One-on-one relationships between franchisees and their customers—made possible because of data—remain strong, so customer retention rates remain high and profits continue to rise.

With companies like BlastPoint that aggregate big data in this way, franchisors are building business infrastructures that are guaranteed to work reliably and smoothly for their franchisees, long before build-out is even considered.  

Let Artificial Intelligence Do The Heavy Lifting  

“AI is revolutionizing franchising,” says Domino’s SVP and Chief Digital Officer, Dennis Maloney, who shifted his thinking about the pizza company several years ago. Now Domino’s considers itself an e-commerce company that delivers an experience, not just a pizza.

Guided by the brand’s new image, Domino’s has enjoyed widespread success leveraging artificial intelligence to make features like their zero-click ordering app and hotspot delivery service available to improve that customer experience.

Chatbot technology, ever improving, has enhanced a variety of consumer transaction platforms, making voice-automated interaction quick and convenient. Food ordering, delivery trackers, automatic payments, targeted email marketing, data storage and even data security are being automated by AI and predictive analytics, creating personalized, relevant transactions consumers find useful. Autonomous vehicle delivery is being tested in certain markets, and it’s sure to find its way into the mainstream in the next few years.

Augmented Reality & Gamification Will Strengthen the Workforce

If you’ve ever tested out a new hairstyle using a selfie and an iPhone app before actually going to the salon to get the cut, you’ve interacted with AR. Facial recognition technology is being used by companies such as L’oréal to let customers try on makeup virtually. Sherwin Williams Color Tools let users try paint colors digitally, too, before buying, based off of photos of their homes.

But, explains Amar Dhaliwal, Chief Operating Officer of Atheer, enterprises that span the automotive, utility, manufacturing and even insurance industries are piloting AR technologies to improve employee effectiveness and, thereby, consumer safety.

Embracing AR is expected to help franchisors create interactive training videos for new franchisees and front-line employees, giving them real-life scenarios they can learn to solve—safely and efficienty—in real-time, which will no doubt spill over into improving customer convenience.

Training programs inspired by video games, says Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO, 1HUDDLE, will keep Millennials and Gen Z employees “fired up” about coming to work, because they’ll think creatively about their jobs “through the lens of a game.”

1HUDDLE is turning onboarding from paper-heavy studying manuals to 10-level interactive games, inspiring new hires to reach the next level, compete with others, and conquer goals. As any business leader knows, engaged employees drive higher profits.

“What all this technology allows franchisors of all sizes to achieve,” says Rogelio Martinez, CFE, CEO of Fast Cloud Consulting on IFA.org, “is the ability to manage global operations from anywhere, around the clock.”

We look forward to guiding our franchise partners as they decide which tools to use on their journeys through this exciting technology revolution.