PICTURE THIS: You walk into a Starbucks and instead of waiting in line for your latte, you head straight for the delivery counter, where your order is ready and waiting. It’s part of the American coffee chain’s new initiative, ‘Order Ahead’, launched last October. It is an app that customers download on their smartphones. It allows them to place their order while en route to the nearest Starbucks and pay for it, so it is ready for them when they arrive. Taco Bell, the fast food chain, has followed suit, enabling customers using its app to order and pay for their meal while nearing the outlet and have it waiting for them, so they don’t waste a second.
The new technology of downloading consumer-dedicated apps and paying through the mobile wallet has triggered a trend that is sweeping across the world and industries, as heightened competition and technology combine to create new incentives to attract buyers. Global hotel chains like Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood are already test-marketing similar initiatives, where guests enrolled in their loyalty programmes can check-in via their apps and use their mobiles as room keys in order to avoid any lines at the front desk. It would seem decidedly odd to walk into your room without encountering a single member of the hotel staff, but it looks like this is the future. Even God approves, or at least the Pope. The Vatican museum has a similar fast-track access that allows you to bypass the infamous queues outside. The queues routinely stretch back as far as the eye can see and in peak season, it can mean a wait of two hours. The fast-track facility provides VIP access through a reserved door into the Vatican Museums, allowing you to skip all the lines—even the priority ones. After showing your ticket to the Vatican guard, you can discover this compelling museum complex and the Sistine Chapel on your own. Basically, it means paying extra, but for many, the service is worth it. The British capital’s iconic London Eye has introduced a similar fast-track ticket and other popular visitor sites across the world are following suit. Canada’s Wonderland recently launched a fast lane ticket, not without grumbles from regular ticket holders about people jumping the queue by paying extra. Technology may have something to do with it, but basically it’s the age-old axiom—money talks.