The Sky is the Limit The Future of Franchising is All about Technology and Social Responsibility
There is a new generation of potential franchisees and they are looking for a franchise model that has evolved substantially from the traditional model. These digital natives are looking for a collaborative business that embraces technology and the digital space, a business which has core values that cover far more than the profit bottom line. Values are those that understand that each franchisee is a local business and that, although they are part of a national brand, they have local power and it needs to be fed with marketing messages that resonate locally, and sponsorships that benefit the community while promoting the brand in an inclusive manner – not a shout.
In a nutshell, the two core issues for the new generation of franchisees are technology and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The efficiencies and business intelligence that can be derived from applying the right technology tools is phenomenal. The good news is that many franchisors are already a long way down the path in implementing these tools, as well as keeping an eye out for emerging capabilities. What sort of systems should you be looking for when you are evaluating effective franchise offerings? Well, it depends on the type of franchise business. But here’s a few that are changing businesses now.
Forensic back of house reporting
Real time analysis and reporting on your key business metrics is one of the most important tools you can have. Integrated into your accounting platform, the ability to have an up to-the-minute view of all aspects of your business, goes a long way to shock-proofing your business.
Systems for precise inventory management
No one wants to have to store excess stock, but no one wants to run out of product or supplies either. Cutting edge inventory management tools can make predicting when you need supplies, a very precise exercise.
Artificial intelligence (AI) applications
AI can automate repetitive tasks so your employees can focus on income-producing tasks. AI can analyse and detect patterns in vast quantities of data, providing deeper insights that can lead to more targeted stock offerings and better directed marketing campaigns.
Online delivery apps
In some sectors, online delivery apps have been a saving grace during the pandemic lockdowns, as well as providing an efficient, easy way of ordering for customers. Leading food franchisors are investing heavily in this technology.
Cashless payment options
From Apple Pay to Afterpay to Paypal for example, consumers are looking for convenient ways of paying and progressive franchisors are taking the lead in negotiating discount rates for these services.
Web based Point-of-Sale (POS) systems
Franchisors should be providing content-rich, easily navigable websites with online ordering systems that drive the order fulfilment back to the client’s local franchisee. The site should have a highly secure checkout facility with multiple payment options, as well as automatic prompts to follow up people who abandon their “shopping carts”. There should be harvesting of contact details and a program of follow up EDMs.
The “voice” of your website, Chatbots can be programmed to answer questions typed into the interface window and respond like a real person. The responses are based on a combination of pre-defined scripts and machine learning applications.
Online re-targeting programs
Re-targeting is when a person has shown interest online in your product or service (perhaps by viewing a Facebook post or video), and they are tracked across their online activities and presented with ads on your product or service.
Online communication portal
This is not a luxury: it’s a critical piece of infrastructure to build the franchisor / franchisee relationships.
Online learning hub
From inducting new employees to providing the tools to help franchisors be better business leaders, online learning hubs can provide a rich resource for every member of the franchise.
This is just a sample of the sorts of technology offerings that franchisors are investing in for the benefit of their group. Different market segments have bespoke technology solutions and this is a rapidly evolving sector in delivering business efficiency and growth. The trick for franchisors is to not get distracted by every shiny app that comes along, but to invest in experts who can provide the best advice on the technology that is effective, value for money, easy to use and works well in the franchise environment.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
The new generation of franchisees are focused on Corporate Social Responsibility. They understand that businesses are now being judged, not just on their products or services, but also on their corporate citizenship, their social conscience and their credentials as businesses with ethics and heart. And they want to be part of a business that has socially responsible values that they can use to great effect in their local community.
A Roy Morgan poll in late 2019 showed that 78% of Australians were concerned about climate change. A YouGov poll by the ABC in January 2020 revealed that 79% were concerned. So, it’s of significant concern to a large number of your clients. Making changes that help the environment depend on your industry, but here are some areas, where franchisors who are reading the signs, are encompassing:
- Green energy. Whether that’s buying green energy or putting solar panels on your roof, franchisors can lead the way in doing the research and arranging the best pricing.
- Recycling. From paper and plastics to used mobile phone, laptops, computers etc.
- Carbon neutral place of business. This involves calculating your emissions, adopting energy efficiency measures and shifting to renewable energy. You also will probably need to purchase offsets to compensate for unavoidable emissions.
- Using sustainable suppliers. Once again, Franchisors should be doing the research and arranging best pricing.
Inclusive workplaces and cultures
Embracing diversity in your employees and ensuring respectful workplaces are free from bullying, racism, intolerance of any kind, will build teams that are diverse, motivated and loyal to your business. A franchisor should provide you with the policies and guidance.
Ensuring your business premises is easily accessed by those with a disability is also important.
Fair pay for a day’s work
Franchises have received some savage press over the last few year for underpaying employees. In some instances, this has been because business owners haven’t understood the complex awards they are employing within. A responsible franchisor should educate their franchisees on what awards apply and provide them with updated rates of pay whenever they change. They should provide information on overtime rates, allowances etc. They should provide a HR Helpdesk – whether that’s in-house or a consultant. The financial penalties and damage to reputations are too great to be left to chance. More importantly, there is a real skills shortage and you will not attract the best if your workplace is non-compliant and has a bad reputation.
Many Franchisors will have put in place a sponsorship of a particular charity or cause. Often these sponsorships allow the Franchisees to use the charity’s logo on marketing material as a quid pro quo. This is a win-win - the charity receives funds and the Franchise can publicise their good corporate citizen credentials. Where a franchisee can multiply the effect is when they run local events to raise money for the selected charity. This informs your local community of what you are doing and also engages your team.
Pro bono work
Donating your skills and expertise, and the expertise of your team to help organisations that are working to improve the lives of others, is rewarding and helps build a wonderful culture in your business. Treat them as a client within your business and allocate work to your employees to do during their workday. This is not volunteering; it will cost you to do it, but the lessons you learn are well worth it.
Franchising in 2021 and beyond, is exciting. With a franchisor and franchisee both committed to a mutual obligation model, that leverages evolving technology while building a social conscience and active local awareness, the sky is the limit.
Corina Vucic is the Director of FC Business Solutions. With over 20 years in the franchise industry, and extensive operational and management experience, she works closely with leaders to take their business to the next level. Whatever their goals, Corina coaches, mentors and supports business owners and executives to maximise success and minimise risk for long-term business prosperity and security.