I recently had the pleasure of watching Spike Jonze's film "Her," best described as a near-future, slightly sci-fi comedy-drama in which a human male named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) develops an intimate relationship with his intelligent computer operating as "Samantha" (Scarlett Johansson). The film is based on the prediction that our current interactions with our operating system through voice interface will morph so that in the future, not only will we benefit from our systems' computing power and ever-increasing artificial intelligence, we might just develop an intimate personal relationship with "her" or "him."
"Her" is a projected view of the possible future, but it might not be that far off. Many of us already have strong and often symbiotic relationships with our smartphones. We rely on them for organization, communication, navigation. In turn, we are supportive of the devices – holding them nearby, checking on them 150 times each day (if we're an average American, maybe more if we're above average), even letting them sleep on our pillows.
One scene in particular struck me as startlingly close to real life. Samantha asks Theodore to close his eyes as she guides him around using the camera on his device. Eventually, through intuition and artificial intelligence, Samantha guesses that Theodore must be getting hungry and leads him directly to a pizza cart where he orders a slice of pizza. Our company's product, Olo, acts in a similar way. A lovely voice won't lead us to pizza, but the app for a favorite restaurant powered by Olo connects us to food that is freshly prepared, just in time and exactly to our liking. Moreover, with consistent use, the restaurant app can read our minds: learning our favorite orders, making meal suggestions based on our shared history, and even treating us – for example, delivering a free cookie coupon on Fridays when the app knows we likes to splurge.
It may all seem futuristic, it might even seem a little strange, but it is reality. It's time restaurant operators saw smartphones for what they truly are and used them for what they do best – creating long-term relationships with loyal customers.
Never in history has there been a customer loyalty platform like the smartphone. It acts like a star employee – remembering customers' favorite orders, giving them a treat on a birthday, reminding them of upcoming offers. But unlike star employees, the 156 million smartphones in the U.S. are already waiting to deliver this outstanding customer service (comScore).
The many intuitive programs and apps on the market are collectively called "quantified self technology," and the field continues to advance. Smart operators can build stronger relationships with their customers by entering into this smartphone-user relationship through the use of mobile ordering apps, which, like Samantha, can know a user's likes and dislikes at ingredient-level detail. Olo's restaurant apps will soon predict new orders based on consistent behavior over time. Perhaps, in the very near future, we may all be eating dinner with Scarlett Johansson – the intelligent personal operating system that provides a new level of convenience and visibility into one of our most everyday and basic needs: the food we eat.
Noah Glass is the Founder & CEO of online and mobile ordering pioneer Olo. Since 2005, Olo has helped leading restaurant brands use digital ordering for faster, more accurate, and more personal service to over 6 million customers. Olo has been featured on “Good Morning America,” The Wall Street Journal, and ABC World News.