Smoothie King Is Preparing a Major Mobile Push, Starting With iPads in Stores Today

Can it beat Jamba Juice to the punch?

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Today, Smoothie King is loading 700 of its stores with iPad point-of-sale systems that eventually will be used to pilot mobile payments and order-ahead features.

The iPads are powered by Revel and set up with credit card readers, cash drawers and printers that let Smoothie King employees accept payments, similar to offerings from Square and PayPal. Smoothie King is certainly not the first to roll out payment technology, but it is the beginning of a bigger mobile push from the drink chain.

Smoothie King is currently developing a mobile app that will let customers place food and drink orders before picking them up in stores. The app, which will integrate mobile payments, rewards and customer retention strategies, will be available within six months to a year.

Once the app is live, Smoothie King will start running targeted mobile ads to drive downloads. Clicking on an ad could prompt consumers to download the app, place an order and set a pick-up time. "It's simply an example, but I think it's coming," said Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King.

Smoothie King also envisions being able to use the data it collects from the POS and upcoming app—such as ingredients—to possibly limit the ordering process further by recognizing customers as soon as they step into the store.

"Once you get into our store, if you enable that we can detect your app, then in the future, we can access the recipe that you created so that you don’t even have to say [your order] once you approach the POS. We would just know your name and also the smoothie that you want [so that] we just place the order," Kim said.

"[The] roll-out of Revel today is not a really big thing, but in the future, all these things that we’ll be able to implement is the big thing."

Tough Competition

Smoothie King has tough competition in mobile. For example, Jamba Juice is also developing its own app and has experimented with mobile payments.

Starbucks will also start a pilot program in New York next year testing mobile order-ahead. Transactions from Starbucks' mobile app made up 15 percent of the company's third-quarter revenue.

At the same time, some argue that the restaurant industry has been slow to adapt. But with millennials phasing out cash for digital payments, brands are increasingly bulking up their digital spending.

"When you look at our industry, it's a pretty conservative industry in a way, and it should be," Kim said.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.