Transforming your bakery into the digital age is equally important for back of the house and operational efficiency. “We are blending now our POS, email marketing, online store, loyalty program (coming soon) and hoping by using more common technologies there will be more reporting and inventory/stock plugins to help us,” says Janice Jucker, president of Three Brothers Bakery in Houston.

As for third-party shipping and delivery, George Keushguerian, owner of TwinPeaks Online, explains that “no one wants to pay for shipping thanks to the dominance of Amazon. But shipping costs money. Businesses that want to ship can choose a third party, though they may not have a choice in shipping or delivery fees. If bakeries want to do this in-house, they will need to increase the overhead and raise prices. Or charge for shipping. There is no free way to ship.”

In the restaurant delivery space, he says, GrubHub, UberEats and others all charge delivery fees, and they are the main players. Other online platforms like FoodyDirect also charge for nationwide shipping. These companies often have “free shipping” promotions to add users to their database.

A new Visa study reveals that 96% of customers surveyed want free shipping from stores and 85% want free delivery from a restaurant. So how can retail bakeries compete in this environment?

“Everything, it seems, is being commoditized, and the point of differentiation is becoming, ‘How fast can I get it?’ The specialized nature of a bakery’s offerings does create a buffer of sorts from this attitude, but it does not absolve it entirely,” says Mike Clements, owner of BakeSmart. “As I see it, there are three types of deliveries: special, scheduled, and short order. Wedding and event deliveries are categorized as special deliveries. The bakery is often providing a service beyond driving a truck from A to B, such as setup of a cake for an event. Scheduled deliveries are generally those early morning deliveries to businesses that have an account with the bakery. These first two types of deliveries are always managed internally, and profitable because of the margin on the special deliveries or the volume on the scheduled deliveries.”

It’s the third type of delivery, short order, that’s becoming the new expectation of consumers, Clements says. “Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates, and Door Dash are all new businesses that have arisen to meet this expectation. I have seen some bakeries already working with some of these companies to boost sales. I strongly recommend retail bakeries to at least check out some of these companies to see if there’s an opportunity to meet these short order expectations and increase its number of happy customers.”

What about mobile payment?

“Mobile payments are largely dependent on platform,” he adds. “Some POS and payment providers, platforms, and devices offer this service out of the box while others may not. While I still don’t think this technology is a must-have in terms of payment methods offered to customers, that may soon change. Give it another 12 months and the playing field may have shifted more toward mobile payment.”

Keushguerian recommends talking to your payments processor company or who you purchased your credit card reader from. Most of these companies, like Pax, Verifone and Ingenico, offer NFC terminals to accept mobile payments, he adds. “If you recently purchased new equipment, some of these companies will take returns or buy backs. It never hurts to ask.”

Where inefficiency hurts most is the back of the house, Keushguerian says. “In general, anything that a staff member does by hand using paper and pencil can be done more efficiently using a computer system. Reduce time that’s wasted. That will result in an improved bottom line.”