The Keys to Driving Mobile App Use for Restaurants

The restaurant industry will represent $799 billion of commerce and employ one out of every ten people in the United States in 2017. Restaurants are benefiting from the fact that millennials are cooking less and going out more than older generations, but this younger audience has put an enormous amount of pressure on both major chains and independents to offer a better digital experience to their customers. With over one million restaurants in the country, competition for customers is increasingly fierce. This has led some of the nation’s biggest brands developing their own mobile apps in an effort to drive customer loyalty.

Mobile apps have the ability to drive awareness, traffic, and revenue significantly. By 2020, over 10% of all orders to quick-service restaurants will be placed on a mobile device, bringing mobile transactions to 38 billion dollars in value. For restaurant owners, it’s increasingly clear that the mobile experience will soon become a mandatory part of the customer experience.

Mobile Builds Loyalty and Advocacy

Mobile usage is on the rise, with one-in-four consumersreporting they have at least one restaurant app on their phone. Starbucks is leading the way in mobile innovation. Their app is used to complete over 6 million transactions a month across its over 1 million active monthly users.

Starbucks has reaped enormous rewards in brand loyalty and advocacy through their mobile app by hitting the home run of customer engagement:

1. The app provides value through rewards and promotions, incentivizing repeat purchases;

2. The app provides order-ahead and easy payment features that simplify the customer experience and save customers time, and;

3. The most commonly missed feature: the app allows customers to gift purchases to other customers, turning customers into advocates, and turning one mobile app user into dozens of potential new downloads

Mobile applications improve the customer experience in a plethora of ways and are a powerful tool in building customer loyalty and advocacy.

Getting the Download Is the Challenge

Particularly for smaller chains, getting customers to download your app may be a challenge. Driving downloads may seem complex, but there are three key areas that restauranteers should focus on to build a successful mobile program:

1. Optimizing Apple and Android’s respective stores is a critical component of any successful mobile campaign. For a great example, here’s how Starbucks manages its Google Play page. Starbucks avoids feature-centric marketing by clearly and thoughtfully laying out the value proposition of each key feature of the app. It also maintains a meaningful updates section, demonstrating to users that the app is constantly being improved. This kind of messaging quickly provides the critical information a user needs to make the decision to download.

2. Promoting in-app and via social is another key factor in driving adoption for a mobile app. However, the majority of marketers focus on driving adoption and engagement by the current user, often missing an opportunity to create and activate net promoters. In-app and social promotions that incentivize a user to invite others to download are a highly effective way of building your user base.

3. Promoting in-restaurant is too often overlooked or underthought when building a user base. In-restaurant marketing also presents a set of unique challenges, as customers are often preoccupied and engaged with their friends, colleagues, or cell phones. Effective marketing needs to go beyond static promotions and signage. New technologies like virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, and humanoid robotics are creating surprisingly effective in-restaurant customer experiences that are pushing past the noise to drive mobile adoption.

Key Takeaways

In the next decade, mobile apps will become far more than a unique differentiator for restaurants — they will become must-haves for any successful brand. A great mobile experience not only delivers value to the user, but also to that user’s social circle, turning a single customer into an advocate.

New technologies are making it significantly easier to build a strong base of mobile users in-restaurant, maximizing the return on your mobile app investment.

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