5 Reasons Every Restaurant Needs a Mobile App
Earlier today Greg wrote about high-level mobile trends in the restaurant industry. I’ve broken down the elements of what makes a successful app and why every restaurant needs a mobile app today.
It wasn’t that long ago that many restaurant franchises did without a website. In the age of phone ordering, drive-throughs, and dining out a web presence wasn’t a must for every chain. Nowadays, just about every major food service brand recognizes the importance of having a desktop and mobile presence, but not all are convinced of the need for a mobile app. Many assume that as long as they are searchable on desktop and mobile, customers won’t face ordering constraints and sales won’t suffer. But here are five reasons why that thinking is beginning to change:
1. Brand Building
A recent study shows that 95% of independent restaurants lack mobile sites and only 40% have online menus. Modern mobile services such as Yelp, Seamless, GrubHub, and MenuPages have helped to simulate a mobile presence for restaurants such as these, allowing customers to search, place orders, and save purchasing information all via mobile web or app. But restaurants that continue to rely on these services to drive mobile business are ignoring a huge piece of the equation: brand perception. Most consumers intuitively understand why new, small, and non-franchise restaurants tend not to have their own apps. But when it comes to larger restaurant brands, consumers expect a proprietary experience in line with what they get when visiting a physical storefront.
If you’ve ever bought products from Apple or BestBuy, ask yourself how your perception of those brands would change if you were suddenly forced to interact with them through a third-party service such as Amazon or Overstock. The effect would likely be negative. A brand’s marketing and sales funnel ought to be just as proprietary as the products it is selling, which means that restaurants must be mindful of the brand dilution effects when customers are forced to interact through a third-party service. Mobile apps address this by creating a custom brand experience and communication channel on each user’s device, so that mobile interaction can be kept in sync with the brand’s guiding objectives.
2. Custom Content
Every brand has its own unique lineup of products and promotions. In the restaurant industry these are housed within the menu. Successful brands in every industry put a lot of thought into the presentation and packaging of their products, and restaurants should be no different. Since each restaurant has its own set of products and custom content, it’s critical to present product offerings to customers in a brand-specific way rather than relying on external services that may distort or misrepresent that information.
3. Social Engagement
There’s an old saying in the restaurant industry that good business means having repeat customers. In truth that’s only half the puzzle; a restaurant that has just two or three repeat customers most likely isn’t doing very good business, regardless of its per-customer margins. The real key is to have a large and continuously growing base of repeat customers. In today’s social media-driven world, that means enabling customers to talk about brands in easy, fun, and brand-specific ways on their mobile devices. Even the most enthusiastic customer typically won’t take it upon herself to start a discussion about a brand, but a well-executed mobile app can turn that issue into an advantage.
With integrated functionality from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other popular social services, mobile apps can subtly encourage customers to share favorite meals, store locations, deals, and more. This type of behavior becomes a non-intrusive part of the brand experience and contributes to the social “snowball effect,” in which a brand can expand its user base increasingly quickly over time through social activity that is tied into the mobile experience.
4. Audience Targeting
These days, everyone is on the go. Deals and promotions have long been a staple marketing tactic for restaurants, but we live in an age in which it’s not good enough just to reach customers; brands need to reach customers at the right time and place. Consider the difference between the following scenarios: 1) Restaurant X sends a promotion to Jane’s mobile device when she is sitting at home on her couch, versus 2) Restaurant Y sends Jane a promotion when she is driving her kids home from school past one of their storefronts. Most people would agree that Restaurant Y has a better chance of winning Jane’s business. Why? Because Jane is in a better position to buy when she receives Restaurant Y’s offer.
New mobile marketing solutions such as OysterLabs’ AQUA facilitate precision geo-targeting and campaign scheduling to ensure that offers reach customers where and when they are most likely to engage. Boosting sales is about maximizing the conversion probability of each customer, and those results can only be achieved with a custom mobile app supported by a campaign-ready CRM tool with built-in geo-targeting and scheduling capabilities.
5. Customer Loyalty
If the restaurant industry didn’t coin the phrase, “Keep them coming back for more,” then it’s certainly an apt description of every restaurant’s objective. Loyalty cards, coupons, and rewards have long been the linchpin of customer loyalty, but nowadays consumers expect to interact with their favorite brands through their mobile devices and without having to keep track of physical media. Delivering loyalty offers to customers on mobile not only enhances the appeal of the brand but also encourages repeat business by offering tangible rewards for future purchases.
Mobile loyalty offers can also help restaurant brands convert low or zero-revenue segments of their audience into customers. Social media enables just about anyone to follow and promote a brand, but those users may not all be making purchases or otherwise contributing to revenue.
A well-executed mobile loyalty program can convert a user’s social currency into brand currency, which in turn can allow brands to turn social supporters into revenue-generating customers.