The advent of mobile payment technology has sparked a digital revolution in the restaurant industry. While some companies have embraced this to create more engaging and personalized customer experiences, others have become stuck in the old-school ways of points and punch cards. Starbucks is a perfect example of a brand leveraging their mobile technology and data to improve how they interact with customers, rewarding them for purchases with stars, in-app offers and even free drinks on their birthday. However, other large coffee shops are frozen in the past, giving out free cups of joe as long as the customer has previously purchased nine. This doesn’t incentivize savvy consumers anymore, and the company is simply giving away free product. In order to compete with some of the world’s most innovative brands there needs to be a change in strategy. To help, we put together three different ways quick service restaurants can maximize their mobile order data to improve the customer experience -- dig in!

Understand customers, and provide them with the right engagement

Mobile for restaurants is very similar to how ecommerce works for retailers, and the wonderful thing about this channel is that companies are guaranteed to learn valuable insights each time a customer makes a purchase. When did they open the app? What did they buy? What location did they go to? All of this information can be used to fuel more meaningful interactions. For example, if Bob usually opens the app at a quarter to noon to order his cheeseburger for lunch, but hasn’t done so for the last few days, send him a notification at the optimal time with an offer for half off an order of fries. This simultaneously incentivizes Bob to make a purchase and encourages incremental spend. The right message, at the right time, through the right channel has an immense impact on driving customers into the store more frequently, and increasing their ticket size. In order to enable these smarter interactions, restaurants need to capitalize on all the invaluable customer information they’re collecting.  

Drive traffic to mobile channels

All the time and money invested in creating a first-class mobile experience is worthless if no one actually uses the app. Even the CEO of McDonald’s, arguably the most popular QSR in the world, admits to having an app adoption rate that is ‘pretty low’ (Mobile Marketer). Luckily, there are ways to overcome this challenge. One strategy is to provide exclusive offers, only available in the app. For example, Hwy 55, a retro burger joint, sold hot dogs for $.99 on National Hot Dog Day to all guests who had downloaded the app (RestaurantNews.com). Get creative and give people a reason to download. The more value provided to customers for completing an action, the better the chances are that they will actually do it. The harder part is keeping them engaged.

A recent TechCrunch report found that smartphone users access an average of 9 apps per day and 30 apps per month. To make matters worse, the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone. In order to breakthrough the noise, restaurants need to provide an avenue for customers to receive their food as fast as possible. According to a study done by Hathway & SessionM, people value ease of use most, even over savings. Being able to place my Starbucks order ahead of time and pick it up without having to wait in line has become an integral part of my life and the lives of so many others. This also helps to reduce frictional interactions, which back up the line and cause busy people to purchase their meal or beverage elsewhere. Through mobile ordering, restaurants can improve the guest experience by enabling customers to get their food as fast as possible, and the more people that use the app to place orders, the more valuable information restaurants receive about them.

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Increase customer profitability

One of the biggest problems with mobile apps and rewards programs in the restaurant industry is that they often offer discounts to people who would’ve made the purchase at full price. This erodes margin without actually motivating behavior. What restaurants need to do is move away from the one-size-fits-all experience, reduce published benefits, and increase unpublished ones. The focus should be on getting customers to purchase more frequently and to spend more when they do. By getting customers to use mobile channels, and identifying who they are and what they like, QSRs are armed with invaluable information that can be used to create highly impactful offers that boost customer profitability. For example, drive customers that typically purchase twice a week to come in a third time, or influence people to increase the size of their order and motivate them to become staunch brand advocates. Offering discounts to people in order to encourage incremental behaviors is an extremely smart tactic that leads to more loyal and profitable customers.

Restaurants can no longer rely on an old-school approach to mobile interactions. Consumers simply have too many options, and doling out points isn’t motivating enough to boost incremental spend. Instead, restaurants need to collect information on what motivates each customer, and use that to deliver personalized offers. Persona-based marketing isn’t even suitable anymore; things need to be done on a 1:1 basis. It’s no easy feat, but companies competing solely on products and price will struggle. The battlefield has shifted to customer experience, and to win in this arena mobile order data must be maximized to motivate high value customer behaviors.

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