The case for a mobile app for restaurant brands

mobile app, smart phone, restaurant

Restaurant brands of all sizes are making or thinking about making a mobile app in support of their business. Case studies of successful brands that have made the leap abound! If you’re a brand still in heated discussion in the conference room, here are the reasons that may just get you set to launch.

Want the pragmatic point of view? Read our counterpoint: The case against mobile apps for restaurant brands here. In this article, we’ll lay out the affirmative case for moving forward with building an app.

Efficient cost per touch

First and foremost, like any direct marketing channel there is a one-to-one aspect that creates an extremely efficient marketing channel. Through app usage, app-based notifications and triggered emails the cost per touch can be cost effective if properly administered. Especially for small or emerging brands concerned with media waste, this is a value because notifications create a low-cost mechanism for driving cost.

Customers volunteering to hear from you

Outdoor boards, radio spots, television. The customer did not elect to hear from your brand in these mediums. They may take in the message, they may even like it. But there is a barrier to receptivity because it is appearing to them somewhat randomly. Customers who choose the mobile app for a brand they like ask to interact with that brand more. They invite the brand into the device they use the most. How much? 57% of digital media time is spent on smart phones according to comScore.

Great owned media channel

Your mobile app should be the premier media channel. Because it features your brand and only your brand. The intimacy of the app in the customer’s hand make the connection as clear as can be. It’s the next best thing to the smiling face of your staff. Even without opening the app, the app icon on their home screen can help keep your brand relevant and top of mind.

Data. Data. Data. Heard anything about data lately?

A mobile app can build loyalty

For brands with strong traffic and awareness, a well built mobile app is a fantastic tool for driving customer loyalty. Notifications and exclusive offers, along with location based triggers can serve as reminders to customers and help win extra visits. Even without access to a user’s notifications, enticing incentives will help lure guests back in for deals or offers they perceive as valuable. It’s no coincidence that top apps for visited concepts like Chick-Fil-A or Starbucks have strong rewards-based incentives and in-app specials. But thinking a mobile app will drive traffic or loyalty without offers is flawed. Customers are always looking for ways to save, or for special treatment.

A well thought out contact and offer strategy will help keep guests engaged in between visits. Knowing when to message and went to be quiet will earn a lot of respect from customers who are quick to mute unwanted notifications of any kind. But timely offers based on past visits or location will usually be appreciated. A mobile app has to be built and launched with this in mind.

Can capture pre-commited revenue

Calling back the examples of Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks, they both do something amazing that you may not have noticed. Many apps allow users to add a credit card or payment source to the account in the mobile app. But the above apps take it a step further by requiring users to pre-pay funds in to their account. The user is charged before they even make a purchase at the restaurant. This creates a revenue environment similar to gift cards, with a certain subset of guests committed to visit and spend, and another subset which may never claim the products they pre-payed for. From the brand perspective, it’s all upside.

Offer and message testing

Data. Data. Data. Heard anything about data lately? Through careful message testing to users of the mobile app, brands can learn which offers will drive traffic in mass media at a much lower investment. This allows brands to test LTOs as an exclusive without rolling it out system wide. After successful trial on the app, the brand can move forward confidently.

Beyond offers, the brand can also test campaigns, call-to-action copy, visuals or any other creative elements on the mobile app before investing in costlier television creative or even digital campaigns. This allows for more intelligent deployment of funds towards creative campaigns that have already been proven successful with core users on the mobile app.

Geolocation opportunities

Data can also unlock new opportunities by serving messaging to people nearby a location. Serving a notification doesn’t sound all that interesting but serving an offer only to people nearby while a specific location is slow is a valuable tool. This is a serious traffic driving methodology that can delight customers and fill down periods.

As is clear, there are many ways that a mobile app can move business forward. Want the more pragmatic point of view? Read our counterpoint: The case against mobile apps for restaurant brands here.

Author: Adam Pierno

Adam Pierno has a one-of-a-kind perspective on restaurant and CPGs. He investigates the connections between strategy, media, digital and business goals employing social media listening, analysis and traditional consumer research to find meaningful insights for brands thinking about their futures.