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By Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services
Those accessing restaurant websites from their mobile phones grew by 65 percent last year and that trend has continued this year as well.
The restaurant industry is built solely on brick and mortar locations, making restaurants the perfect storm for access by on the go customers. Yet, while restaurants are one of the most important categories for mobile users, it continues to be highly under-developed in terms of mobile marketing.
With 29.6 percent of all searches for restaurants being conducted on mobile devices, a restaurant having a mobile marketing strategy is no longer just a good idea, but a means for future survival. (Note – Your mobile access results may vary. Check Google Analytics and you can easily see what percentage of people are accessing your restaurant's website from a mobile phone.)
Searching for more restaurant customers
Searchers for restaurants are closer to the buying process than almost any mobile search category. Of smartphone users, 76 percent of restaurants searches are done while on the go and 51 percent of them are searching while in their cars.
This leads to 84 percent of mobile restaurant users that ultimately go on to make a purchase. Thirty percent of smartphone owners convert into customers immediately and more than 60 percent convert into paying customers within the hour. No doubt: mobile restaurant users are looking to make urgent and quick decisions on where and what to eat NOW.
Getting into your customers' pants
Mobile websites, or in some cases, mobile apps, are the basis for a restaurant's handheld reputation. Ensuring that mobile websites and apps are optimized with the latest information about your restaurant should be at the core of all mobile restaurant strategies.
Your desktop website likely won't do the job adequately. It's probably too busy, won't load fast enough, and isn't easy to navigate on the small screen of the smartphone or feature phone. This all makes for a poor user experience.
A top revenue producing restaurant mobile website will go easy on the graphics and will keep text to a minimum. This helps with readability on the smaller screen and will enable the site to load quicker on the less than high-speed connection your customer may be using. We all know that if it takes too long to load, the customer becomes impatient and will likely leave.
In fact, 61 percent of visitors to a mobile unfriendly website will simply leave for a competitor's website. That means decreased sales for your restaurant if you haven't embraced mobile.
As for navigation, I like to tell restaurant owners to use the "thumb test." Try navigating your current desktop website on a small feature phone. If you can't press the buttons easily, then you'll have the same user experience as a large person or an older person with failing eye site.
You'll also want to add some of the industry standbys for mobile smartphones such as click to call for reservations and TextChat for information. With a click to call feature, the smartphone user simply touches his screen and dials the restaurant. TextChat allows the user to have an interactive conversation with the restaurant via text message.
An added bonus to a mobile optimized website
Google now ranks websites that are accessed via mobile with an entirely different set of parameters than traditional desktop computer searches. If your mobile visitors are bouncing (leaving the site immediately after hitting the home page), your site's search engine rankings will decrease. On the other hand, if you have a mobile-optimized website, and the visitors stick around and come back, you'll see an up-tick in your search engine rankings.
Order up a complete mobile marketing plan
When it comes to providing a positive experience for your mobile users, a mobile website and app is important, but it doesn't just end there. A complete mobile marketing experience for the restaurant user includes:
When scanned, a QR Code, for instance could return a video from the restaurant owner with a personal invitation to visit the restaurant or it could provide a video from the chef preparing his favorite dish. Remember that a Custom QR Code, one with your logo in it, gets 2.3 times more scans than an ordinary black and white one.
With TextChat, your on-the-go customers can text the restaurant to ask a question or make a reservation. The hostess can take care of the requests from a desktop computer just as she handles traditional phone in reservations.
Text message marketing is the cheapest of all of the services and is able to provide mobile coupons to drive traffic on traditionally slower nights. Text message marketing also enables you to reach your customers when they are most likely to buy, like just before lunch or dinner hours. If you can only afford one service in addition to your mobile website, I'd recommend text messaging.
Getting to your customers' wallets
A mobile optimized website and a sound mobile marketing strategy provide a firm foundation for creating more restaurant sales. Hunger is a powerful motivator and there is no better category than restaurants to lend itself to the power of mobile marketing. The best way for your restaurant to get to your customers' stomachs is through their mobile phones.
Bob Bentz is president of Advanced Telecom Services which has been providing interactive telephone services since 1989. He spends most of his day searching for restaurants via his smartphone. You can follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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