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Comedian Louis C.K. has a well-loved skit (just one of the hundreds of YouTube posts of this video has 681,365 views) subtitled, "Everything is amazing and nobody's happy." In it, he chastises – hilariously – people who take technology for granted. Just one example in the skit is the chap whining that his cell phone isn't working as quickly as it should. In response C.K. yells, "It's going to space! Give it a second!"
On one hand the popular comedian is right. We have revolutionized modern conveniences through technology in a way that we should truly appreciate. But when it comes to your business, most customers are like the chap whining about his 4G not working. Customers expect great things to come out of their smartphones. Luckily, you can deliver – at least when it comes to your restaurant's ordering and loyalty app – by following a few simple suggestions.
Now is the Time for Mobile Apps
ABI Research estimates that in 2013, consumers will download 56 billion apps to use on their mobile phones, and Gartner estimates that by 2016, app downloads will reach more than 300 billion annually. So the question, should I create a mobile app for my restaurant, has been answered. The question now is, how can I make my mobile app amazing?
Amazing apps require a larger purpose and a thoughtful approach. The following three suggestions can put operators in a mindset to create an app that drives high downloads, great ratings and, most importantly, ongoing usage.
Three Tips to Make Your Mobile App Amazing
1. Can't Buy Me Love
I talk to many restaurant operators who seem to believe that the only way to get customers to download and use their mobile app is to bribe them with lower prices, free size upgrades, free refills or free side items. Of course these offers drive interest, but just like the daily deal craze, this approach carries the risk of weakening the brand or driving your best customers to think twice about paying full price. Only slightly better is the "loyalty rewards" approach that allows the customer to earn a reward (e.g., a free cup of coffee) for proving their loyalty by visiting or purchasing multiple times.
Customers want to download mobile apps — they are doing it at a staggering rate. This means giving away something of value to your most loyal customers may not drive incremental visits. What if that customer would have come in anyway? How can you be certain the visit was truly incremental? The better approach is to consider why your customers download the app, because their reasons may not be what you think they are.
2. The Ultimate Reward
Instead of quick enticements, restaurant operators are better served by offering the loyal customer who downloads the mobile app a useful, special experience that he or she cannot get anywhere else. Take the La Boulange app. The company, acquired by Starbucks in 2012, created an app that allows customers to "Skip the Line." By ordering and paying from the app, loyal bakery customers are able to skip the ordering line, skip the paying line and have their order ready for them as they walk in the door at exactly 8:04 a.m. Moreover, customers can repeat a "regular" order with a few quick clicks (Palmier and coffee, two sugars, please!).
A free cup of coffee is a one-time offer for something customers have already shown they are willing to pay for — after all, they order it every day. Instead, the La Boulange app creates a VIP experience as the ultimate reward for a loyal customer. It provides an incredible utility that extends long beyond the initial free coffee with download offer.
My company, OLO, has seen that mobile ordering apps that give customers a faster, personalized, elegant experience can result in several hundreds of customers per store downloading mobile apps, giving great reviews for mobile apps, and using mobile apps as part of their daily routine. As MediaPost's Steve Smith writes, "When apps start ... informing experiences, even changing experiences – then they become truly indispensable and intimate tools of everyday life."
3. Like-minded Customers
While it's a great first step to create your own branded mobile apps for iPad, iPhone and Android, it is also important to remember that many customers are using other popular third-party mobile apps, like Yelp, GrubHub or Seamless, to interact with restaurants from their mobile device. It's also critical, then, that restaurants find new ways to embed their mobile app experience in places where likeminded customers are spending their time and attention.
If, as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers suggests, customers truly reach for their smartphones 150 times a day — isn't it time to amaze them?
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