4 ways restaurants can optimize the customer experience through mobile

Aug. 7, 2014

By Phil Dixon

CTO at Tillster

We all want to “do more” – and to do so, we need more time. Whether it is spending more time with the family or taking up an additional hobby, time is the one thing that we wish we had more of. For the service and hospitality industries, mobile technology has become an integral tool and allows businesses to “do more” and have greater insights into their customer base.

The best mobile experiences are wholly about time – not in the way of making more time but rather optimizing time spent. This means that mobile experiences can utilize context (location, time of day, etc.) to provide unique and enhanced engagement for the customer. It’s through mobile experiences that a brand can literally reach a consumer’s pocket and interact with them on their terms. Consumers can engage with a brand during their free time and in the context that is immediately relevant to them – adding a sentiment of convenience and utility to their experience with the brand.

Mobile devices allow consumers to do more. They can reserve a table or check into a flight right from the palm of their hands. As mobile technology enables consumers to do more, restaurants need to take the next step and adopt this technology to engage (and re-engage) existing and potential guests.

According to a January 2014 Pew Research study, more than half (58 percent) of US adults have smartphones. Further, 83 percent of adults in the 18-29 year old demographic own smartphones. This data substantiates what companies have been postulating for a while – smartphone and mobile technology are an integral way to reach the younger audience.

Additionally, The Mobile Path to Purchase study by xAd and Telmetrics found that mobile searches related to restaurants have a conversion rate of 90 percent with 64 percent converting within the hour. That’s an incredible percentage and further demonstrates the power that mobile technology could have on the restaurant industry. By utilizing it, restaurants can seize a great opportunity to increase customer traffic and loyalty – but how can you break through the clutter and get noticed? There are four steps that brands can take:

  1. If you don’t have a mobile experience, you’re already behind the trend. Restaurants from Burger King to California Pizza Kitchen have mobile applications. Some just show the menu and nearby locations, others allow you to order from your handset, others are a value add to the in-store experience (such as a loyalty program).
  2. Don’t just build it, market it. It’s not enough to have an app; it needs to be marketed to ensure your audience is downloading it. Utilize in-store offers and discounts to encourage patrons to download – and more importantly use your app. Activate grassroots activity such as using social media and engaging with local bloggers to promote the app – highlighting the value the app provides.
  3. Link the virtual and physical worlds. Leverage your biggest investment – your people – to provide an experience that links both worlds for the customer. Technology allows customers to simply pay an account linked simply to their name, providing the restaurant with a new form of CRM. There are multiple tool sets you can build or employ to show your guests you know them and appreciate their patronage. For example, many provide restaurant employees with an easy way to recognize loyal customers. Have your staff greet these customers by name and enhance their experience. This level of service will go a long way toward building customer loyalty and bringing that person back as a repeat customer.
  4. Bring that customer back for more. By taking advantage of social media, brands can engage with guests and provide something of value. The guest is sharing information with the brand about who they are – and are willing to do so in return for a discount, free item or something else entirely. This exchange, made possible through technology, increases customer retention, creates loyal customers and provides experiences that they are more willing to share with their friends.

With the saturation of mobile devices and increasing use of “smart” products, restaurant brands have the ability to no longer just be in the back of a consumer’s mind – but rather in their pocket at all times. By making the most of these mobile experiences, the industry as a whole can continue providing inherent value to customers on their own terms.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Loyalty Programs, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social

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