Mobile apps are restaurant marketing’s future, not mobile websites

June 20, 2014 | by Jitendra Gupta

Restaurant operators are clearly excited about the possibilities of mobile as a tool for building sales. But as I learned at a recent group of restaurant marketing executives, many are also confused how to proceed. Even marketing-savvy tech people disagree on what to do next.

Mobile apps or mobile websites?

At present, the debate comes down to two different mobile marketing approaches: mobile apps and mobile websites. Operators ask, “Which should I use? And should I use both?” The answers require some explaining since each tool performs different tasks.

  • A mobile website is like any other website, only it’s redesigned for use on mobile devices. Its host server performs all user-requested tasks.
  • A mobile app is a software application downloaded to a mobile device. It performs specific tasks on the device rather than at a website, and it accesses only specific portals.

Mobile consumers love apps

According to Flurry Analytics, 86 percent of the time smartphones are in use, owners are operating mobile apps. The remaining 14 percent of the time they access mobile websites. Knowing that smartphone users prefer apps, developers are improving them to serve customers better.

Apps offer a much richer consumer experience

What I learned in business school is still true – an effective marketing vehicle strikes the right balance between richness and reach.  Apps, unlike mobile websites, offer a rich and interactive experience for consumers by providing rewards, allowing them to post reviews in social media, play games, take surveys, accept offers, order meals and make payments. Many even function independent of the Internet.

App notifications keep your brand top of mind

Well-timed push notifications keep brands top of mind for consumers.  When your target customers are close to your stores, Apple’s iOS8 will automatically display your location-based app on their lock screens. Or as your loyalty customers come near your store on a hot afternoon, you can send a greeting or a personalized offer for an ice cream or a cool drink. Notifications will take one-to-one engagement to a new level through precise targeting of consumer desires, and will allow brands to gain top-of-mind awareness without forcing consumers to open an app or visit a website.

Meaningful apps are in, gimmicky apps are out

A TechCrunch article also states that Apple is already screening existing and incoming apps for better performance. In other words, every app must be able to do much more than invite customers to view a video or participate in a social media gimmick, or it won’t make the cut for inclusion in the App Store. According to Apple, apps must provide significant value to users, not just routes to ads or videos or other low-value ends. It must engage users.

That only makes sense since there’s no point in creating an app that does little for your business or your customers. A useful app delivers beneficial information (deals, special offers, loyalty points, etc.) to customers, while returning valuable customer purchasing data (product preferences, transaction averages, dates visited) to businesses.

Recommendations for your mobile strategy

Get started on an app if you haven’t already. It’s no longer a "nice to have." According to Sucharita Mulpuru from Forrester, for restaurant and retail brands, having a mobile app will very soon just be the cost of doing business.

When considering your mobile app, think strategically about what you will do. Ask how you will engage customers and what insights you can gather about them. Determine how you can increase repeat visits, draw new customers and deliver a real return on that investment. Be sure to have a clear definition of your brand’s mobile strategy — do not approach this blindly or capriciously.  Beware especially aware of apps that are more about flash and amusement. This is business, so while your app should be uniquely yours, be sure it represents your brand well and benefits the bottom line.

What you likely know is many of your competitors have mobile programs, so time is of the essence in choosing yours. The options are many, and you don’t want to be left out. What will be yours?

Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social

Jitendra Gupta
Jitendra Gupta is a Co-Founder and Head of Product at Punchh, a mobile engagement and actionable insights platform that includes branded mobile apps for campaigns, games, loyalty, online ordering, payments, referrals, reviews, gift cards, surveys, and integrates with social networks and operators’ POS systems to gather 360° customer insights. Punchh helps restaurants increase same store sales and profitability by driving repeat visits, word of mouth, new customer referrals, and higher returns from marketing campaigns. wwwView Jitendra Gupta's profile on LinkedIn

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