By Kevin Nix, President & CEO, Stellar Loyalty
According to RetailMeNot, one in four U.S. consumers have at least one restaurant app on their phone, seeking loyalty perks, personalized recommendations, digital coupons and more. They also appreciate, even expect, the ability to order ahead and skip the line, as well as pay via their mobile phones. No longer a "nice to have," mobile apps are becoming an absolute necessity.
But not all apps are created equal, and consumers don't have the patience to wait while you to get it right.
A Millward Brown Digital survey last year reported 43 percent of US smartphone owners used an average of 4-6 apps a day out of the 40-70 apps they have installed. And 72 percent of smartphone owners deleted a rarely used app.
How do you cut through the clutter and maintain your consumer's attention? What makes true "app appeal?" We recommend the following restaurant app essentials as you design, refine and continue to innovate your app:
Sleek design, speed and stability
The three components to successful "app appeal" are a sleek design, speed and stability. Your app has to appeal to your primary audience. Look, feel, ease of use, features vs. form – all your design decisions should be based on understanding, testing and validating within your target demographic.
All consumers expect speed and stability. Your app must be fast and reliable. User reviews and comments are keys to a quicker and broader adoption of your app. Negative feedback also goes viral, so testing and quality assurance are essential to your app's success. The end goal: a frictionless experience that enables customers to do what they want quickly, easily and in a pleasurable way.
Entertainment equals engagement
Interactive games, trivia questions, selfies, social challenges and augmented reality can turn mundane transactions into fun experiences. They are also very important in engaging your consumers in between their visits to your establishment. Entertainment will give your consumers additional reasons to keep returning to your app, especially if you are motivating your consumers with gamification and new content.
Entertaining experiences will create positive brand association, guest engagement and even user-generated content for further marketing and branded experiences. When done right, mobile engagement can turn a wait time into a memorable experience.
Consumers today want a personalized experience focused on meeting their needs anytime, anywhere. Does your app push coupons and incentives to your customers when they are within a certain proximity to your restaurant? Do you know when a valued customer walks in your door and do you know that their favorite order is? Can you give them recommendations that have worked in the past or with similar customers? With location-aware services, the options to create relevant and valuable experiences are endless. Imagine how much more satisfied a loyal lunch customer can be when they're added to a VIP wait list as they park outside your restaurant.
Location-based services create an opportunity to provide customers with a unique experience that is relevant, timely and personalized.
Rewarding for all
Your mobile app offers a unique opportunity to build a loyalty and engagement relationship with each and every one of your consumers. You can demonstrate your appreciation for your loyal customers, reward them, and learn more about them. From simple surveys on preferences to soliciting input on favorite menu items, ingredients they want, to suggestions for future app enhancements.
Your mobile app is a gateway to learn more about what your customers like and don't like — and for you to build advocates. By asking customers to rank your new mobile app, feature or offer, you can instantly identify areas for improvement or repeat what's working. They can also be motivated with special offers or rewards to share their sentiments with friends. It creates a virtuous circle by which your loyalty program is made stronger and your best customers more engaged.
With more than two-thirds of Americans and 85 percent of millennials owning a smartphone, restaurants cannot afford to treat mobile as an afterthought. Your mobile app can help you create more valuable customer interactions, which will increase engagement, loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately, greater share of wallet.