Phone with Chick Fil A promotion on screen

Mobile ordering is a hot trend in the restaurant industry with some of the biggest fast casual and QSR brands leading the way. Customers have responded enthusiastically, with 51 percent using smartphones to order food. Adoption is so high that mobile ordering is expected to be a $38B business by 2020 among QSR chains alone.

Taco Bell has seen a 30% ticket lift on mobile orders and mobile order and pay now accounts for 7% of Starbucks transactions. However, for every success there are many other brands with mediocre results.  A great mobile order service requires thoughtful attention to the customer experience, and a strategic approach to engaging customers.

Here are ways to improve your brand’s mobile order experience:

  1. Create a seamless experience

Starbucks, Panera Bread and Domino’s have set the industry standard for mobile order with app experiences that mimic and enhance the best of in-store and offer a comprehensive in-app experience. Customers now expect this type of experience but are often left disappointed by apps that lack key features, don’t accept mobile payments or redirect to websites to complete the order. Your mobile order experience should include the elements of an in-store order right within the app – view full menu, customize items, make a mobile payment, and complete the order.  

  1. Tell customers where to go

Many apps leaving customers guessing about what to expect when they get to the store, which leads to confusion and can ruin an otherwise flawless experience. There’s an easy fix; tell customers where to pick up their orders (POS? Host station? Take-out area?) and what to do (e.g., “Let the host know you’re picking up a mobile order”). Do this during order confirmation, and consider following up with a push notification or other app alert.  In-store signage is also helpful for customers navigating mobile ordering. Taco Bell and Jimmy John’s do this very well.

  1. Reward loyalty

The complexity of integrating a loyalty program into your mobile order service may tempt you to skip it. This is a mistake. Separating mobile ordering from loyalty rewards discourages your most loyal customers from using mobile order and your mobile order customers from participating in your rewards program. You also lose a powerful opportunity to use rewards to incentivize customer trial and habituation. Check out the Domino’s and Blaze Pizza apps for examples on how to connect loyalty and mobile ordering.

  1. Make Your App A Marketing Channel

The average person picks up their phone 46 times a day and has 27 apps installed on it. By installing your app, customers have given your brand space on their most-used device. That that doesn’t mean, however,  that they’re going to stay engaged with it on their own. Creating engaging content in the form of an informative welcome series, help content, and relevant in-app messages and push notifications will drive sales conversion and reduce the risk of customers uninstalling your app. Check out Sweetgreen’s app for inspiration.

  1. Keep It Fresh

Like everything on the internet, app content gets stale fast. Just as in-store signage, websites, and social media accounts are updated regularly, your marketing team must plan to update your mobile order app. Menu updates and the addition of LTOs are absolutely a must, but your brand can also let customers know about promotions, events, and more.  Shake Shack’s app includes events and promos, and Starbucks uses the entire app home screen to promote menu items and promotions, such as Frappuccino Happy Hour.

 

With these enhancements in place, your brand will be well on its way to a great mobile order experience.

This article originally appeared in Fast Casual