You’ve heard it before: smartphone usage is at an all-time high and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Everyone is talking about mobile as the savior of digital marketing, and the buzz around responsive websites is deafening. With all of this going on it is, undoubtedly, difficult to get excited about the arrival of the next big craze that is mobile applications.
You might be thinking, “does my restaurant really need an app?” The short answer is “yes.”
Listen Up or Get Left Behind
This will be tough for many to hear, but bear with me. While not even 10 years ago having a website seemed like an excessive investment with little to no return and no real-life benefits for a small- to medium-sized restaurant, we’ve since wised up and have a very different outlook on the importance of online presence today. Custom mobile applications are in a similar stage where websites and mobile were not long ago, but the real shift in small businesses using apps is soon to arrive. When it does, you don’t want to be left behind.
The benefits of having your own restaurant app are plentiful, and, as it’s still a fairly unexplored medium, there’s a lot of room for innovation.
Although having an app created for your business might seem like a daunting financial investment, that perception is changing, with many online service companies offering affordable payment plans for development and ongoing maintenance — and many more jumping on the bandwagon.
Having your own app means being more directly connected to your customers. Some might remember the early days of email marketing when open and click-through rates were sky high and engaging directly with customers via email was a viable and extremely lucrative venture. Email marketing used to be a gold rush with businesses and marketers alike jumping at the opportunity. Mobile applications are set to experience a similar phenomenon, and any business that’s wise enough to get in early is sure to reap the rewards.
If competitive advantage isn’t enough to persuade you, here are some of the key areas where a mobile app as part of your marketing mix is likely to make a huge impact.
1. Mobile ordering
Truly on trend is the idea of introducing mobile ordering and reservations as part of a restaurant application’s feature set. This type of functionality is especially attractive for the ever evolving fast-casual industry, which has experienced increased pressure from competitive fast food chains with their own apps offering pre-payment and queue jumping to customers who are pressed for time.
2. Customer loyalty
One of the main topics that comes to mind when talking about apps in a restaurant setting is customer loyalty. Many of the leading fast food chains have set a precedence with engaging, innovative customer loyalty programs. That said, there’s always room for improvement, and any restaurant that’s willing to be bold and venture into this space will see a huge shift in how they interact with and acquire a loyal customer base.
A huge opportunity making the case for restaurant mobile applications is the concept of geo-locating customers. With the right permissions associated with your app, you’ll have the ability to entice your customers to get them into your restaurant based on their location. This can easily be done when they’re within a certain distance from your restaurant or even when they’re visiting a competitor's location.
4. Data gathering
Getting to know your customers is important. Mobile apps are perfectly suited for helping you learn more about your customers and tailoring marketing messages and other content to them. Such factors as what calls to action work or don’t work, preferences to certain dishes or specials, demographics, and, importantly, geographic data, are all easily tracked through mobile applications. As more and more emphasis is put on customer data, having an app to gather it will be a crucial part of any marketing strategy.
5. Customer engagement
Research shows that 97% of customers read push notifications sent from apps installed on their devices. That’s a staggering number considering contenders like email marketing have an average open rate of just more than 20%.
Having your own app installed on a customer’s smartphone is a direct invitation to engage with them — be it through the aforementioned push notifications or in-app messaging. If you also include functionality to share and cross promote your other content, the conversation can easily spill over onto social media to further increase engagement.
Focus on the Future
Mobile websites are still all the rage, but it’s now time to look at what the future holds. Having your own mobile app is the natural next step step for any forward-thinking business.
Although apps are still in their infancy, it’s easy to see how a mobile-first approach is shaping the future of restaurant marketing, and getting in early will most definitely give your business a huge advantage over the competition, as well as the ability to interact with your customers in a whole new way.