The fast-food industry is changing – and brands across the globe are reevaluating what it means to be a restaurant. Driven by pandemic restrictions and the ease of mobile transactions, brands are pivoting to respond to increased demand in drive-thru, deliver and mobile ordering offerings.
The top 10 quick-service restaurants in the U.S. drove. Year-over-year, downloads of the top 36 quick-service restaurant apps are up 18.9 percent as of August 2022. Even Starbucks recently revealed its “Reinvention Plan" focusing squarely on digital experiences and opening more mobile-order-focused stores.
Nearly every fast-food brand has a mobile app, and customers are increasingly eager to engage. But not only do mobile apps help restaurants drive interest and run smoother by giving consumers the power, but they also supply brands with valuable data about their customers that create more meaningful engagements and deeper loyalty ties.
Mobile apps are key to an enhanced customer experience
Customers want to be able to place orders at the snap of their fingers, and mobile apps can offer that level of convenience. While email personalization is a powerful way to maintain relationships with customers when their bellies are full, if you’re not creating the same experience on mobile, that hunger can be lost. Plus, with the influx of digital technologies that have penetrated the food services industry since March 2020, another restaurant may swoop in to steal that order.
For most, the same way they'd check a credit card balance from their phone vs. calling the bank, people prefer to order food through a mobile app and take back the time spent ordering and waiting for food in person.
The stickiest apps for consumers aren’t just ones necessary for daily life - it’s a way to cut out the endless steps to make decisions quicker. And when you’re hungry, you’re likely to order food on the restaurant app that knows your regular order, can help you cut the line at the store, and can even display your loyalty points.
Using mobile apps with zero-party and behavioral data to create brand loyalists
Even if many of your customers want to order via an app, they’re receiving so many bland notifications that only the most optimized stand out. Unless you personalize that touchpoint, yours could be ignored at best - or turned off at worst. And according to a recent survey, 68% of consumers are likely to be loyal or purchase more if a brand engages relevantly and builds personal relationships with them.
For example: Restaurant X wanted to send a notification customized to several customer data points to encourage Susan, a customer, to order a cup of coffee and a donut. Brand marketers sourced weather in Chicago, where the customer is currently located, and matched the cold temperature with a warm cup of coffee. Conversely, if that customer was in LA or Miami, marketers could substitute their notification with a cold brew for an appropriate warm weather option instead.
The goal of this type of notification is not only to personalize someone’s coffee order, but to increase their order amount. To do that, a notification can display a customer’s current loyalty status along with a tracker that shows how many points are needed to graduate to the next status tier. This simple gamification tactic could change a takeout coffee to a full breakfast order to discover what rewards await them in the next tier.
Beyond incentives, notifications like the one example described place the customer in the center of the message, not the brand. Focusing on customer-centricity and strategic data personalization helps marketers compete for consumers’ attention and build brand affinity, especially since competing restaurants are doing the same thing.
The future of fast-food is here
On average, consumers currently use four channels to order food. Every person who grabs takeout or a cup of coffee from a restaurant expects the same ordering experience no matter the channel. So, if a brand’s email messages are personalized, but the app experience or SMS isn’t, customers will take notice. Mobile personalization and human-centric marketing tactics are no longer “nice to have” - customers expect them.
Personalization isn’t only about making the customer happy; it's about optimizing a brand’s digital marketing ROI and increasing every customer’s average lifetime value. Perfecting a digital strategy is how marketers can capitalize on their business, especially since digital guests’ purchase frequency is 50% greater than non-digital counterparts. With the future of the fast-food industry lying within digital marketing, now is the time to create mobile experiences that keep your customers coming back for more.
About the Author
Alex is an Associate Director of the Travel, Hospitality, & Food Services Strategy at Movable Ink. Previously, he was client-side, spending the past eight years in various marketing roles focused on digital communications, CRM, and personalization. Most recently, at Neiman Marcus, he focused on test-and-learn programs to scale personalized, omnichannel customer experiences. He also led the strategy, implementation, and ongoing execution of Neiman’s personal shopper matching program. Alex began his career working in the QSR space for brands including Pizza Hut and Dave & Buster's. He is well-versed in the challenges of marketing and loyalty in the QSR landscape and applies those learnings to develop innovative personalization strategies for our Travel, Hospitality, and Food Services clients.