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Why Mobile Really Matters to Restaurants…and Why It Doesn’t

March 17, 2014

Momentum behind Mobile Usage Continues to Build


Restaurants Mobile

The importance of mobile to restaurants and other retail businesses has been consistently building since 2011 and should not be news to any of us. But to refresh your motivation on the subject:

  • Mobile tablets and smart phones grew twice as fast at the Internet, three times faster than social media, and ten times faster than PCs.
  • Tablet and smartphone shipments exceeded PCs and laptops back in 2011.
  • More tablets and smartphones were “installed” last year than PCs and laptops.
  • Chadwick Martin Bailey research indicated 92% of consumers searched for a restaurant with their smartphone web browser and 81% with an app.
  • A 2014 Econsultancy/Adobe research briefing reported
    • 62% of Smartphone owners expect your company to have a mobile friendly website.
    • 42% expect your company to have an app. 

I have seen indications that smartphone users follow-up a restaurant menu viewing with a visit more than 55% of the time. A 2013 Google/Nielsen study indicated restaurant goers were 50% more likely than the average smartphone user to search while “on the go” and 23% more likely to search from their office. And what drove their searches? It was for more information (primarily menus) almost 80% of the time.

Starting with the Mobile Basics

The basics start with making sure your website is mobile compatible because most smartphone searches focus on and compare menus.

If you can create an app for your restaurant or restaurants, you will gain the additional benefit of not only being mobile friendly but also building a closer relationship with your best customers. If they download and keep your app, you can be confident they are also showing a preference for and potential loyalty to your restaurant, and that’s a relationship to be nourished.

Regardless of how quickly you can go beyond a mobile friendly website to the app phase, the big question will be how well you follow through to deliver a mobile experience customers expect and enjoy. Engagement and relationship building are what should be driving your social media, and a well executed mobile website and app do that and more. Like social media, your mobile program should focus on delivering interesting information, highlighting changing situations, adding elements of surprise, and generally providing value to your customer.

When the advantages of time and location are added to social media through your mobile program, the opportunities to engage your customers with take out, special lunch, dinner, and late night suggestions or happy hour enticements add to the dynamics of the relationship for as long as you make the effort to know what your customers want. Your program must be used to learn more about your customers in terms of when and for what they want to be contacted. But a quick word of caution: meaningful app development requires a good level of customer engagement and frequency and may be a challenge to achieve.

Why Mobile Does not Matter

Like broadcast, direct mail, email and loyalty programs, or social media, mobile is a tool or vehicle to reach and engage your customers. Too often, mobile can become an executional “tech” end in itself, divorced from a smartly integrated marketing program which reinforces the brand and builds relationships. My advice is to make sure those with their hands on the executional mobile steering wheel are fully connected to the brand and company culture because they will become your voice.

While some may argue the reach and frequency “media rules” of the past have shifted to relevance and value, the fact is that relevance and value have always provided important connections to the customer.

Mobile Relevance

Our customers’ needs for relevance and value have always been primary, and the best strategies and communications, whether “outbound” or “inbound,” have always recognized this. First work to understand your customers better and learn how to can make their lives better. Then a mobile platform can to be built on a meaningful and lasting foundation.

About Jim Fisher

Jim Fisher has been successfully developing marketing programs for some of the country’s premier national and regional restaurants, franchises, and packaged goods organizations for more than 30 years. His observations are based on “what works” from that significant experience. He collaborates with investors and CEOs and their teams to profitably expand the customer base and build sustainable sales increases. His integrated marketing programs connect the business strategy to the brand and culture to drive effective execution through an emphasis on building customer relationships, brand loyalty, and the Total  Customer  Experience SM.

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