The competition among franchise brands is getting fierce. Many of the top-performing retail and fast food service brands are franchises, such as 7-11, UPS, and Krispy Kreme. As more enter the market, breaking through the noise and setting your franchise apart is critical. Franchise brands (or franchisors) sometimes make the mistake of viewing mobile as a tool that’s only for online businesses, and even as a tool that is their adversary. However, harnessing mobile to increase sales and enhance your in-store customer experience can be a defining decision for brick-and-mortar franchises.

Research shows that 65 percent of customers would choose one brand over another based on the appeal of a mobile app alone, and for customers and businesses alike, saving time and money is appealing. Although many franchise brands might have an app, it’s not about the mere availability of it, but the user experience and the benefit it can provide to customers. Here’s how franchises can use mobile to set their brand apart and the bottom-line benefits that come with doing so.

Empower your customers to order via mobile

Customers have seen how easy it is to place an order and pick it up without wasting time in line. They don’t want to go back. Brands that have been around for a long time like Dunkin’ Donuts or Domino’s see this growing trend and are already allowing customers to order ahead on an app rather than stand in line. And now, new franchise brands are popping up that incorporate mobile almost immediately. Soon after Blaze Pizza was founded in 2011, they launched an app that allowed for customers to order ahead, track reward points and get special deals. Blaze Pizza now has 173 franchise locations in 32 US states and Canada. By 2020, mobile ordering will account for 10.7 percent of all quick-service sales, which translates into a $38 billion business.

Recently, I spoke to Blaze Pizza CEO & president Jim Mizes about what mobile means for their business.

“Once our customers use our app they discover the benefits of loyalty and easy mobile payment. For example, we use mobile offers to surprise and delight our app users.” Mizes says. “We’ve made mobile a focus because we continue to see strong correlation between higher app usage and higher same store sales.”

Jimmy John’s, a sandwich restaurant chain, is a great example of how to implement mobile ordering. The brand itself is known for delivering fresh food incredibly fast, or in their words “Freaky Fast. Freaky Fresh,” and they maintain that level of promise for mobile orders. For some brands, it’s hard to deliver because they don’t prepare for the increasing demand, but Jimmy John’s is constantly praised for meeting high customer expectationsacross all channels.

Aside from driving more traffic to your locations and making it easier for customers to check out, mobile orders are also proving to be more profitable. The ease of access to the menu on the app provides customers with the freedom to order anything they want. Taco Bell, for example, saw 30 percent higher average order values on mobile compared to in-store.

Show them you value their loyalty

Franchise brands like Jamba Juice andPanera have introduced loyalty rewards in their apps because they know customers love free stuff. A 2016 survey showed that 47 percent of people enroll in loyalty programs to earn points toward free merchandise, which can also drive repeat customers and make it easier to choose between you and your competitors. In 2016, Chick-fil-A revamped its mobile app to include order ahead, menu customization, and a loyalty reward program, and they saw exponential growth in the first half of 2016.

When deployed correctly, loyalty programs can also help drive engagement. Rolling out push notifications keeps your customers up to date with new promotions and deals. When they see great deals, they tell their friends and family, which is incredibly valuable. Customers acquired through word-of-mouth have a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Loyalty programs are also a great way to get millennials, which are now considered the largest age demographic in the country, through the doors. Justin Guinn, market researcher at Software Advice, found that 96 percent of millennials use restaurant loyalty programs.

Make it a seamless experience by integrating mobile payments

When offering mobile ordering, you should also provide your customers with the ability to pay via mobile. It eliminates the need for a customer to look for their card and keeps the checkout process simple. 7-11 is one of the few franchises that allows customers to not only pay via the app, but it also adds info from their Apple Wallet.

Mobile payments are here to stay. Forty-three percent of operating quick-service restaurants say they offer the ability to pay via mobile payment, and 26 percent say they’re planning to add it in the next year. Franchise brands like Jersey Mike’s and Sonic have integrated mobile payments already, but haven’t mandated it in all locations. Through their respective apps, users have the option to filter based on which locations do and don’t allow mobile payments. However, ideally they’d mandate the option at all locations, because when franchise brands take the top-down approach to integrating mobile and mobile payments, it allows for consistency in brand and experience. Mobile payment also offers data about customer ordering patterns and behaviors, which ultimately helps you understand what your customers do and don’t like.

Details like mobile ordering, loyalty programs, and mobile payments can significantly improve the customer experience. Mobile has the power to transform franchisees’ businesses, and these features will leave an impression on both their customers and profits.

Katie Jansen is the CMO of AppLovin. AppLovin is a leading marketing platform that helps the world’s largest brands reach over two billion consumers globally with relevant content.
Outside Insights, Story, Technology