As the restaurant industry continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the mobile app is an especially powerful tool in the effort to build your restaurant brand and a surefire way to put customers on a path to brand allegiance. As more restaurants close their dining rooms and move to delivery-only models, the question for many restaurant owners is not whether the various features of the app provide value, but rather how to maximize them; how to get customers to download the app in the first place, how to engage initially and how to drive business through the app on an ongoing basis.

Start with a deal (that works for you)

According to Tillster research, 70 percent of guests say they’d visit a restaurant more if it offered digital coupons. Offering something for free is a great way to create initial adoption. A digital coupon can encourage a change in customer behavior like downloading the app, visiting incrementally, increasing their average check size or dining during a new mealtime.

While COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind, restaurants are offering family focused deals as they understand customers need options that fit the entire family as they shelter in place. This might include a free kid’s meal with each dish ordered so customers recognize that their favorite brand understands the challenges they are experiencing.

However, it’s also important that the deal works for your brand, too. Guests are used to trading data for offers. We encourage providing a strong initial offer, to create urgency and a way to get them familiar with the app. Get their email address or permissions around push notifications and location settings to enable ongoing interactions.

Another way to make the coupon a win-win situation is to ensure that the resulting behavioral change corresponds to a business objective. Restaurants can connect coupons to slower days or times or invite customers to purchase add-on items at discount for incremental revenue.

Build Loyalty

The best way to drive use of your app is to give customers a reason to re-open it. You can do this with actual loyalty programs or other tools that encourage visits. By giving extra rewards points or discounts for incremental visits, you can build loyalty based on a strategy that makes sense for you, and whose benefits are measurable to your bottom line.

Coffee brands often see most of their customers before lunchtime and are therefore great candidates to offer app-based discounts for visits after lunch. It’s a strategy that creates loyalty, greater wallet share and app familiarity among guests.

Another great way to build loyalty: make things easy. Guests who know that their custom order is one touch away from reorder are far more likely to become loyal.

Allow your customers to reap the benefits of loyalty to your brand, with a program that keeps them coming back for more. More than 80 percent of customers would visit a restaurant more if they were rewarded for those visits.

Offer Mobile Ordering

In today’s hyper-competitive digital landscape, it’s important to drive customers to your branded mobile app wherever possible. Restaurant branded mobile apps have also become a baseline expectation for consumers. Tillster data shows that 76 percent of customers expect a restaurant’s branded app to offer mobile ordering. Mobile ordering is no longer optional: it has become table stakes. Whether you are a 250-plus location national chain or a regional staple, there’s no time like the present to add this capability to your app.

Your branded mobile app is how you keep your very best customers away from competitors, especially in this current landscape where many are turning to mobile ordering. When they are ordering in your app, they are out of reach of your competitors marketing efforts. It’s also how you build affinity; by building a tailored ordering process that ensures the digital experience matches the in-store experience.

Show Them What They Want

If customers already love your brand, don’t change it. Instead, keep giving them reasons to feel passionate about the brand—make them feel special. Showcase contactless delivery options, customization capabilities or diversify menu items.

Guests love apps that adjust images to the guest’s unique tastes, whether they realize it is happening or not. It’s possible for the app to learn that its user prefers ordering chicken dishes, to therefore display images of chicken dishes in the branded marketing areas, and to give unique chicken-related offers directly to them because it already knows what they want.

It’s a subtle personalization touch that can add $5-$10 in incremental sales for up to 30 percent of guests when ordering online or via mobile app.

Go for Five Stars

Apple App and Google Play store ratings are important for many reasons.  App ratings can drive discovery and downloads, especially when search algorithms place greater importance on higher rated apps. Potential franchise operators are also swayed by the ratings. Having a good rating makes a guest who has never ordered feel more confident.

There are a number of tools that can aid in building your app’s rating. The idea behind the tools is simple: guests generally only rate or review when they have an issue so instead invite the guests who are already likely to give you a good rating (the ones who use the app frequently or have had multiple orders, for example) to give you a rating.

With tools for mobilization, personalization, easy reorder and a five-star rating in place, your restaurant’s branded mobile app will thrive, help restaurateurs navigate uncertain times and drive greater marketplace visibility.

Hope Neiman is the Chief Marketing Officer of Tillster, a leading global player in the burgeoning restaurant technology space. Hope and her team drive outcomes by combining data and technology to expand sales and increase consumer engagement in a measurable way. Through Hope’s marketing expertise and brand vision, Tillster grew from a kiosk company into a best-in-class, metric rich engagement and ordering solutions provider for multi-unit national and international restaurant brands. The Tillster platform provides visibility and impact on millions of transactions daily, around the world, for more than 50 of the world’s largest QSR, Fast Casual, and Casual Dining brands. Throughout her career, Hope has developed products, built brands and helped raise nearly $400 million in both the private and public sectors for companies that range from small startups to larger corporations. Her prior experience includes Shoedazzle, Beachbody, Disney Interactive, McKinsey & Company and Procter & Gamble. In addition to serving on several private and non- profit boards currently and in the past, Hope has sat on the board of the Women’s Leadership Council for the last 12 years, an organization built around the spirit of both professional and personal accomplishment through collaboration, inspiration and support. Through WLC and its partnership with The Fulfillment Fund, she serves as a mentor in its program to create opportunities and perspective to disadvantaged young women, newly navigating their career paths.

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