Study ranks brands’ mobile experiences.

Mobile is already a vital part of the customer service industry, but a new study shows that many quick-serve restaurants are lagging behind when it comes to giving customers what they want out of mobile.

DMI, an end-to-end mobility services provider, has conducted its first annual study of the quick-serve mobile market ranking brands based on their mobile customer experiences. The study was comprised of three key parts—original research with 2,500 U.S. quick-serve diners, a proprietary mobile maturity model, and benchmarks of over 75 quick-serve brands across the country. DMI found that most of the brands that were assessed fell into one of three categories of mobile sophistication. The three tiers that were identified are listed below, as well as ways to advance within each category:

1. Just Starting Out

Mobile continues to define itself as essential to the customer experience at quick-serve restaurants. DMI’s 2016 QSR Research found that 73 percent of quick-serve diners have used their mobile device while dining in the past six months. However, there are still several quick service restaurants that have not yet dipped their toes into the mobile world. But waiting to see how mobile will work in other concepts before making the move is costing brands sales, says Jeremy Gilman, vice president of strategy at DMI.

 “[Mobile] inherently saves customers time and makes their lives more convenient, and in quick service restaurants, you always want to be better, faster, and smarter from a food and service point of view,” Gilman says.

The Solution:

The key is to approach mobile from your customers’ perspective and build a specific program to match. Key points to consider include how your customers behave on mobile today, what’s most important to customers when they engage with your quick serve, and how mobile experiences will integrate with your complex operations. Finally, consider and evaluate all the mobile channels that are available to use.

“Our research indicates that mobile apps can positively impact loyalty and visit frequency,” Gilman says. When asked if a quick-serve restaurant offered an app with their top-rated features, such as measuring how long an order will take or personalized offers , 65 percent of diners said they would eat there over other quick serves according to DMI’s research. 

“There is no one size fits all solution,” he says. “For example, for certain business models or customer types, a mobile app might be the most convenient and valuable tool for customers. For others, it might be mobile websites, third party platforms, bots, or Messenger. The important thing is you start with the customer and work your way back from there to develop the best mobile plan.”

2. Trying to Get Ahead of the Competition

In the next level, brands have a mobile presence, but they are not using it effectively to differentiate from the competition. DMI’s study shows that the majority of quick serves fall in this second category, Gilman says.

“Most [quick-serve restaurants] are in this middle tier. They’re experimenting, have something in the market, and tend to follow what others are doing, but they’re not leading,” he says, explaining what this middle group is like. “They’re offering what everyone else is.”
The Solution:
Brands can get ahead of their competition by integrating processes to improve customer experience.
“Many brands we see in this second tier are delivering good individual mobile experiences, but are not tying them together into a compelling, connected experience for customers,” Gilman says. “Often customers can earn and redeem rewards via mobile, but the ability to order ahead or pay through the mobile device isn’t seamlessly integrated into the experience. Right now there are very few brands tying these things together very well.”
DMI points out that most quick serves haven’t integrated their backend systems to enable the seamless mobile experiences that diners want. For example, according to DMI’s research, half of quick-serve diners surveyed are viewing menus, but that’s not all their doing, or want to do, on mobile. For example, offers and discounts based on previous orders was the highest rated feature among 48 use cases tested, with 73 percent of these diners feeling it would be very valuable or valuable.
“We know this isn’t easy, but in order to deliver the mobile experiences customers want, quick serves need to take the next step and tie these experiences into POS, loyalty, CRM, payments, and order management systems. The potential value to the customer and to the business is enormous, but it takes commitment,” Gilman says.
3. Maintaining a Leadership Position
The most sophisticated tier of mobile experiences DMI saw is made up of brands coming closer to meeting customer expectations by using technology in forward-thinking ways.
“At the top of the category are quick serves we call visionary,” Gilman says. “The key for them is to continue to push ahead and maintain that leadership position by being proactive.”
The Solution:
To stay ahead, Gilman recommends that quick serves focus on anticipating the needs of the customer and providing transparency across the customer experience.
For example, if a customer is ordering a salad at lunch via mobile, the technology could inform the customer that the restaurant is busier than normal and ask if he or she would like the order delivered to his or her office instead.
“Anticipating and solving for these moments of frustration within the dining experience is key. Customers are beginning to expect it, and those that deliver will win greater loyalty and share of wallet,” Gilman says. “Often, we find these really small and simple customer experiences are unlocked when user and existing store-level data is connected.”
Brands leading the pack in mobile may not have to catch up to provide an excellent customer experience, but staying on top is a long-term commitment. Continued innovation and attention to improving customer experiences will help secure a brand’s position in a customer’s life.
Customers are already experiencing how mobile is revolutionizing retail and other service industries, and quick serves can no longer afford to wait and see what will happen with this technology. Having a strong mobile program is vital in today’s market, and it is just not enough to collect data or provide access to menus.
As Gilman says, “The key is using all the data and insights to make that overall mobile experience so much better for the customer.”
To see just where your brand’s mobile program ranks, check out DMI’s QSR Executive Report.


By Peggy Carouthers

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