Consumer spending on third-party delivery services at quick-service restaurants tripled between December 2019 and December 2022. But where is the trend headed now?

With the pandemic firmly in the rearview mirror, the delivery landscape is evolving once again due to factors like the rising costs of third-party services. A recent survey revealed that 17 percent of diners expect to decrease their use of third-party apps and websites in the next year. At the same time, the percentage of diners who have recently used a restaurant-specific website or mobile app for delivery rose 25 percent from last year.

This shift is good news for quick-serves. But to permanently convert third-party users to owned channel users, your digital platforms must not only offer a user experience (UX) that rivals that of popular third-party services, but also provide additional value through incentives and personalization.

How to capitalize on the evolving quick-service restaurant delivery landscape

Consumer dissatisfaction with third-party delivery services presents an opportunity to step in and offer a more affordable, engaging, and seamless delivery experience for your customers.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of diners abandoned a delivery order due to high costs, signaling that many are no longer willing to pay third-party fees. But the high number of abandoned checkouts also indicates that consumers are still interested in delivery services and digital ordering experiences. To capture this market share, you must position your own digital platforms as a more affordable, customer-friendly alternative.

As consumer expectations for digital platforms reach new heights, it’s crucial to level up your mobile app and website to ensure they deliver intuitive and consistent delivery ordering experiences.

  1. Prioritize a consistent UX: Most consumers are accustomed to the seamless UX offered by third-party delivery apps, making a glitch- and error-free experience a basic requirement. Beyond mere functionality, it’s critical to provide a consistent experience across your digital platforms.

Consumers have higher expectations today when it comes to consistency and interoperability in their ordering methods. This means that the look, feel, and operational features of your digital experiences—including your website, mobile app, kiosks, and even digital menu boards—should maintain uniformity. By ensuring consistency in the menu layout, promotional offers, and customization options across ordering methods, you enable customers to switch between them without confusion or inconvenience.

  1. Tailor the customer experience: Irrelevant offers and messages can quickly frustrate consumers in today’s information-saturated world. But as more diners use your platforms, you gain access to customer data such as order histories and frequently ordered items. This level of insight into diner preferences enables you to provide more personalized customer experiences.

For example, you could provide recommendations for alternative menu items when a customer’s usual order isn’t available. You can also offer a discount on an item that the customer hasn’t ordered yet but might enjoy based on their past orders. These seemingly minor details can make a big difference in customer satisfaction and their relationship with your brand, which in turn will bring them back again. 

  1. Offer incentives: Customers using your mobile app or website already benefit from lower costs by avoiding third-party service fees. While these savings alone may not be enough to motivate diners to download and use your app, 62 percent of consumers say better discounts and rewards would incentivize them to use a restaurant-specific website or app.

From loyalty programs to limited-time offers, there are plenty of ways to reward users of your platforms. Rather than offering large percentage discounts, consider strategic incentives informed by customer data from your first-party platform. For example, if the majority of your customers frequently purchase a dessert with their orders, providing a free cookie may only cost you $1.99, compared to the $4 loss on a $20 order with a 20 percent discount. You can also provide access to exclusive offers, like allowing app users to order an item that hasn’t been officially added to the menu yet.

Make sure to clearly display these offers on the platform itself. It’s also smart to promote them in-store and through additional channels such as email marketing campaigns to encourage new users to sign up or download your app. 

The future of quick-service restaurant customer loyalty hinges on digital experiences

Owned digital platforms empower you to interact directly with your customers and provide them with engaging, personalized experiences that encourage loyalty. Although you don’t need to ditch third-party delivery services altogether, the current shift in diner behavior yields significant opportunities to increase repeat business and optimize profitability.

By embracing change and investing in your technology, you can make your digital platforms the go-to avenue for ordering from your restaurant.

Hope Neiman is the CMO of Tillster.

Ordering, Outside Insights, Story, Technology