Apps are pretty amazing.
They deliver the weather, your favorite shows, and make it possible to throw birds at pigs without getting arrested. But they can do so much more than that. They can help you build brand awareness and customer loyalty for your franchise restaurant through targeted, cost-effective mobile marketing campaigns.
You are probably wondering if your brand really needs a branded application, or if this is a case of GMOOTT (give me one of those too). Given that ‘must-haves’ is in the title, that should give you a strong hint that the answer is yes. The potential market for a well-executed, engaging restaurant app is vast. According to ComScore MobiLens, 188.6 million people nationwide owned smartphones during the three months ending in April 2015—76.9% mobile market penetration. More important, ComScore MobiLens reports that users are spending the majority of their digital media time – approximately 52% – on apps. Some are posting videos of their cats. Some are watching those videos. But there are many others who are using apps to find something to eat while they post and watch those cat videos. If you have an app, there’s a good chance users are looking at it. If not, there is a good chance they are looking at your competitor’s app, or just more cat videos.
Apps enable you to improve your customer’s restaurant experience with anywhere, anytime user access; especially when they are hungry. This is good, because you can showcase timely daily specials, deliver coupons, and entice them with location-based deals or exclusive promotional offers that cause their taste buds to cry ‘feed me.’ Even better, you can drive sales with an app that enables online reservations, orders, and payments, eliminating waits for your customers. But what is in it for you? It’s a great opportunity to gather data on your customers’ purchasing habits and preferences, not to mention increase your interaction with these users, and that offers real potential for loyalty and driving sales. See why your brand is craving an app?
However, successfully planning, launching, and promoting an app is as difficult as launching a successful franchise restaurant – even for the most successful brands. There are so many apps available that it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Yes, there have been a few successful launches, but most require a large investment in time and money, and many underwhelm, settling at approximately 5-7% customer adoption. Much like restaurant choices, Adobe Data suggests users prefer apps that are familiar over ones they have never tried before. Even worse, when users do take a chance on new apps, only half use them more than 10 times.
Launching and Promoting Your App
So let’s say that you have decided to build an app. It’s perfect, and you’re ready to launch it and start seeing results. But achieving app success is as complicated as picking the next food trend or billion-dollar innovation. The good news is that there are tactics you can use to promote the app and increase the likelihood that users will download and use it.
- Incentives for Downloading: It will come as no surprise that users want to know what is in it for them if they download your app. Research by Judo Payments suggests 65% of customers would download an app if they know they will be rewarded with exclusive deals or offers. Think about the offer you want to make and budget accordingly. In our experience, the higher the perceived value (a free six-inch sandwich with the purchase of a soft drink, for example), the more likely users are to download.
- Paid Advertising: Another aspect you’ll want to budget for is promoting the app through traditional or digital advertising. Ideally, you’ll use both. You will also want to think about your target audience. After all, it is [not just millennials using apps anymore](https://www.qsrmagazine.com/denise-lee-yohn-qsrs-marketing-guru/2-target-markets-restaurants); moms use them too (and not just ours).
- In-Store Promotion: You have POP signage. You have on-receipt advertising. You can use both to not only promote your app adoption rates, but also tell customers how and where to download it, as well as provide an incentive to do it (like a free sandwich). People really like free sandwiches.
- Email Marketing: Do you have an email club? Let them know you are launching an app. Then remind them once it is launched. Ideally, your email program is sophisticated enough to know once an email club member has downloaded the app.
- SMS Marketing: Brands have had considerable success using SMS messaging (e.g., “text APP to 12345”) to drive mobile app adoption. This may seem counterintuitive, but every smartphone has text message capabilities, and capitalizing on that capacity with a bounce-back message is the most direct and easy way to encourage app installation. Also text alerts for informational purposes do not require customer opt-in for a one-time message. It couldn’t be easier, or more ethical.
- Incentives for Sharing: - It is one thing to offer incentives to customers to download your app. It is another to encourage them to share it – and the deals you offer through it – with friends and family (maybe not strangers, we want to be ethical). That means more incentives. Again, think discounts, points or, yes, a free sandwich. Unless you do not offer sandwiches. In which case, be creative!
The good news is that, according to research from Applause, approximately half of the nation’s largest 100 franchise restaurants had no app, native or otherwise, as of 2016. That means even more opportunity for you to develop a strong mobile presence. Implement an app, promote it with a strategic marketing campaign, and deliver mouthwatering offers and incentives to your customers’ phones – then they will make more visits to your restaurant and spend more there too. Sounds like a recipe for success to us.