In the fall, Jersey Mike's introduced a new iPhone app that includes both digital ordering and loyalty program management. It was one of the first apps in the industry to include both features.
CMO Rich Hope said the company was just trying to respond to the needs of customers with the launch, which marked the brand's second app iteration in three years. The first app was developed strictly to manage Jersey Mike's loyalty program's Shore Points, an "earn and burn-type program," Hope said.
The new app — created in partnership with Splick-It — evolves the brand from earn and burn to "surprise and delight" and adds ordering, social sharing, Google maps and other features.
"We wanted to expand our program a little from where customers earn points and get something for free, to where they get little surprises along the way, experiential things that provide status and recognition as a customer," Hope said.
By the end of November, Jersey Mike's released an Android version of the app and, together, they are up to about 150,000 downloads thus far. The app is scoring high —about 4.5 out of 5 — in both the Apple and Android stores.
Working toward integration and incentivizing
Hope said the app's users are divided evenly down the middle; half use it to manage their loyalty points, and half use it for online ordering.
"There are those who do both, but so far we've found they've settled mostly into different areas. Our next goal is to get integration between the two. Our IT department is currently working to get those to interact, tied into our POS system," Hope said.
Such integration will allow the company to "get smarter" with incentivizing repeat customers. Jersey Mike's will tap into POS data such as order history and encourage online ordering promotions for a specific sandwich, for example.
"Data is the big benefit for the brand with the app. We haven't done a lot with it yet. It's one of our initiatives for this year — to collect information and become smarter about our customers," Hope said.
Although the usage is split, loyalty has been the big driver in initial downloads, Hope said. Loyalty has historically been strong for the brand, which had about 2 million members signed up in its former (plastic card) program.
Jersey Mike's also had about 1.2 million users enrolled in its (first iteration) text messaging program. However, because of new legislation introduced in October that requires an opt-in signature from members, they scrapped the whole thing and started from scratch (prior, if someone gave the company their mobile number, it was accepted as the standard opt-in).
The company is now in the process of installing customer-facing terminals in all restaurants to sufficiently capture these electronic signatures. They're about half way through the process, Hope said.
"We had 1.2 million customers signed up the old way and we abandoned them and are doing it again. We want to do it as thoroughly and legally as possible. It will be a major way for us to communicate with our customers once we rebuild that list," he said.
Since Jersey Mike's isn't a delivery concept, online ordering likely won't get "big numbers" Hope said. Still, there has been a clear increase thus far in digital orders thus far. The digital ordering capability was available via desktop prior to the app integration and generated about 1 percent of sales. Now, with the app, that number is trending to 2 percent. The goal is to get to 3 percent by the year.
"We've doubled our online orders, which means it's in tune to the customer on the go. But we haven't reached our stride yet. As fast as mobile moves, a lot of things will change quickly in a short amount of time," Hope said.
Because of its appeal to group ordering, there has been a bump in ticket since the launch. Online orders average about $21.40, versus $12 orders in store.
Jersey Mike's mobile ordering program is PCI compliant. But any further evolution toward mobile payments is on hold for now because of a lack of demand. Hope said, however, the company will add it down the road.
"We have seen a lot of concepts trying to be ahead of the curve, but it's difficult to do so because of budget prioritizations and because of how quickly things change in mobile," he said. "We've adopted a wait-and-see approach on mobile payments and will see how it pans out. It will definitely be part of the program at some point."
In addition to mobile payments coming down the pike, Jersey Mike's will continue to evolve its app based on other customer demands, Hope said.
"The customer is in the driver's seat. We have a lot of bells and whistles for them — you can post to social media, you can locate a restaurant through Google maps, there is one-tap calling," Hope said. "There are a lot of little convenient things for customers to make their experience better. But there will be more."
In addition to "getting smarter" with the data collected through the app, Jersey Mike's also plans on experimenting with push notification offers and other promotions to encourage more downloads.
The brand is also looking into gifting and games that can unlock rewards.
"Our goal is to tune into customer needs and adapt the app accordingly. The timeframe is hard to set right now because mobile is changing so quickly," Hope said. "People are attached to mobile unlike anything in history, and that's what makes it so powerful."
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.