The time to solidify a mobile strategy is yesterday. Limited-service consumers are increasingly turning to — and depending on — their smartphones to make dining decisions.
For example, a staggering 83 percent of consumers rely on their smartphone to make dining decisions while traveling, and 93 percent of QSR patrons make same-day decisions on where to dine (this is compared to 64 percent of casual dining patrons). The mobile pace has even surpassed online searches now, according to JiWire's new Mobile Audience Insights Report.
The report underscores just how big mobile's influence has become on the restaurant industry — for consumers, operators and marketers alike. For example, consumers are increasingly turning to mobile review apps to determine where they're going to spend their dollars (nearly 40 percent). This is second only to word of mouth suggestions (58 percent).
And, mobile users tend to dine out frequently — 77 percent of mobile consumers have visited a QSR or casual dining establishment within the past two months.
Three strategies for restaurant brands
The data paints a clear picture of why the mobile trend is far too big to ignore, according to JiWire President David Staas. He said there are three key takeaways for restaurant brands in light of this current data:
- Embrace mobile as a primary form of communication. "Consumers indicate they use mobile two times more than other forms of digital to help decide where to dine," Staas said.
- Understand consumer context in mobile to deliver an effective experience. For example, usage and information importance varies when consumers are in their home market or out of town. "Consumer engagement with mobile restaurant ads varies by day of week," Staas said. "Brands can apply this intelligence to their campaign strategies to drive greater results."
- Deliver the content consumers are seeking. Thirty-three percent of consumers indicate menu information is critical to getting people to dine at a restaurant. However, Staas said, while brands do promote a menu item as part of their campaigns, only 6 percent of campaigns include broader information.
Mobile advertising's influence
As more consumers become tethered to their smartphones, a big canvas of ad space awaits brands that are willing to jump in. JiWire's report measured the effectiveness of mobile advertising — 75 percent of consumers said they are more likely to try a new menu item after seeing a mobile ad. Also, consumers who are exposed to mobile ads are 33 times more likely to visit a restaurant than those who didn't see one.
Brands are constantly trying to identify the most effective strategies to influence their audience's purchase decisions, and for QSRs, the most influential mobile ads include menu information and special offers. JiWire's report showed that menu info and deals were the primary ad creative focus for QSRs, and ad engagement is led by location information at 74 percent.
Additionally, QSR ads perform 15 percent better than the average click-through rate if a customer is within 25 miles of the establishment.
These ads will continue to evolve as mobile technology evolves, and they are expected to become even more effective.
"As rich media ads become richer in content, they become almost like 'mini apps,' and many of the same elements can apply," Staas said.
And although consumers are seeking menu information, sales and promotions and store locations, additional information can also have an impact, such as whether or not there is free WiFi, nutritional information and which locations have a drive-thru.
"In general, apps need to provide consumers a strong reason to use on a regular basis," Staas said. "So new information (e.g. a new menu item) and benefits (e.g. a special offer) are key to app usage."
Common denominators of mobile success
While business-to-consumer mobile engagement is just getting started, many QSR brands have already generated quantifiable, positive results from these types of campaigns.
For instance, Quiznos' location-based campaign, with Sense Networks, led to a 20 percent jump in redemption, and a Nevada Papa Murphy's mobile campaign led to a 174-percent increase in normal business. (See more examples here).
Staas said there are several brands that have had early success in mobile and their campaigns all have some aspects in common, namely:
- Audience targeting. Rather than run of network, untargeted campaigns, these brands are reaching either their audience (people who have been in their store), their competitor's audience (people who have been in their competitor's location), or lifestyle audience segments who they believe are a good fit for new menu items (e.g. healthy, active lifestylers for healthier menu items)
- Using rich media with dynamic content (menu or locations) in the banner.
- Compelling content in the ads – locations, menu and opportunities for the consumer to engage or interact further.
"We are seeing firsthand how mobile is reshaping the way QSR brands engage with consumers," Staas said. "The great news for QSR brands is that because of mobile, the opportunity to influence consumers during the path-to-purchase cycle and provide a new level of engagement has skyrocketed."
Photo provided by Flickr user Michael Gil.
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.