Restaurants are starting to figure out what works best for both their business and their customers when they integrate applications across digital platforms.
On a mobile platform, a recent study from the Journal of Interactive Marketing found that informational apps are more effective at impacting purchasing intentions than game-based, entertainment apps.
So while many customers likely enjoy Domino's app's Pizza Hero game, in which they can create their own virtual pizza before delivery, they are more likely to return their business because of the app's coupon search functionality.
While fun, game-based apps provide a benefit of brand differentiation and personality, apps that take on a more informational role can showcase products and help with purchasing decisions.
"You're inviting that brand even deeper into (your life) because now you're thinking about what's in your life and applying it to the things that the apps are presenting you with," explained researcher Robert F. Potter, director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University.
For example, a McDonald's franchisee in Texas recently installed a meal-builder app through a wall-mounted LCD touchscreen in the restaurant lobby. The app, created by Iowa-based QA Graphics, provides calorie information and allows customers to build meals based on that information.
Wendy's recently added a mobile app that also offers customized calorie counting. In a recent interview with chief marketing officer Craig Bahner, he said the app is one of the top rated in the industry because of its usefulness.
"It's not just about locations, you can build a meal with specific calorie counts and then archive that and pull it up anytime," he said. "Consumers love that functionality."
While consumers benefit from having more information at their fingertips through interactive apps, operators can also take advantage.
For example, Dunkin' Donuts also just introduced a mobile app, and expects to begin issuing offers within the month that should help the company apply one-to-one marketing opportunities based on customers' previous purchases.
CEO Nigel Travis recently said this method has historically worked at pizza chains and he expects it to do the same in the QSR space.
"When I was at Papa John's, we knew where every customer came from because they had their pizzas delivered. QSRs don't have that same information," he said. "We're about to get to that stage – where we can do one-to-one marketing, we can know what your behavior is and what offers you're responding to."
He added that this type of data generated a 2,000-percent return at Papa John's.
Additionally, from a B-to-B standpoint, interactive apps can enhance the sales process by positioning businesses to showcase their products and capabilities in a format that reveals minute details and allows for customizations.
"Interactive applications can make the quoting process more efficient, reduce paper literature and ensure brand continuity across multiple locations," explained Sarah Erdman, marketing director at QA Graphics.
These apps can provide photorealistic images of how products look or how equipment works. Also, franchisors can develop an interactive app that shows a 3D model of a real estate option. If there are various floor plan layouts or equipment options available, the franchisor can demonstrate the options in real time, allowing the potential franchisee to visualize their restaurant set up.
Read QA Graphic's white paper, "How to Take Interactive Apps Beyond Entertainment to Info and Sales," to learn more about informational applications and their influence on the customer experience.
Read more about mobile and online initiatives.
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.