Subway Restaurants was one of the first companies to participate in Google Inc.'s mobile payment platform, Google Wallet. The open-source payment platform, which uses near field communication (NFC) technologies embedded in smartphones, was launched in May.
The product lets consumers pay for purchases with a simple tap of their phones at a POS terminal. Field tests are underway for the handful of merchants, including Macy's and Walgreens. Subway will begin testing its mobile payments capabilities in five markets in the fall.
The Google Wallet platform is expected to be tightly integrated with Subway's newly launched mobile marketing platform provided globally through Velti.
The chain's partnership with Velti, announced last month, made Subway one of the first global franchise organizations to consolidate on a single mobile platform. According to Joost Zimmerman, Subway's director of digital marketing, a unified platform made sense for the biggest restaurant brand in the world.
"Since Subway is a global brand with close to 35,000 restaurants worldwide, we wanted to approach it in an economical way and provide the greatest value to our franchisees," Zimmerman said. "Instead of reinventing the wheel in all countries, we are developing a 'templated' system that will enable the countries to easily 'publish' their offerings, news, promotions, etc. The templates will ensure a consistent brand experience for our consumers worldwide."
Zimmerman added that now was the right time for the launch because of the "astounding" adoption rates of Smartphone use and faster networks.
Subway's mobile marketing campaign is in the process of rolling out to the more than 24,000 stores in the U.S., with the global adoption planned through 2012.
What the mobile marketing campaign will entail
Subway will leverage Velti's mGage platform to launch transactional mobile marketing programs that allow consumers to order meals from their phones for pick up at the nearest Subway restaurant. Also, through a new mobile app and mobile site, it will enable them to access key information including menu items, nutritional content and store locations.
mGage enables brands to offer totally customizable and localized mobile campaigns that are also completely scalable and fully integrated. Marketers using mGage can reach more than 3.5 billion consumers.
One reason this system will be able to reach a broad consumer base is because it is designed differently than standard campaigns that are built specifically for a either a mobile website or mobile app. This is built with both in mind.
"Instead of building this in the native platforms, we are looking to develop the majority if not all of this in HTML5 instead. So, we only have to code it once and it would be available across platforms," Zimmerman said. "It will be less costly to go this route and will be easier to maintain. We expect to compromise very little on user experience (to go this route)."
Besides cost effectiveness and ease of use, other operational benefits anticipated include an increase in traffic. The platform will woo consumers by offering coupons and deals. It will also provide the opportunity to reach consumers anytime and anywhere to communicate these offers when it is most relevant to them.
"Also, since there is a one-to-one relationship between the mobile device and the consumer — as opposed to a computer that is one-to-many — we can make sure again that the communication is highly relevant," Zimmerman said.
Subway and Velti will incorporate utilities for both light and heavy users of the brand, increasing the value of the site/app, driving repeat usage and, "hopefully additional trips to our restaurants," Zimmerman said.
According to Clickz.com, Subway has had mobile marketing campaigns before, including a display ad from Apple. Also, a handful of California Subways launched mobile payments through the FaceCash system in late 2010. The Velti partnership, however, is the largest investment the brand has made in the mobile arena.
"Subway is poised to set a new standard in mobile marketing," said Alex Moukas, CEO of Velti. "The penetration of mobile devices worldwide coupled with Subway's presence in more than 90 countries will allow Subway to implement innovative global and local campaigns to drive in-store traffic, customer loyalty and brand engagement."
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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.