Folks these days are going gaga for smartphones. A 2012 Pew Research poll revealed that 46 percent of American adults own a smartphone, a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Smartphones make life easier and more convenient when it comes to communication, navigation, gaming and even shopping. One type of smartphone use that is poised to see a big uptick is food ordering.
Big chain restaurants are realizing the potential of mobile and online ordering and taking advantage by offering slick new apps to their customers. Smaller and medium sized restaurant groups also have access to mobile and online ordering apps. With options available ranging from skeletal programming codes to add to an existing site to turnkey solutions to developing an app in-house, a restaurant management team might wonder which bells and whistles are essential and which they can kick to the curb. Here are eight features no ordering app should ever lack.
- Cross-platform integration The war between Android vs. iPhone is well-documented, including legions of passionate brand evangelists on both sides. Whichever device they prefer, all of these users have the potential to become avid mobile food orderers. Plus there are tons of people that might want to order via the mobile web or computer. Why choose one platform or another? Your app needs versions for all three media (Android, iPhone and web) and the consistent testing, updating and troubleshooting to go with them.
- Secure credit card processing There is much ado among tech bloggers and journalists about which version of the “mobile wallet” will someday reign supreme. So far no one system has made enough noise to grab a dominating portion of the market share. Until someone finds that mobile payment holy grail, why not stick to what digital customers know and are comfortable with: paying with cards? Food ordering apps that offer secure credit card information storage and processing allow for the least amount of hassle for customers and merchants alike.
- Saved favorites Regular and return customers often know what they want to order before they see a menu. Since some the most appealing aspects of mobile and online ordering are convenience and speed, the ability to save favorite menu items for quick ordering is essential.
- Customer feedback People that shop online or through mobile apps are accustomed to open, easy to access customer support and feedback. Don’t disappoint them. A good app will let customers share their feelings at the touch of a button, be it to the restaurant, app developer or sharing thoughts via social media.
- Charitable giving Mobile and online ordering customers are just as generous as everyone else, so provide them a chance to give a little when they purchase through the app.
- Loyalty programs Like so many other things, loyalty and rewards programs are migrating from wallets and purses into mobile phones. Punch and swipe cards are making way for easier to manage counterparts that link to user accounts. Mobile and online food ordering systems that make these rewards easy to track and redeem are that much more appealing to potential customers.
- Push marketing Consumers these days are becoming experts at avoiding “intrusive” marketing. On the other hand, many of the same people are more than willing to sign up to receive special offers they know they are interested in. The best mobile apps allow restaurants to send push notifications, which are messages the app delivers to users based on criteria like location and previous ordering habits. The old days of inundating the public with signs, billboards and flyers in hopes that a few customers might bite are in the past. Connecting with the customers that want to hear about your special offers makes each marketing dollar that much more effective.
- Powerful merchant tools Of course great apps offer tricked out experiences for customers, but they can offer useful tools for restaurants to take advantage of also. One of the best aspects of the mobile and online economy is the prospect of pinpoint accurate customer data. Restaurant managers should be able to track orders and payment, update menus and hours and prices from a tablet, smartphone or computer. Another nice feature is access rich data including weekly transaction reports or the ability to monitor data from multiple locations from one portal.
If you are going to implement mobile and online ordering, don’t make the mistake of only going half way. Be sure your app has all of the shiny new features that offer a top notch experience to customer and restaurant alike.
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