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Form & Function: Designing an Effective and Personal Mobile Experience

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Fishbowl helps restaurants turn guest data into actionable insights that result in more personalized and relevant guest engagement and ultimately improve bottom line performance. Our marketing solutions connect restaurants to guests through the full range of traditional digital and mobile channels, and we keep our eye on trends and best practices in each to better serve our customers.

Visit our solutions page for more information on our mobile marketing solution and the complete capabilities of Fishbowl’s platform.

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

This oft-quoted aphorism from the late Steve Jobs highlights the idea that art and successful execution do not exist in a vacuum. People and brands that create successfully do so by copying or stealing elements of what has been proven to work.

The mobile landscape is no exception. Creating a beautiful and effective mobile experience (one that guides users smoothly from their current state to their desired state) builds on the existing successes in mobile technology because those successes are what guide user expectations. Increasingly, user expectations are defined by highly relevant and personal experiences. The mobile device, spending so much time at users’ sides and providing so many private and emotional functions, is perhaps the most personal channel a brand can use to communicate with a guest.

Four mobile strategies/innovations from the restaurant industry standout for delivering desired functions in a form worthy of guests’ personal mobile devices. Different personas patronize different brands and concepts, so the key to emulating and even surpassing the success of these innovations lies where it always has: knowing your guests. Some may be relevant to your guests and some may not, so keep your guest in mind when you ask yourself: Should I steal this idea? And how do I use this idea to craft a unique and personal mobile experience?

Persona: An identity that groups guests together based on similarities in behaviors, demographics, and psychographics. The more data collected from characteristics of each persona, the more accurately future behavior can be predicted.

Gift Cards are your key to mobile pay

Gift cards—those things you pick up at CVS when you’re running late to your niece or nephew’s birthday party—are the basis of a novel mobile pay solution. Through mobile, gift cards deliver the same function they always have—prepaid, easy-to-redeem store credit—in a new form that enables personal control, technological empowerment, and experience sharing.

You don’t need Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay to provide your guests mobile payment options. The same function behind a mobile gift card can be used by individual guests to give themselves mobile credit. If you generally serve customers with a hectic schedule, this feature combined with mobile ordering can provide a time-saving benefit. If you serve a product that has been described as “addicting,” guests may desire the restrictions of prepaid cards over a linked credit card for their budgeting and self-control purposes. It is likely no surprise that Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have received praise for their execution of this idea.

These best-in-class prepaid card solutions also offer a true “gift” card. If parents want to provide a single-use and limited amount of money for kids, or if guests want to share an experience with friends and acquaintances, this solution is the perfect balance of convenience, simplicity, and control. This approach to mobile pay is the stirrup and saddle that help your guests sit comfortably atop their high horse of responsibility and generosity.

When looking to implement a mobile pay/mobile gift card strategy, ask yourself:

  • Do our guests need to pay quickly, and is a mobile device faster than the normal method?
  • Do our guests wish to share their experience, and do we have other opportunities to enhance shared experiences that could be supplemented by Gift Cards?
  • Do we serve guests who might be using the funds of others (children, coworkers, etc.) that might want a secure and limited way to transfer and manage these funds?

No touch/Fewer touches

Excellence in mobile does not imply that the user has to interface with mobile technology. In fact, even the term “user” can be a misnomer. Sometimes excellence comes from entirely removing the need for your guest to touch a mobile device. Domino’s has been the pioneer of minimizing touches in the restaurant mobile scene. Operating at times more like a technology company than a pizza chain, they have devoted more time to helping their customers spend less time ordering their product.

With Domino’s’ “no-touch” ordering, customers prepare a pizza profile once and can then repeat that order by simply opening an app. Beacon technology can further minimize your guests’ involvement while maximizing what you deliver. These Bluetooth sensors detect mobile devices in their range and trigger communication automatically sent to the app. They can be used to check guests in, deliver messages based on the time they are in the store, and more, all without guests reaching into their pockets for their phones. Taking advantage of the information beacon collects allows you to deliver a highly relevant experience.

More so than other trends on this list, this design might not be appropriate for every organization. Some questions to ask yourself when thinking about reducing interaction in your mobile strategy:

  • What do we gain and what do our customers gain from the touchpoints in our mobile experience?
  • If our order process has many steps, is it necessary that they be repeated every time?
  • Does our target guest fall into a persona that will expect the order process to be simple?
  • Is there potential for a negative result in the no touch process (accidental order, visits recorded for non-diners)?
  • Is there an opportunity to use information recorded without a touchpoint (perhaps through beacon) to get to know our guests better and enhance the mobile experience?

Even within the same brand, diners can be divided into persona groups with their own distinct features, expectations, and contribution to the business.

Educational menus

Menus are evolving. Some brands are leveraging mobile to offer more interactive menus while others are offering more informative menus, and some are offering both. Bringing form and function together in an endeavor to elevate the menu is critical because the process must remain totally smooth and in-line with customer expectations of each added function. A diner using a mobile menu to order at a quick-serve concept probably doesn’t want to scroll through multiple screens to place an order. A diner browsing options that are totally foreign to them may want additional information on each ingredient and the backstory of each dish. Even within the same brand, diners can be divided into persona groups with their own distinct features, expectations, and contribution to the business, so a successful mobile experience must appeal to the majority of personas.

Panera serves a health-conscious market, and they augment their menus with nutritional information. This feature not only assists customers in their ordering journey, but it also allows them to accomplish a central goal of each day. Customers evaluating nutritional information while perusing the menu may gain as much satisfaction by hitting a calorie count at the end of the day as they do from any single meal. Interactive menus also provide an opportunity to educate guests on the source of ingredients, and they can even be linked to charitable efforts if that is a core part of your brand image.

Food for thought when designing an educational order process:

  • Do our guests have time to consume additional information while looking at the menu?
  • Is the story of our food, locations, employees, etc. central to the story of our brand?
  • Do our guests want to learn, and do we have something to teach them?
  • Do our guests fall into different personas, and do those personas have overlapping ideas of what the menu should provide?

Communicating lifestyle and brand tenets with guests

Sharing a key brand message with consumers is always a tricky proposition. To establish mutual understanding on a concept as critical as your brand identity, you need to deliver a message at a time and place when your guest will hear it, but it must also be at a time and place when they want to hear it. And you don’t just have to do this once; you have to do it across all channels with which your customers engage. High-end restaurants have often shied away from a mobile experience to preserve the unique and elite nature of their in-store experience. Others, like Chipotle, have stepped outside of the traditional mobile experience to deliver strong messages about their brand.

Following Chipotle’s long-standing commitment to “Food with Integrity” and their recent food safety issues, Chipotle unveiled the “Chipotle Scarecrow” app outside of its normal food-ordering app to drive home the emphasis on these brand pillars through a mobile game. 2017 may see more forward-thinking and technology-savvy concepts leverage mobile games and other activities that enhance the lifestyle of their guests without a direct tie to restaurant sales. Family-oriented chains might offer coloring books online or through an app so a mobile phone can keep children entertained. Sports concepts might offer a way for their guests to track games and read stats while watching at the bar or at home. Health concepts might offer apps related to health activities outside of eating. Cracker Barrel, owner of one of the best-reviewed restaurant apps, offers guests a mobile replacement to the table games that were a long-standing feature of their concept.

When considering a way to deliver and reinforce brand messaging through mobile, consider these questions:

  • Do we fit a lifestyle image of our guests that extends beyond the restaurant?
  • Can we provide our guests with desired app features in-line with our lifestyle image and can we reward them for choosing our app over another?
  • Does the tone of our brand message align with the features we can provide through mobile?
  • Can we create a community of guests around an idea that aligns with our brand image?

Mobile devices are personal, but they are still a tool, and guests ultimately use them to make their lives easier. The functions you offer guests and the forms they take are not separate ideas. The goal is to earn a spot in your guests’ use of mobile technology and to deliver the features they need when they need them and how they want them. Therefore designing a mobile solution is not just a challenge of achieving technical excellence; it is also a challenge of knowing and understanding your guest. So before jumping to join a trend in the mobile marketplace, consider what technologies your guests will use and how they will use them. Then decide what to copy, what to steal, and what to create.

Designing a mobile solution is not just a challenge of achieving technical excellence; it is also a challenge of knowing and understanding your guest.

Download the .pdf version of this whitepaper here.