Mobile phones have become a huge part of our daily lives. Most people check their phones first thing when they wake up and last thing before going to bed. We use our phones to stay connected with friends, get work done, be entertained, and more. This reliance on cellar phones has changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions and interact with businesses.
Restaurants need to understand how central mobile devices have become and make mobile marketing a top priority. With the right mobile marketing strategies, restaurants can connect with customers where they are already spending time and drive traffic into their establishments.
This article will explore the key elements restaurants should focus on to successfully engage smart mobile users and get them in the door.
The Power of Mobile Marketing
Mobile usage statistics:
- 85% of Americans own a smartphone
- People check their phones 96 times per day on average
- 60% of digital media time is via mobile devices
- 90%+ open rates for push notifications
It’s clear that mobile has transformed how consumers behave. Having information, entertainment, and communication at their fingertips has made people accustomed to getting what they want instantly. This means that businesses need to meet customer experiences on mobile platforms to capture their attention.
How Smartphones Have Transformed Consumer Behavior
Smartphones empower consumers with on-demand information access virtually anytime and anywhere. This has transformed purchasing behavior with key implications for restaurants:
- Instant information: Diners extensively research restaurants online via reviews, photos, menus before visiting.
- Hyperlocal discovery: Smartphones enable finding eateries in proximity based on current location.
- Same-day decisions: Spontaneous restaurant selection is common after browsing nearby options.
- Seamless reservations: Online and app booking for tables is surging in adoption and preference.
- Real-time sharing: Diners love sharing restaurant experiences instantly via social media and messaging.
The Compelling Case for Mobile Marketing
Given the central role of smartphones in consumers’ path-to-purchase for dining options, restaurants simply cannot ignore mobile platforms. Key reasons mobile marketing is vital include:
- Huge audience reach and frequency via mobile.
- Targeting customers at multiple touchpoints through the day.
- Driving discovery among hyperlocal convenience-seeking consumers.
- Enabling seamless bookings and transactions.
- Leveraging real-time and location-based engagement opportunities.
In essence, mobile marketing enables restaurants to connect with diners precisely when they are looking for eateries and convert that intent into store visits and sales.
Understanding Your Target Audience
To connect with customers via mobile, restaurants first need to understand their target audience and what matters to them. Creating detailed buyer personas is crucial. Consider key factors like:
- Demographics – Age, gender, location, income level
- Values and priorities – What motivates them and influences decisions?
- Mobile usage habits – Where and when are they on their phones? What apps/sites do they frequent?
- Restaurant preferences – Dining habits, favorite foods, decision motivators
This will help create targeted campaigns tailored to your ideal customers. You can then analyze user data from your website and mobile platforms to continue refining the buyer persona over time.
It’s also important to identify both local regulars and visiting tourists in your primary audience. Locals will care more about loyalty programs and consistency, while visitors want discovery and convenience. Appeal to each group accordingly.
Building a Mobile-Friendly Website and App
Having a mobile-optimized website and easy-to-use app are foundations of any restaurant’s mobile strategy given the popularity of online reservations and food ordering.
Responsive Website Design
Ensure your website provides an excellent user experience on mobile devices with elements like:
- Responsively designed layout adjusting to any screen size.
- Tap-friendly navigation and calls-to-action.
- Legible typography and page formatting.
- Fast-loading and streamlined information architecture.
- Prominent access to online/app ordering and reservations.
Intuitive and Feature-rich Mobile App
Build a custom mobile app for your restaurant to facilitate:
- Swift online ordering and paying for pickup/delivery.
- One-click reservations and table management.
- Push notification-based engagement.
- Menu and location information access.
- Loyalty program management.
The app can also enable guests to bypass waiting times through pre-orders and tableside payments. Offer app-exclusive deals and integrate with GDS reservation systems like OpenTable.
Leveraging Social Media Platforms
People spend huge amounts of time on social media through their mobile devices. Utilizing platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to connect with customers is invaluable for restaurants.
- Instagram is ideal for showcasing food photos, behind-the-scenes kitchen views, and creating a digitally native brand personality.
- Facebook allows for promotions, events, and direct engagement through comments and messages with a large existing user base.
- Twitter can increase awareness and facilitate real-time customer service issues.
Most importantly, encourage user-generated content. Getting customers to tag your restaurant in posts and reviews helps new potential diners get a first-hand look at the food and atmosphere from a trusted source.
Email Marketing for Restaurants
Email is still one of the most effective digital marketing channels with room for targeted segmentation and personalized messaging. Collect emails from your website, app, and multiple channels and divide subscribers into lists by:
- Order frequency
- Menu preferences
- Special occasions like birthdays
Send promotional emails with discounts or exclusives to incentivize visits. Also consider informational emails with updates on new menu items, events, and seasonal specials. Automated emails can remind customers to make a reservation or tempt them back after a period of inactivity.
Personalized subject lines, customized content, and the right send times maximize open and click rates for each segment.
Mobile Advertising and Promotion
Mobile search advertising through platforms like Google and social media ads on Facebook and Instagram allow restaurants to put their brand in front of local users right as they are searching for dining options near them.
Location-based marketing ensures your ads are only shown to users in your area.
Advertise on competitive keywords around cuisine types, menus, and pricing.
Retarget past website visitors and app users who haven’t converted yet through ads.
SMS text message promotions can reach customers directly on their phones. Send special discounts, limited time offers, or VIP perks to create urgency. Just be sure to get opt-in consent first for SMS campaigns.
SMS Marketing and Push Notifications
Speaking of text messages, campaigns are highly effective at connecting restaurants with customers for several reasons:
- SMS has much higher open rates compared to other channels, ensuring your message is actually seen.
- Texts drive immediate action by appearing instantly on smartphones unlike emails which can be buried.
- Customers can simply hit “reply” to engage further and convert.
Similarly, push notifications in your App trigger instant attention. Send timely notifications about daily specials, new menu launches, or other announcements customers need to know. Just be careful not to be too intrusive with frequency.
Loyalty Programs and Mobile Coupons
Replace punch cards with app-based programs that allow:
- Customers earning redeemable points on each visit.
- Providing tiered benefits based on visit frequency/spend.
- Giving surprise rewards, birthday/anniversary treats.
- Running member-exclusive events and offers.
Pushing instant redeemable coupons/vouchers via apps aids activation.
Considerations for optimizing include:
- Make coupons scannable via mobile to bypass printing.
- Limit validity to create urgency e.g. happy hour coupons.
- Offer coupons first to members with highest LTV.
- Remove friction by auto applying coupons if part of loyalty program.
Tracking and Analytics
Robust analytics should inform fine-tuning of mobile marketing programs.
- Key Performance Indicators
- App usage – Downloads, launches, time spent, retention rates.
- Orders – Mobile orders, average order value.
- Engagement – Coupon redemptions, loyalty activity.
- Traffic – Footfall uplift during mobile ad campaigns.
- Conversions – Reservations, call requests from mobile.
Case Studies: Successful Mobile Marketing Campaigns
Let’s look at some real-world examples of restaurants excelling at mobile marketing:
Taco Bell’s VR Game
Taco Bell created an original virtual reality game “VRcade” delivering customers a novel gaming experience. The immersive VR restaurant simulations embedded product placements in a relevant context. It generated over 224 million media impressions and won top creative awards.
Starbucks App Loyalty Program
Starbucks offers a hugely popular loyalty program via its app enabling:
- Contactless ordering and payment for quicker takeaway.
- Ability to customize favorite drinks.
- Mobile coupons and earned reward redemptions.
- This deepened engagement, with over 25% sales now coming through the app.
KFC’s Augmented Reality Meal Boxes
In Canada, KFC leveraged AR technology to convert takeaway meal boxes into virtual escape rooms. Customers could access an AR game on their phones by scanning boxes. This gamified experience to make meals more fun saw 30% rise in app registrations.
McDonald’s Location-Based Campaign
McDonald’s ran a mobile campaign where users within 600 feet of a restaurant would get an app notification about hot McCafe coffee deals. Clicks on the location-triggered ads were 10 times higher than other formats.
The Future of Mobile Marketing for Restaurants
Innovation is always evolving with new marketing trends, including:
- Adoption of messaging apps like WhatsApp for enhanced engagement.
- Expanded use of QR codes in restaurants for contactless operations.
- Leveraging AR for immersive brand experiences like virtual restaurant tours.
- Integrating AI bots for conversational commerce via chat.
- Partnerships with third-party delivery apps.
- Seamless cross-device orchestration.
Restaurants need to stay on top of mobile innovation and understand shifts in consumer mobile behavior. Testing new platforms and formats will be key even as focusing on core tactics drives measurable impact.
Mobile has permanently reshaped the way people interact with businesses. Restaurants that don’t make mobile marketing central to their overall strategy are missing out on huge opportunities to connect with customers.
By understanding your primary audience, optimizing for mobile apps and websites, leveraging social media, and taking advantage of many mobile channels, restaurants can effectively engage smartphone users. Advanced mobile tracking provides the customer insights needed to continually refine campaigns and stay ahead of trends.
Now is the time for restaurants to take action if they have not prioritized mobile marketing yet. The smartphone usage trends show mobile is here to stay. Establishments that successfully adapt will reap the rewards in the form of increased reservations, more online orders, improved loyalty, and greater brand awareness. Mobile marketing is critical to engage this mobile-first generation and ensure your restaurant succeeds both today and in the future.