4 QSR Brands to Emulate on Mobile

Learn smart mobile-first engagement tactics from Chipotle, Starbucks, and more

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As mobile becomes increasingly central to the way that people live their lives and interact with brands, businesses worldwide are being forced to rethink their customer engagement strategies and tactics. That’s particularly true in the quick service restaurant (QSR) space, where customers have been flocking to mobile in a big way—between 2014 and 2016, the number of QSR mobile app downloads grew by 35%.

While this shift has its complications for brands, there are benefits, too. One of them is revenue: on average, each order placed via smartphone is worth 20% more than orders placed in person. The challenge with QSR mobile engagement is a common one for mobile apps: many customers don’t stick around for the long haul. Fewer than 15% of customers who try out a food and beverage app come back the day after download, and that number drops to less than 5% by Day 30. The challenge, as ever, is to get people engaged and keep them engaged.

To help you get there, let’s take a look at four QSR brands that are making smart moves when it comes to engaging customers on mobile:

  1. Chipotle

Chipotle Onboarding Flow

For Chipotle, effective customer engagement on mobile starts the moment a new user opens the company’s native app. At the beginning of that first session, Chipotle greets customers with a clear, simple onboarding flow that lays out the benefits of the app and how it can make the in-store experience smoother and more valuable by supporting mobile orders.

A streamlined mobile ordering process has obvious advantages for the customer. (Who wouldn’t want to circumvent the line?) Plus, brick and mortar locations get to do more business when they open themselves up to online ordering: Chipotle locations with mobile ordering reportedly can get up to 130 extra orders per hour, boosting revenue and convenience. Chipotle’s app. also cleverly employs gamification with a feature called “Chipotle Scarecrow” that draws attention to the brand’s use of fresh vegetables and ethically sourced meats. Successful gamers earn a free burrito. Yum.

  1. Starbucks

Starbucks app news feed

Starbucks’ in-app news feed

Starbucks has bundled its order-ahead and pay-ahead features with a loyalty program, where orders earn “stars” that can be redeemed for free coffee. To entice customers using the app to try out new offerings or upsize their order, Starbucks takes advantage of a scrollable news feed to highlight drinks and food using eye-catching images.

Starbucks app educational message

Starbucks also works to engage with the brand beyond mobile ordering, including by allowing users to create Spotify playlists of songs they heard in the store, for enjoyment later. To get customers to take advantage of these app capabilities, the brand uses in-app messages and other mobile messaging channels to keep customers educated about what’s possible with the Starbucks app and how they can make use of it. That keeps Starbucks front of mind—which can go a long way toward triggering that next latte run.

  1. Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts has a long history of innovative engagement with technology. Back in 2011, rather than release its own app, the company decided to release a game that could be played between turns on iPhone’s Scrabble. The objective was to draw attention to the brand’s range of iced tea flavors in a fun way that users would choose to engage with. The campaign was highly successful.

Dunkin Donuts Permissions example

Dunkin Donuts’ primes for push (left) and location data (right) using in-app messaging

These days, the Dunkin’ Donuts app includes a pay-ahead feature, virtual gift cards users can give to each other, and frequent deals and coupons. To ensure that it’s able to serve customers with accurate information about their nearest Dunkin’ Donuts locations and reach them with urgent messages, the brand uses in-app messages to prime users to enable push notifications and share their location data. The outreach is simple, but makes a clear, effective case by tying opting in to the value that the app can provide. That’s something every app could learn from.

  1. Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s Pizza, too, has a long history with innovation. In recent years, the company has attracted attention by allowing customers to order by tweeting an emoji or simply by opening the app. Now, Domino’s app saves your favorite order, or pizza profile, to make ordering simpler and easier. And the app does not work only on smartphones, but also on the Ford SYNC, the Amazon Echo, the Samsung TV, and at least two smartwatches. The idea is that no matter what a customer is doing, if they get hungry, they can order Domino’s.

Domino's push examples

The brand’s also one of the savviest in the QSR space when it comes to mobile messaging. Domino’s use of emojis in its marketing is a masterclass in how to use these to capture customers’ attention and reinforce your brand identity. The brand has also taken advantage of rich push notifications’ support for eye-catching images to boost the impact of their push outreach. But perhaps its most memorable use of mobile channels is its pizza tracker, which keeps customers up to date on the status of each order using a series of push notifications. Together, these tools and tactics provide their customers with a fun, memorable—and valuable—brand experience that keeps them coming back.

What Does It All Mean?

All these QSR brands have something in common when it comes to their mobile engagement strategies. They’re not throwing tech at their users willy-nilly. Each feature and marketing campaign genuinely adds customer value—whether by onboarding their customers effectively, or giving their audience ways to engage with their brands even when they’re not ordering food. You can’t force people to engage with your brand, and these brands succeed by building something that people want to get involved with.

 

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