More than half of U.S. adults use their mobile phones to find information on local restaurants, according to Pew Research.
“Mobile is a highly personal channel offering direct, real-time, location-targeted promotional abilities, so that restaurants can drive new customers, foot traffic and revenues when needed,” said Sarah Hodkinson of Where.com, a company that specializes in location-based media.
While many restaurant operators have successfully leveraged mobile-marketing platforms, those who aren’t are missing out on a lot of potential revenue.
“If you don’t do it at all, you are leaving money on the table and inviting your competitors to begin building a stronger, two-way relationship with your most loyal customers,” said Lori Walderich, chief creative officer of IdeaStudio.
For those considering the mobile-marketing investment, questions such as ‘How do we start?’ and ‘How do we help customers find us?’ should be top of mind.
Walderich and Hodkinson agree that mobile marketing continues to emerge as a restaurant-industry technology trend. Here, they offer eight insights into getting the most out of a mobile-marketing platform.
1. Create a mobile-optimized website. As opposed to simply shrinking a business’ website to fit a phone screen, a mobile-optimized site is a condensed, highly-functional website built especially for the phone. It doesn’t replace a restaurant’s main website, but it is an easy way for users and new customers to quickly find and connect with a local eatery. Additionally, companies such as Where.com can help operators create a free mobile page for their brand.
2. Be easy to find and locate. Add a click-to-call phone number and map to your mobile page, so potential customers can easily contact and find you.
3. Be social. Include links to your Facebook and Twitter pages to expand your social following through mobile. About 134.6 million people used social networks across any technology platform each month, and in 2011, that number will rise by a little more than 3 percent, acccording to eMarketer.
Brands need to take this shift into account as consumers get into the habit of checking Facebook on the run and they tend to ignore brands that don’t respect direct interaction, said Carla Paschke, director of Mobile Innovation at Engauge.
“Facebook is a tool for conversations. Ad campaigns are conversations, too,” she said. “This is a nice coincidence and a useful one to any brand that knows how to effectively integrate the sometimes chaotic feedback that comes streaming in from this new class of smartphone-liberated consumers, jabbing at their phones in stores, schools, trains and homes.”
4. Get them to opt in. In order for mobile marketing to work, a restaurant concept must actively encourage customers to opt-in, Walderich said.
“No matter how aggressive the mobile marketing strategy is, it won’t be worth anything if there isn’t a big database of recipients,” she said. “Restaurants should always reward customers for opting in.”
5. Give incentives. Mobile offers and coupons are redeemed about 25 percent more than Internet coupons and up to 10 times more than printed coupons, Walderich said.
“Free food offers always work,” she said.
6. Add pictures to your mobile site. Let potential customers checkout your store or most popular dishes, Hodkinson said. Customers tend to eat with their eyes, so images of your menu items could further entice their patronage.
7. Target the right consumers at the right time. “Good mobile marketing should be tailored to the medium, targeted to the audience you’d like to reach and should yield a return on investment,” Hodkinson said.
Walderich further advises taking advantage of how mobile marketing allows operators to control when promotions are distributed and to whom.
8. Provide instant gratification. Walderich encourages her clients to offer deals that lead to immediate responses. “Unlike other mediums, a restaurant can react to unusual slow times by pushing out a free offer quickly,” Walderich said. For example:
- Daily lunch specials pushed out during late morning.
- And last-minute offers targeted at a specific slow time of the day.