Everywhere you go, people have their heads buried in their phones, either checking Facebook, scrolling through Instagram, glancing at email, sending texts or even catching Pokémon. Businesses cannot ignore this phenomenon if they want to keep pace with consumer behavior and expectations.
Let’s be clear: It’s not just communication and gaming that are keeping people busy: they are increasingly likely to use their smartphones to access crowd-sourced reviews, research products, browse offers and make online purchases. Sometimes they’re ordering products from Amazon or Zappos with two-day (or even next day) delivery. And, in a growing number of cases, they are also placing mobile orders that they will pick up the same day, sometimes within the hour, whether it’s a cup of coffee or a sandwich. And they’re paying for it on their mobile device as well, via a debit/credit card, e-gift card or a preloaded account.
In fact, a recent eMarketer report predicted that mobile payments will triple in the U.S. in 2016 and nearly one in five smartphone users will use mobile payments by next year. That’s a huge opportunity for brick and mortar merchants looking to enrich their interactions with their loyal customers and drive more revenue.
Retail banking trends over the past couple of decades are emblematic of the sea-change mindset of consumers as they moved away from interacting primarily with bank tellers to enjoying the convenience of ATMs… and now heavily relying on smartphone deposits and online banking. Smartphones are truly changing the way we live and transact and every business across industries is starting to recognize the importance of mobile customer engagement.
Speed, convenience, frictionless transactions + rewards
Today’s tech-savvy consumer appreciates speed, demands convenience and wants frictionless transactions—not to mention entertainment, personalized offers and rewards. They are starting to expect their favorite brands to deliver all of the above in an easy to use and expedient way. If it is a hassle, then today’s consumers will turn elsewhere.
To this end, combining mobile ordering, mobile payments and a mobile loyalty program together in one seamless app represents a powerful triple threat for merchants to improve the customer experience, drive more repeat business, and increase share of wallet. People want to interact with their preferred brands as easily and quickly and dependably as possible and there’s no greater way to execute on that promise than bundling mobile ordering, payment and loyalty programs. Let’s look at a few examples to understand the true value and impact of bringing together mobile ordering, payment and loyalty.
Restaurants leading the way
Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and Fast Casual (FC) restaurants are rapidly embracing mobile ordering and payment. With capabilities such as “order-ahead,” customers can place orders remotely and pick it up in-store while skipping the line or accelerating how fast they get their order when seated. For high repetition purchases like coffee or food, this trend is convenience at its best and keeps consumers loyal.
Two years ago BJ’s Restaurants, an American chain, blazed trails by launching a highly popular app, complete with mobile ordering and payment capabilities, as well as a Preferred Waitlist option to get seated sooner. The app rewards loyal customers not only for mobile orders, but also automatically places them in the Preferred Waitlist. Orders can either be take-out or dine-in.
Another important benefit to the restaurant is that diners can pay and leave the table whenever they want versus waiting for their server—increasing table turnover times for more orders per table.
Of course the app also pushes new promotions in its “What’s New” section so that diners are always up to speed with the latest promotions. And speed is at the heart of the mobile app’s Curbside Delivery. Can take-out get any easier?
The Starbucks standard… and Walmart
As we all know, the gold standard for any mobile loyalty and payment program is Starbucks. A healthy 21% of the coffee chain’s orders in Q1 2016—and $6 million in revenue—were attributed to mobile order and pay. The app has more than 12 million active users in North America as well as better penetration than mobile payment apps like Apple Pay.
In fact, here’s a mindboggling statistic: the amount of money pre-loaded onto Starbucks’ mobile apps was $1.2 billion in Q1 2016, which exceeds the deposits of many financial institutions! Customers are giving Starbucks money to put in the Starbucks bank, so to speak, to use for future purchases. This is a very savvy way to increase customer loyalty and encourage repeat purchases quickly and easily via the mobile app.
Let us not forget Walmart, who was the first major brick and mortar retailer to launch its own mobile payments solution, a smart move considering the competitive challenges it faces against online retailers like Amazon. The Walmart pay feature simulates an e-commerce transaction at the checkout by linking the consumer’s app to a QR code. It applies promotions, coupons and gift card balances and facilitates the payment.
We’re just getting started
There are so many future applications of mobile payments that are just now emerging—which applied effectively will only increase customer loyalty to their preferred brand. In Italy, for example, several supermarkets such as Esselunga now offer mobile self-scanners that are literally attached to your shopping cart. You can scan products as you go and make a mobile payment to exit the store (with spot checks every so often by humans to reconcile payment, along with reward points added to your account for the slight inconvenience).
What should you be doing?
So what should your company be thinking about when it comes to launching a mobile ordering, payment and loyalty app?
Create one mobile app, not several. Mobile ordering, payment and loyalty (i.e. offers, rewards and promotions) must be one app. No one wants to download several apps and navigate between them. And if you want to up-sell and cross-sell your consumers, you have to do it in context and in the moment they are browsing and ready to order.
Make it incredibly easy and convenient. Offer one-tap or swipe ordering, and/or emulate the “rotate feature” for reordering, for example.
Ensure your app is powered by modern technology so you can capture and leverage real-time interactions to target offers. This is how you demonstrate to your customers that you are listening to them and tailoring content and promotions specifically for them.
Offer a variety of payment options, including debit, credit and PayPal, as well as pre-loading money (as in the Starbucks case) and even consider personalizing digital gift cards.
Take a page from Amazon and personalize and upsell offers (e.g. “other people who ordered this product also bought this”)
Take advantage of geolocation. For example, target customers when they are near, or in your store and offer in-the-moment deals.
Test, test and test again. In today’s transparent world, there is no better app killer than a series of bad reviews that claim “it didn’t work” or worse.
Consider when and how to incorporate engaging experiences that are fun for your consumers—perhaps using augmented reality within the context of a promotion or sweepstakes.
Overall, your goal with mobile ordering, payment and loyalty is to drive higher value interactions with your customers in order to deepen their loyalty and promote their repeat business. Frictionless transactions, coupled with personalized content, offers and entertainment, deliver truly delightful customer experiences. We are witnessing the reinvention of loyalty programs powered by big data and enabling an entirely new mobile experience that blurs the lines between online and in-store. Motivate your customers, reward their loyalty and empower them to browse, order, re-order, pay and pick-up wherever, whenever and however they want.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.