There are more than 270 million cell-phone users in the U.S., and most of them admit to never leaving home without their phone. With that many people walking around with their mobile phone, it is time to get smart about mobile marketing efforts and engaging customers through an outlet they always take to go.

In recent years, the pizza industry emerged as the leader and innovator in mobile marketing. The industry used mobile solutions to maximize sales, drive consumers to place orders, and deliver initiatives that were on-brand and relevant to core customers.

It’s time for other restaurants to join the bandwagon and use the power of mobile to increase sales.  Lucky for marketers, pizza chains have done the heavy lifting in creating some great, innovative ideas.  Here are some mobile marketing tips to take from the pizza chains.

Mobile Subscription List

Retailers can utilize mobile subscriber lists the same way they use e-mail or direct mail. Customers who subscribe to any of the chain’s SMS messaging campaigns receive alerts for sponsored events, promotions, and giveaways, keeping them in the loop for the latest happenings.

SMS Ordering

One major pizza chain offers the option to text in an order. Customers can go online to register their phone number and set up favorite orders. For example, a customer could set up “favorite 1” as a small pineapple pizza and an order of breadsticks. They then text “FAV1” to a designated number anytime they are in the mood for their favorite dish, and a text is sent back to confirm their order. After replying “Y” in approval, the process is complete and a small pineapple pizza and order of breadsticks is on the way. It’s that simple.

Mobile Coupons

Mobile Marketer recently reported a 5–15 percent redemption rate for mobile coupons, compared with 1 percent or less redemption of the traditional print coupon. The national pizza chains are taking advantage of the higher redemption rate and offering targeted mobile coupons. In this down economy, with people scrutinizing every dollar, the companies have found great success.

Recommending Specials and New Menu Items

Popular chains track customers’ order histories and use the information to text specials and new menu items customers will enjoy based on what they purchased in the past. One pizza concept’s coupons are optimized to reflect customers’ individual ordering histories and arrive via text. When users click on the text message, they are sent to a mobile site where they can simply click “Confirm” to place the order. Think about it: It is sending customers coupons for items it knows they are interested in. That can be hugely impactful on business.

Store Locator

Include a store locator option in the mobile plan. With some of the pizza chains, customers can text their zip code to receive a text back with the address and phone number for the nearest store. This no-brainer function helps build a mobile subscriber list and creates a new way for customers to find the business.

Other national chain restaurants are not using mobile solutions as effectively as they should be, and that’s a shame. After all, there is no way to reach consumers more directly (or with a more targeted message) than mobile.

Many of the top restaurant chains developed smart-phone apps to expedite pick-up orders. That’s great, but the number of to-go food patrons in the U.S. far outnumbers the number of smart-phone users. The rest of the to-go market—those without smart phones—should be tapped through mobile opportunities, too. 

Here are some examples of chains that could be doing more to target their on-the-go customers.

Bagel Chains

Popular chains today only utilize traditional ordering methods of calling in or ordering at the counter. Why not add a text-messaging option that allows people to text in their order before they arrive? This could also be used for a consistently catered order of bagels, where the consumer can set up a weekly order and simply text in a pre-set “favorite” so the order is ready to pick up in the morning. This eliminates customer waiting time and makes it that much easier to place an order.

Burrito Chains

Many of the big-name burrito chains have decent iPhone apps with interactive menus that allow customers to pick their ingredients and submit their order before they arrive. But these chains are leaving a large chunk of the 270 million cell-phone users on the table by only catering to iPhone users. Chains should incorporate an SMS component allowing that huge chunk of customers not using an iPhone to text in orders through a pre-set menu they set up online.

Large-Scale Family Dining Chains

Imagine if these national chains added mobile ordering to their car-side to-go programs. Customers could text in an order for their favorite burger and it will be waiting for them when they arrive. The whole car-side delivery function targets those in a hurry; why not take advantage of something that makes ordering even faster and easier?

By Matt Silk
Industry News, Marketing & Promotions, Technology