It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, mobile ordering was something of a novelty.
That has changed in a big way.. A recent mobile ordering study conducted by Intouch Insight found that 71 percent of consumers have made a mobile order—a number that would’ve been unthinkable pre-pandemic. It also appears to be a number that’s only growing, perhaps especially in the full-service space.
“Mobile ordering is now table stakes for full-service restaurants,” says Laura Livers, senior director of business development at Intouch Insight. “It’s allowed customers different and new purchase paths, and you see this fast movement toward the practice that’s being driven by customer convenience.”
This slideshow will take a closer look at some mobile ordering trends that operators should be paying attention to—from what matters most to consumers, to how operators can capture repeat business in the digital space.
The Intouch Insight study included 360 mystery shops across 16 different brands to collect field data. It also leveraged Flash Point surveys to get consumer feedback, drawing perspectives from over 1,500 participants to gain insights into mobile ordering habits and behaviors.
The study zeroed in on why consumers choose mobile ordering over traditional channels and found that 68 percent of consumers did so due to convenience. Forty-two percent of respondents said they prefer to eat at home, while 17 percent said it was quicker than dining in.
When given just one choice, consumers overwhelmingly said that order accuracy (63 percent of responses) was the top priority when it came to receiving a mobile order. That dwarfed second place, food temperature (17 percent), and third place: speed of service (10 percent).
So how can operators up their game when it comes to order accuracy? Livers has a suggestion, that might not be obvious at first glance.
“One thing to watch when it comes to order accuracy is that, traditionally, when employee friendliness drops, so does order accuracy,” Livers says. “Similarly, it’s astounding how much speed of service can be impacted by that, too. When you have an upbeat, engaged employee, you are going to have better order accuracy, and better speed of service.”
The implication is that building a positive work culture and properly training employees is still a huge component of delivering a great customer experience, even when the customer is barely interacting with an employee—if they are at all.
Another interesting finding from the Intouch Insight study was that full-service restaurants are more accurate than their quick-service counterparts when it comes to fulfilling mobile orders. According to the data, 96 percent of first-party mobile orders from a full-service restaurant were accurate. That was considerably higher than quick-service restaurants, which checked in at 89 percent accuracy in the first-party department.
Third-party orders from full- (92 percent) and quick-service restaurants (91 percent) were about the same when it came to mobile order accuracy, begging the question: what makes full-service restaurants better at handling their own mobile orders? And should more full-service restaurants move to a first-party model?
“I think full-service restaurants have been doing this a little bit longer, and it shows,” Livers says. “That mentality of packaging food up, making sure it gets into the right hands—these full-service brands have been nailing takeout in that regard and that’s obviously given them a leg-up in fulfilling mobile orders.”
A newer trend to keep an eye on, Livers says, is channel blurring. While Intouch Insight successfully broke down many of its findings into first- and third-party digital ordering, brands are increasingly finding unique ways of meeting the demand for mobile orders.
Whether that means full-service restaurants are partnering with DoorDash to have drivers deliver first-party orders, or employing a last-mile service, it’s an exciting time when it comes to innovation in the mobile-ordering space.
“I really am impressed with everything brands are doing to take back control over the customer experience and my hat’s off to them for it,” Livers says. “But you’re still playing catch up, because the third parties are so ahead in terms of what consumers are using. So they have to weigh whether or not it’s worth it to fight it, or find out how to best partner with them and make it work so that the customer is ultimately getting what they want—which goes back to convenient, accurate orders.”
For full-service brands looking to convert more customers to first-party channels, loyalty programs can often trump convenience. Sarah Beckett, director of marketing at Intouch Insight, notes that 76 percent of respondents said they are more likely to choose a brand over its competitor if they have a loyalty program over one that did not.
“If you’re looking to draw traffic from third-party services, loyalty is definitely a card you can play,” Beckett says. “So how do you get them to order through your own app? Continue to focus on eliminating friction from the process, and leverage personalization and loyalty programs to make the experience more meaningful.”
Some operators may have thought mobile ordering was going to go away once the pandemic subsided, but it’s clear that isn’t the case. Intouch Insight found that 61 percent of consumers expect their mobile ordering habits to stay the same, while 6 percent said they actually thought the number of mobile orders would increase.
Competitive brands, Livers says, won’t let an economic downturn stand in the way of finding ways to either implement mobile ordering, or bolster their mobile ordering game. Whether that means developing first-party channels, implementing a loyalty program, or even finding different routing within a restaurant’s floor plan to improve speed of service and order accuracy—brands have to find a way to do it.
“My message now is the same as it was 30 years ago: brands have to evolve with the consumer,” Livers says. “They have to stay true to their core values in regard to the customer experience and make sure they are putting their best foot forward. People talk about how much has changed with technology—it sure has. But what hasn’t changed is the customer: who still wants great food, in a convenient manner. And I think that’s what this study showed most of all.”
To download the Intouch Insight Mobile Ordering Study, click here.