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How to stay out of the download-and-delete graveyard

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

(Photo: Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography)

“Now, it’s loading the menu and pricing for this location.”

My guide was walking me through a top QSR brand’s soon-to-be-released iPhone ordering application. Meanwhile, the clock ticked as an animated pinwheel churned away for an eternity (ok, it was just a few seconds — but an eternity in mobile time).

I waited but it is much more likely that a customer would lose patience, bail out and decide to eat somewhere else right about the moment the guide said, “now.”

Here’s the simple fact as we approach the end of 2014: Customers want to order and engage with your brand through an app on their smartphones. At the same time, they’re increasingly selective about what mobile apps they keep on their devices. Only highly controlled experiences that are intuitive, fast, and provide true convenience stand a chance.

Brands can no longer compromise between a beautifully designed interface, smart user flow, and snappy performance – they are all essential to keep customers repeatedly using an app and recommending it to others. Compromise on any of them and you’ll see lots of one-time use and abandonment. In other words: The Download and Delete.

As prominent Venture Capitalist, Chris Dixon smartly points out, “Popular apps get home screen placement, get used more, get ranked higher in app stores, make more money…” Combine this with the more and more people using their phones to order from the restaurants they love (74% of customers aged 18-34 order takeout or delivery from smartphones/tablets, according to this GE study) and it should be clear that the stakes are high for restaurants to get it right.

Our company has come to understand the essential ingredients for successful restaurant apps that get downloaded by millions and used repeatedly. Here’s a rundown of five key things all brands should be thinking about while planning their mobile future:

Android? iOS?

Although some days it is hard to believe, Google’s Android is growing much faster than Apple, especially among the socioeconomic profile most likely to be regular customers at limited service restaurants – 86% of smartphone users with household incomes of $75,000 or less say their phone is Android-powered. But remember, Android operates on a wide variety of hardware, including many devices with less powerful processors and memory.

Bottom line: Don’t settle for an “iPhone First” development strategy and make sure to design an app that performs well on all the devices your customers carry.

Native vs. Wrapped

This one’s a little geeky, but equally important to understand. Some mobile applications are just menu frameworks that present HTML mobile web pages to complete complex tasks such as ordering, loyalty presentation, store locators, etc. These “wrapped” apps eschew the native programming languages that ensure a great user experience.

Bottom line: Understand the tools and techniques used to develop high-performance enterprise grade apps, and use them.

Identity & Design

Mobile apps should capture your brand’s design language and identity used throughout your stores, advertising, and other digital channels. But, be aware, a great adaptation to mobile means transforming your design elements in a way that doesn’t harm the user experience.

Bottom line: Work with partners who have extensive mobile design and development experience.

Intuitive User Experience

Did you know that requiring a user to register too early in the journey with a mobile app can increase abandonment by up to 50%? That’s just one example of a “feature” that kills convenience and usability. When designing an app, put things where they belong and avoid extras.

Bottom line: In mobile, it’s the little things that often matter most. Choose partners that have a data-driven understanding of what goes where, and why.

Fast, Fluid & Stable

Graphical transitions tax processors, lush graphics and images slow loading times, and unproven technologies cause crashes. Don’t get too cute with bling that will only work on the latest phones — the same phones only a small percentage of your customers have.

Bottom line: Partner with companies that have proven apps running at scale on both Android and iOS.

I talk to dozens of brands each month – many of whom are re-approaching an existing program with battle scars from a first attempt. Brands that take advantage of lessons learned can move a big digital investment from headache-riddled coin toss to a fast, reliable, and beautiful digital extension of its dining room.

Marty Hahnfeld is vice president of sales and marketing of online and mobile ordering pioneer Olo. Since 2005, Olo has raised $13.75M from PayPal and leading venture capital firms. Olo has been featured on Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC World News.

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