Restaurant App Best Practices

I probably don’t need to remind any business owner that having an app is important for their brand, but for anyone who hasn’t yet gotten with the program, here’s a recap: When customers have your business’s app on their phone, it’s akin to giving Commissioner Gordon the Bat-Signal.

When they need you, they can reach you — immediately.

Yes, you were thinking a telephone, a brick-and-mortar establishment, and email and social channels were enough. Well, no. The app can be vital, too. I admit our company came to the app game later than anticipated. But after a little over a year of seeing our app in action, I almost wonder how our brand thrived without our customer loyalty and ordering app.

When your business has an app, it makes it far easier for a consumer to order your products and services or check out your offerings on their phone. Not that using a search engine is an arduous task, but how often have you gone to search for something and gotten sidetracked by something else? Anything within reason that you can do to save time for your consumer can benefit your business.

With an app, you also have a mini advertisement on your customer’s smartphone. Think about it. Even if a consumer has 500 apps that they’re scrolling through, yours is one of them. They’re going to see your app even when they aren’t looking for it. And chances are good that when they are looking for the types of services or products you offer, they’re going to more easily remember you. Plus, once they download the app, you as a business owner may be able to capture information about them and can remarket to them via push notifications to inspire future purchasing decisions.

So, assuming we’re all in agreement — apps are a smart approach to maintaining customer loyalty — I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts on some strategies your business might want to employ to help generate a lot of downloads fast.

Because that’s the other thing about apps — they aren’t very effective if customers aren’t downloading and then using them. So, here we go: four strategies to get from zero to 100,000 (or at least more) downloads.

Make the app easy to navigate.

This one is a no-brainer. But, of course, finding a company to develop the easy-to-use app is another story. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies that develop apps, but fortunately, there are numerous lists of top app developers just a few keystrokes away in any search engine. Do some research, and look to see what other clients the companies have worked with, what awards they’ve won and if they specialize in working with whatever industry you are in. And regardless of who you pick to work with, I’d argue not to do it on the cheap. If you don’t have the money to do the app well, don’t do it. The app is representing your brand on the consumer’s phone. If it’s hard to navigate and customers experience frustrations when they try to order, you might as well take down the name of your sign outside your restaurant or store and put up one of your competitor’s names.

Reward customers for downloading your app.

You generally want a lot of downloads because the more customers have your app, the better your odds of creating loyal customers. Fortunately, people love free stuff, and most people probably don’t mind downloading an app. So, offer a reward for downloading the app. If you have a restaurant, maybe you give away a free soda or fries to anyone who downloads the app. If you have a clothing store, maybe you offer free socks. It doesn’t have to be much, but you should offer something of actual value that inspires action. Otherwise, your customers may roll their eyes at you — and possibly skip the download.

Offer an ongoing rewards program.

Assuming your app works well and people start downloading it, you still need to give your app’s users a reason to use it. “Isn’t my amazing product or service enough?” you might ask. Well, maybe, but, look: If you went to the Google Play store right now, you’d find about 2.46 million apps available to download, and almost 2 million (paywall) in the Apple App store. People, in general, have a lot of apps. That’s a lot of competition for your time and mindshare. You need to get people in the habit of using your app, and chances are that you have a competitor or two. So, yes, I recommend offering points or cashback or some sort of discount that people will receive from ordering products or services through your app.

Have a social component to your app.

This is important, too. For instance, you could reward your consumers when their friends and family members download the app. You might also want to have a component where your users can use your app to mention that they’ve visited your place of business on social media channels — which can help with word of mouth, which is arguably the most formidable type of advertising that exists. And, obviously, mention your app on your social media channels.

The bottom line here is that you want people to use your app fairly frequently so they keep your app in their phone. If you create an app that everybody downloads and nobody uses, why should they keep it? At some point, people are going to tire of the 500 apps they’ve collected and start trashing a few of them. Consider how many distractions we have in our lives and all the things vying for our time and attention. If you can get customers to look at your app and say, “No way am I getting rid of that,” that’s the biggest compliment of them all.