It’s understandable, especially for a small business, to waver on whether or not an app is worth the investment. Coding an app is a specialised skill, one that costs money to outsource if you don’t possess it yourself.
The high cost of developing and testing an app has succeeded in keeping businesses with smaller budgets out of the mobile world’s many app stores. That’s changed in the last couple of years, though. If you don’t have the money to hire a programmer, no problem: There’s an app for that. Several of them, actually.
There’s also the misconception that apps are only useful for the kinds of places that appeal to Millennials. In truth, the demographic is much wider than that. If you’re based in Australia, that’s really the only reason you need.
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Mobile Consumer Survey, 88 per cent of Australians own a smartphone – and the most growth has occurred among 55–75 year olds.
Across all age groups, the survey shows that once a person has a smartphone it becomes an integral part of their day: 21 million smartphone-owning Aussies check their phones a collective 560 million times a day.
And when those people are looking to make a purchase? They’re either using their phones to research a product or service, or using a branded app to help them find what they’re looking for.
Chances are, your customers (especially your regulars who already know and love you) are going to be receptive to an app, if you given them enough reason to download and use yours. Once you know the benefits better, you probably will be, too.
Online ordering and delivery
Having your own app should be considered an exercise in marketing, not one of sales. Still, online ordering is a huge reason to launch one. The sector – takeaway or delivery – shows huge growth in Australia, with no signs of slowing.
Statista predicts a total of $1.64 billion in revenue for 2018, and 17.2 per cent annual growth over the next five years.
These numbers don’t include the revenue generated by third party delivery service, like Deliveroo.
There’s a reason for this: customers like ordering this way. They can scroll through an app, understand exactly what their options are, make customisations and be confident that nothing gets lost in translation.
Mobile ordering is also beneficial for businesses. According to online ordering service Hey You, one in four Australians buy with their mobile monthly and spend up to 30 per cent more when purchasing through their phone.
There are other benefits for hospitality businesses to sign up with a service like Uber Eats for delivery, but you’d be paying a fee, either on a subscription basis or with every sale (Uber Eats takes 35 per cent of every order through its app) .
With your own branded app, you don’t just get 100 per cent of the revenue for your online orders – you also get the chance to grow your business by being able to market to your app users directly, and in a more personalised way.
Personalised, direct marketing
When someone orders online through your app for the first time, they’ll want to create an account so they can go through the process much quicker the next time.
Once they’ve created a profile, you’ll start building a record of all their orders – what they like, when they’re likely to eat with you, and how much they generally spend, to name a few.
As theirs and other customer profiles grow, you’ll be able to segment them into distinct audiences and create targeted promotions aimed precisely at their tastes and habits.
If they’ve opted in to receive push notifications from you, all the better. They can be incredibly effective: 90 per cent of push notifications are read within three minutes of delivery. The ability to send people personalised offers on the same device they can order from shouldn’t be overlooked.
Even better, you can use this personalisation to create customers so loyal they don’t need an incentive for a visit.
Generic, one-size-fits-all loyalty programs had their merits in the past, but only because we didn’t have the technology we do today, when it’s possible for even your point of sale software to include a customer loyalty feature.
Meanwhile, brand loyalty agency Bond reports that 57 per cent of consumers who participate in loyalty programs say they want to be able to engage with it through an app.
By integrating a loyalty feature into your app, customers have the chance to do more than earn a free coffee for every 10 they buy.
Because it’s all tied into the same app that manages their profile and purchase history, you can again use this information to craft personalised rewards through the program.
This is different than just sending personalised offers – it’s a way to show that loyalty works both ways. That’s what people are expecting today.
Just like with online ordering, this is a feature your customers want and will make it more likely to get them to download and use your app. Guzman and Gomez for example, found out just how appealing loyalty is to their customers after the release of their app.
The promise of a loyalty program – and a free burrito if you signed up – caused their app to trend higher than Pokemon Go as the influx of traffic crashed their servers.
Get customer feedback
Hospitality review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor can be very beneficial to businesses, but the fact that they are open for public contribution don’t always work out well for businesses.
Sometimes people are angry and they need to vent, despite your best efforts to drive positive reviews by offering a great customer experience. An app can act as a first line of defense against potential rants by dissatisfied customers.
Solicit feedback from your customers directly in the app after their purchases or meals. Customers with a good response can be referred to your Yelp or TripAdvisor pages to leave a review if they want, while those who’ve indicated that they haven’t had a great experience can be asked to leave more details about what went wrong.
There are two main benefits to this: you find out your weak spots and improve on them, and you’ve gotten them to complain in private rather than on a public platform.
Having taken the interaction offline, you’re then free to address the situation in the way people used to before social media: away from public eyes.
A multi-channel approach to hospitality
Online ordering and loyalty aren’t exactly new fads for which there’s growing interest. Today, they’re established methods of doing – and growing – your business.
Smartphone reliance is no longer isolated to one generation, and there’s no one demographic that’s more likely to use an app over another.
In much the same way, having a branded app used to be exclusive to larger businesses with deep budgets. With the proliferation of low-cost DIY app builders (such as AppInstitute and Mojo Bistro), the playing field has been leveled for smaller hospitality businesses to engage with customers on multiple channels, and it’s become easier than ever to connect with, attract and keep your customers coming back.