Smartphones have become our most valuable allies in everyday life. Some people keep calling them «mobile phones», but the truth is, they are much more than that. We use them to talk but also for instant messages, to access our email, browse the internet, play games, listen to music, watch videos, take photographs, find our way around, etc. The possibilities are literally infinite and they are really only limited by the imagination of those developing applications for our smartphones.
Being aware of the potential of smartphones as marketing tools, the majority of business leaders and marketing directors think of them as an extremely effective medium to reach their clients. More and more companies are present not only on the internet with a more or less elaborated webpage, they are also showing up in the applications stores of Apple, Google or Microsoft with apps designed to present their products to the owners of smartphones and tablet computers. And there is no business sector making an exception to this tendency. And of course, gastronomy does not either.
The figures speak for themselves
During the last three years, users of devices running iOS or Android downloaded close to twenty thousand million apps, according to the figures provided by Apple and Google. In addition to that, a report published by Gartner reveals that, for the first time ever, in the second quarter of this year more smartphones than regular mobile phones were sold worldwide. In the year from the second quarter of 2012 and the same quarter of 2013 no less 225 million smartphones entered the marketplace according to this consulting firm, while the figure for regular mobile phones reached only abut 210 million items, which represents a decline of 21% for this market. The merit of these figures becomes even greater, if we take into account that smartphones are significantly more expensive than traditional mobile phones.
These figures demonstrate the good health of the smartphone market more than clearly. But for now, let us focus on the importance that the means of social promotion through the internet have for companies from the gastronomy sector. A study by the US american magazine Hospitality Technology reveals that 89% of the restaurants on the planet in 2013 is promoting itself in some way or another on the Internet, While only 47% continues to rely on traditional loyalty programs as well. This same survey also claims that 34% are using QR codes and 27% uses marketing techniques which include the global positioning function integrated in our smartphones.
We could continue to expand on more figures, but, in any case, the conclusion we would end up with, would undoubtedly be: Consumers love smartphones. The market for these devices does not stop growing, we are enhancing their features with more and more apps and we trust them with an increasing number of daily tasks. And sticking with the subject that concerns us, the figures show that gastronomy professionals are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of these devices to reach a more and more demanding audience of clients. But this is only one of the reasons why every restaurant that wants to be competitive needs a tailor-made app.
A website is not Enough anymore: You Need an App
Web-browsing with a smartphone can be a fun experience, but also quite tedious and even exasperating, if we have to deal with web pages that are not prepared to be viewed on these devices. If in addition to that they include contents in flash format, many users take to the hills in the face of the problems mobile web-browsers have reproducing them. One possible solution is adapting the webpage of your restaurant in such a way that it can be displayed correctly on a smartphone or tablet screen. But without a doubt, having your own app is a much more interesting option. In fact, this is the choice many food franchises in Spain have made. Like, for example, McDonald’s (iOS and android), Foster’s Hollywood (iOS and android) or Rodilla (iOS and android), among many others.
The loyalty effect of apps can absolutely be compared to that of a club card, especially if it includes some possibility to obtain discounts or other incentives through the accumulation of loyalty points. And moreover, these applications establish a way for the restaurant to communicate directly with its clients, whom it may inform about promotional offers, discounts, special events, etc., in a much more effective way than through traditional advertising.
But that is not all. Clients can use the app installed on their smartphone to reserve a table in a very practical and easy manner, or they can look up the restaurant’s location if they need to. We have to keep in mind that those clients with the app installed on their smartphone are not a possible clients: They are «actual» clients, who explicitly decided to install this tool on their mobile devices, because they are interested in receiving whatever the restaurant might want to send them, and of course because they are planning to visit again sometime.
A well designed app should also make it easy to create links to the clients’ social networks. So that a satisfied customer might use Twitter, Facebook or any other social network to share a recommendation or positive review, which is obviously a very efficient way to attract new clients. And we still have left to mention the very attractive option offered by smartphone technology which can be integrated into an app without difficulty: Global positioning through GPS.
The majority of smartphones currently on the market come with a GPS module, which is normally used by navigation apps, but the app of a restaurant can use it as well in order to determine when a possible client is geographically close to the restaurant. If this is the case, it is possible to send him an invitation or a promotional notification which he might not be able to refuse. After all, he may be just around the corner from the restaurant. However, all the advantages we have described will only work, if we give our application the necessary visibility for our clients to install it on their smartphone. And to achieve this, promoting it inside and outside the restaurant and of course the «word of mouth» will be very important to help draw attention to the restaurant’s app.