The Wall Street Journal got it right in its recent look at the growing importance of mobile apps in foodservice headlined The Future Is Everything in About an Hour.
And the pandemic didn’t help any.
Convenience store shoppers have always wanted things fast, and when you add to that the desire to avoid in-person contact fostered by Covid-19 the growing need for mobile ordering becomes obvious.
Indeed, consumers have come to expect the convenience of mobile access in many facets of their lives. This is especially alluring to Millennials and Gen Z-ers, who were weaned on new technology and are disproportionately represented among users of mobile payments.
Mobile ordering allows consumers to avoid many of the things that prevent them from walking into a convenience store to begin with, from laziness and too little time to restless kids in the backseat. Allowing them to pre-order and prepay for food and beverages, especially if they can be brought out to their car, can render the c-store dining decision a no-brainer.
The apps can be directly linked to the store’s POS system, which means the menu customers are looking at on their phones comes straight from the recorded inventory, for greater accuracy. Employees, freed from order taking, can focus more on servicing in-store customers and getting to-go orders ready for pickup.
Mobile ordering also allows for discounts and personalized offers, which 70% of respondents to a recent survey said they value and actually look for. A custom mobile app can present offers and track loyalty program members. Retailers can also market brand-specific items such as specialty food and drink offerings. Many of the apps can be updated easily when items are not available or come with a limit.
A money-saving side-benefit: mobile ordering can eliminate the need for costly pump upgrades to accommodate contactless payment.
Of course, employing mobile apps means c-stores need to make some decisions. How will such orders affect impulse sales? Will they need to set aside a designated pickup location inside the store? Will items like cigarettes and alcohol – each of which requires age verification – also be made available? If so, a reminder to customers to bring ID for pick-up will be helpful.