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Creating inspired experiences
Big questions remain as restaurants become bigger players in the digital world. How are consumers digitally interacting with brands? What challenges are customers facing with omnichannel restaurant orders? Has new tech enhanced the ordering process? Or is it more of an inconvenience and causing low customer satisfaction?
To get a better understanding of how restaurant customers feel about their digital ordering experiences, we gathered feedback from more than 15,000 consumers across the UK and US. Here we’ve laid out the top digital ordering trends we uncovered.
Not too long ago, most restaurant brands didn’t put a lot of effort into their omnichannel strategy. Digital ordering was dominating the retail world, but omnichannel restaurant ordering simply wasn’t in much demand—until the pandemic accelerated the need for off-premise ordering and forced restaurants to rethink their digital offerings.
Today, mobile apps have come a long way and are a huge presence in the restaurant industry, with 3 in 4 customers reporting using app ordering to place their digital orders. The popularity of mobile apps is much higher than other digital channels, with only half of consumers using tablets or kiosks for their digital orders and 1 in 3 consumers making orders via QR codes.
A previous SMG study showed similar trends in the rising adoption of mobile apps. In 2017, 62% of respondents reported they had zero restaurant apps installed on their mobile devices. In 2022, 83% of respondents said they have at least one QSR app—with 36% saying they have 5 or more.
But as a KPI, total number of downloads pales in comparison to actual usage metrics. Of the 83% of consumers who have at least one QSR app installed on their phones, more than one in three had not used a restaurant app to place an order in the past 30 days.
To evolve past being a novel touchpoint, QSR apps must provide a convenient, seamless, and satisfying customer experience. But too often, brands are falling short. Today’s consumers keep running into app-related issues—creating a barrier to convert downloaders into repeat users.
The restaurant executive’s guide to driving mobile app adoption
Though mobile apps are the most favored tech for digital orders, 1 in 4 users have experienced a problem with their order. The most common issue mentioned? Lack of customization/substitution abilities.
User issues only get worse when we look at other digital ordering channels. Kiosk/tablet orders and QR code orders each have a problem occurrence rate of about 40%, with “difficulty using tech” the most mentioned issue.
Brands that are able to iron out these issues and provide a more seamless digital experience will have the advantage. Our research shows mobile apps can actually be great for business and bring in incremental visits—in fact, when a customer doesn’t experience a problem from a mobile app, 25% are more likely to visit the restaurant more often.
When we compare that to kiosk or QR code users, we don’t see an uptick when their ordering is free of problems. But if there are issues, we see more serious impact—38% of QR code users and 36% of kiosk/table users say they plan to visit the restaurant less frequently after they experienced a problem with their ordering.
While digital ordering continues to increase across the restaurant industry, there is still a big part of the population that prefers human interaction. Not surprisingly, hesitance to use digital touchpoints increases with age, with data showing nearly 60% of customers over 55 preferring in-person ordering.
Other barriers to tech ordering that were mentioned: Didn’t want to download another app and using technology doesn’t make it easier. It’s also important to note here that though it’s the older customers who prefer in-person interactions, guests of all ages don’t believe digital food ordering channels are enhancing the ordering experience.
Not every restaurant brand should have the same digital transformation journey. And when it comes to implementing your omnichannel experience strategy, you have to understand your customers’ specific needs for changes to have a positive impact.
For instance, more than half of customers 55 and older said they would visit a restaurant less or not visit it at all if it moved to a fully digital ordering experience. And only 15% of customers of all ages said a fully digital ordering experience would make them visit that restaurant more.
As more brands make headlines with app-exclusive menu items + promotional campaigns, a longer term strategy focused on user experience and customer engagement metrics must be in place to ensure your digital ordering channels deliver ROI.
Brands that stand up active and passive feedback channels at this pivotal touchpoint will be better positioned to take a customer-centric approach to innovation. To learn how SMG’s in-app feedback capabilities help brands drive smarter engagements across the customer journey and increase adoption, reach out to one of our digital CX experts.
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