The modern dining culture is one that is increasingly mobile, often with customers ordering through third-party ordering platforms to get food delivered to their door.
While most users don’t overly care if they use Uber Eats, SkiptheDishes, DoorDash, or a first-party ordering platform… you very much should care.
The online food delivery industry is projected to be worth more than $30 billion by 2024. If you can promote first-party ordering from your users, instead of going through a middleman, then you stand to get a much bigger piece of that pie — and greatly increase your restaurant profits.
Now that the calendar has flipped to 2023, let’s look at why your New Year’s resolution should be moving people away from third-party apps — and onto your local ordering platform — and how exactly you can make that happen.
Benefits of using a first-party ordering platform
The biggest reason why you should be using your own online ordering platform is simple — you will make more money.
Most third-party apps charge in the neighbourhood of 25-30 per cent commission on every online order you receive. Now just imagine if you got one-third more money on each of those orders… that’s a lot of extra revenue on your bottom line.
Outside of the financial incentive to make the switch, using a first-party ordering platform also grants you:
- More control of your online menu presence: Make quicker menu adjustments, set your own promotions, be fully in charge of how your menu is seen online.
- More direct customer interactions: Customers have more clarity on who is responsible for their order and it also provides you a chance to engage with your users much more directly.
- More customer data and insights: Instead of that info going to a third party, you are the one who is seeing what people are ordering directly from you (and when).
Tips to optimize your first-party ordering platform
Making the decision to have your own platform is just the beginning. You also need to ensure that the experience for your customers matches — or exceeds — that of rival apps.
- Make it simple and convenient: Have a clearly labelled, easy-to-understand, and properly organized menu. Highlight your most popular items (or those that travel well for delivery) at the top. Have your app loading times, ordering processing time, and ability to checkout be as seamless as possible. The easier it is for guests to order, the more likely they will continue doing so.
- Personalized: Little touches go a long way! Highlighting their previous order(s) for a quick reorder, or providing suggestions (or promotions) based on their ordering habits will make them feel like a much more valued customer — and keep them coming back to your app.
- Consistency with other channels: Your app doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of your website (or in-store experience), but be consistent in the branding and tone your restaurant has established. You’re not trying to provide an entirely different experience; just another method of ordering the same product guests have already enjoyed.
- Connect with sister restaurants: Own multiple restaurants? Cross-promote! While ordering on the app from one restaurant, offer promotions from another venue under the brand — or even the option to add menu items from there in the current order.
Strategies to encourage users to switch to your first-party ordering platform
There are a number of different ways to let users know you have your own app — and to get them to make the switch from a third-party brand. Some involve what you do on your own app, while others involve what you don’t do on the other apps.
- Offer app-only specials: Whether it is exclusive promos, discount coupons, or special combos/menu items, having things on your app that can only be found on your app instantly creates a value prop for your users to switch to ordering directly from you.
- Limited menu on third-party apps: Conversely, reduce the items that users can order from you via a third-party app. Just make sure you do let them know that a bigger menu does exist on your platform…
- Social media campaigns: …by leveraging social media! Promote your new app and highlight the exclusive menu items. Showcase the items not on third-party apps (that are on your platform). Share user stories. Oh, and make sure you make it easy to download the app from your social media accounts.
- Print/email/SMS marketing: You can also go old-school, utilizing print marketing to highlight your new app, as well as email and SMS marketing to directly reach out with pre-existing customers.
- Leverage other ordering channels: Have some signage and QR code stickers in your physical restaurant space to encourage the app download and highlight the new app on your website (with a link to download) to also enlist already loyal customers to utilize your app.
Benefits of having a loyalty program
One of the biggest methods of converting (and keeping) users to your own app is by having a loyalty program tied into your app.
A survey from LoyaltyLion highlighted that about 74 per cent of shoppers said working towards a goal/reward makes them loyal to an app, while 79 per cent said accumulating points make them loyal.
Loyalty programs reward your currently established customer base and incentivize new users to become more frequent return customers through increased engagement, connectivity, and offers.
Loyalty programs allow you to better influence customer buying decisions, build easier-to-track customer purchase data, and improve your brand recognition and exposure.
They also act as an efficient marketing tool, both providing easy content for your personal marketing channels and customer word-of-mouth.
How to create and maintain a loyalty program
There are two main (but equally important) parts to having a loyalty program: Creating the right program and then keeping it running.
When creating a loyalty program, here are the biggest things your need to consider:
Define your goals
- What do you aim to achieve with this program?
- What customer demographic(s) are you targeting?
- Does it financially make sense within your budget?
- Will it meet a long-term business need (loyalty programs are not short-term implications)?
- Does it fit your brand identity?
Do you know what type of loyalty program your customers want?
- Accumulated points (to apply however they want)
- Tiered loyalty (ordering enough unlocks pre-determined rewards)
- Paid loyalty (subscription fee to unlock better rewards)
- Value-based loyalty (e.g. a portion of proceeds through that program go to charity)
- Coalition loyalty (ordering earns rewards through an affiliate/partnership)
- Gamified loyalty (daily/weekly/monthly ordering challenges used to unlock rewards)
Once you establish why you’re doing a loyalty program, who you’re doing it for, and how you’re doing it, you need to keep the program operational — and there are a number of ways to maintain your loyalty program.
- Promote it: Highlight what people can unlock through your loyalty program, and how easy it is to unlock items. Users are willing to work to earn rewards… but don’t set what immediately look like unattainable goals.
- Provide added value: Having items only available on your app is one thing, but go a step further with a loyalty program — exclusive rewards, themed promotions, program-specific discounts, there are plenty of ways to further entice your users to join a loyalty program.
- Incentivize referrals: Get your current loyalty program members to bring more members, with simple prizes or rewards for successful rewards.
This can quickly grow your membership base, while giving all the users reasons to return.
- Surprise and delight: Give your members something they didn’t expect! Add an extra side, or a dessert, or some little cost-efficient touch to your loyalty program orders.
Not only will the free item enhance their experience and make it more memorable, but by mixing up the surprise, you can expose users to something they may not have even ordered otherwise — and help them discover a new favorite!
- Stay consistent: This is critical, especially in the early stages of your program, as there will be some bumps in the road and things that do not work. When you identify something that isn’t working… tweaking it is totally fine but don’t overhaul the whole program/experience.
Doing this will confuse and frustrate your established users, and rather than entice them to stay… you could push them away entirely.
The financial benefits of having users order online directly from you (and not a third-party app) are massive, but it will require some hard work and dedication. However, as long as you keep the customer experience — consistency, exclusivity, and personalization — at the forefront of creating (and executing) your app, your users will come… and stay.