Restaurant patrons are turning to their mobile phones much more to search for their next place to eat, and their usage patterns for mobile Web browsers or apps on smartphones and tablets all differ to the point that foodservice brands need separate strategies to accommodate everyone, a new report has found.
According to the “Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study,” conducted by mobile network xAd and mobile researcher Telmetrics and based on data from Nielsen, mobile searches for restaurants convert to food orders 90 percent of the time, which is higher than conversion rates for searches relating to travel or car purchases.
People searching for restaurant information on mobile phones or tablets also exhibit a greater sense of urgency, the study found. While 90 percent of those users look to convert their search into a restaurant visit by the end of the day, 64 percent of smartphone users do so immediately or within an hour of searching. Forty-four percent of tablet searchers visit a restaurant immediately or within an hour.
Different devices, different strategies
The differences in purchasing behavior resulting from tablet and smartphone apps result from the way people tend to use each device, said Monica Ho, chief marketing officer for xAd. Smart phones perform the restaurant searches when users are on the go, while tablets serve the same end mostly when users are at home, where connectivity to the Internet is most optimal for tablets, she said.
“Although both smart phones and tablets are mobile devices, the tablet’s size and sometimes lack of data connectivity prohibits it from being the portable, always-on device like smartphones,” Ho said. “As a result, marketers need to consider separate smartphone and tablet strategies when looking to reach the highly engaged and ready-to-buy restaurant user, as consumer needs and immediacy of intent vastly change by device.”
While more chains are finding their way with smartphone apps, early adopters of the technology, particularly the nation’s largest pizza chains, already are formulating tablet apps that take advantage of different functionality than their smart-versions.
After being first to market with an iPhone app in 2009, Pizza Hut followed that up with an iPad app in May 2011. While the tablet version contained all the same ordering functions, it also had a more interactive component of being able to “finger paint” with an animated pizza by stretching, pinching and swiping the screen as toppings were added to a pizza order.
Similarly, Domino’s Pizza’s tablet app, introduced in November 2011 five months after its smartphone app rolled out, had exclusive entertainment elements that would not suit a user on the go or driving. The “Pizza Hero” game contained within the tablet version let players simulate the experience of making a Domino’s pizza from the dough stretching at the start to cutting the pizza in the box at the end.
“We couldn’t do just another ordering app,” chief marketing officer Russell Weiner said of Pizza Hero during Domino’s investor day conference this past January. “It needed to take advantage of interactivity available on an iPad, and we think this really does.”
Telmetrics and xAd’s study confirmed these different tendencies of tablet and smartphone users. According to the report, the three most-performed functions when users searched for restaurant information on smart phones were calling a restaurant, looking up directions and finding the nearest location. Tablet searchers used their apps most often to look at restaurants’ ratings and reviews, find online coupons and promotions, or research menus.
Dialing up traffic
The smartphone searches for restaurants showed users’ greatest needs for immediate results, both in terms of time and vicinity, the report found, as 65 percent of searchers are looking for restaurants within walking or short driving distances. Overall, seven out of 10 users were looking for business locations, with 66 percent also asking for directions and 51 percent looking up the restaurant’s phone number.
Smartphones can supply restaurant information either through a mobile browser or through an app, and the way guests use those two methods influences their behavior, the study found. While mobile websites accessed via browser get a higher share of the traffic — 12 percent of all unique visits, compared with 8 percent of visits driven by apps — the apps tend get more engagement. Nearly three-quarters of all the time spent researching restaurants on smart phones happens on an app, the study found, with users logging on to an app for an average of 14 minutes per month, compared with an average of 5 minutes and 16 seconds on mobile browsers.
The most popular apps for researching restaurants are local-review aggregators like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Zagat, the report found. Many restaurants report using these local-directory apps, as well as other mobile-wallet apps that combine mobile payments and loyalty programs.
When using either apps or a mobile browser, 60 percent of restaurant guests begin their search without a specific location or brand in mind, the report said.
Telmetrics and xAd developed the report from a June 2012 survey by Nielsen of 1,500 smartphone or tablet users and also incorporated an earlier Nielsen report, the Smartphone Analytics Panel, which surveyed 3,000 iPhone users and 3,000 Android users.