The following is a guest post from Ben Jabbawy, CEO of Privy.
We suggested restaurants should strongly consider developing their own custom app for smartphones. In some cases, it makes sense. But slow down, Tiger. Let’s hear Ben out, first.
Short answer: no.
But let’s break this down.
Consumers are absolutely using mobile phones when landing on your restaurant website. That’s a fact. According to a post by Mashable, 17.4% of global web traffic is now coming from mobile devices. That number is up from 11% in 2012, and there’s no doubt mobile adoption will continue to increase.
We see this across our client base, which is comprised mostly of restaurants, where mobile traffic is significantly higher. We found that on average 51% of all restaurant website visitors come in through mobile. That’s pretty incredible.
The challenge however, is that the mobile traffic is diversified across different mobile platforms. We took a sample of 200,000 website page views of our restaurant websites and found the following:
What does this mean? First and foremost, the distribution of web to mobile traffic means you absolutely need a mobile friendly version of your website.
These numbers are causing lots of buzz in the restaurant industry, leading restaurant owners and marketers to feel pressure to invest in a mobile app for their restaurant. Before rushing into an expensive decision like this, it’s crucial that you understand your marketing goals and understand how consumers use their phones so you can make the best decision.
First, let’s look at a few different mobile interaction use cases. Many people use their mobile device to search for and discover nearby restaurants, get directions to a restaurant, make a reservation, or perhaps order online.
Huge businesses have been established to be the destination for consumers to find restaurants, including discovery apps like Yelp, Foursquare, OpenTable and Google. Many of these services eventually push a consumer on their phone to a restaurant’s website.
But does it really mean you need to build a mobile app?
If so, which platform would you build the app for?
If you build it for iPhone, that would mean you’re alienating over 50% of your audience. And building an iPhone app is different than building an iPad app, and same goes for Android. Investing in a mobile app is specific to device and operating systems.
You’re essentially investing in multiple platforms, which can be expensive and time consuming, or you risk alienating large percentages of your customer base. And then there’s the issues of device fragmentation amongst Android, app store release schedules, and distribution itself.
Depending on what sort of restaurant you operate, it may not make financial sense to invest in apps for each platform, or to properly market the apps. Even if you do have the resources, your first initiative should be to establish your goals as a marketer. Then decide the most cost-effective way to engage consumers on their phones to yield your desired outcome.
If getting people to find and visit your restaurant is your goal, then building a mobile version of your website is the most cost-effective way to success.