3 Insights Into Mobile-Ordering Trends

Jackson Lewis, Associate Editor

Mobile app

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- More consumers are using online tools to order food, according to The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based global information company.

As more convenience-store chains launch mobile ordering apps, there is opportunity within the industry to take advantage of this changing trend in consumer behavior, and if c-stores don’t move to provide digital solutions for these customers, restaurants will.

“Digital ordering is now really all about the mobile app,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using mobile apps; if restaurants or foodservice operators don’t have a mobile app, consumers may very well choose a restaurant that does.”

Here are three insights on how consumers are using mobile ordering apps and where c-stores fit in …

If you build it, they will eat

Mobile app

Instances of consumers using mobile apps, text messages and the internet to order food from foodservice outlets rose by 18% last year, according to NPD.

This means digital ordering accounted for 1.9 billion U.S. foodservice visits last year. NPD also reported that while most online orders are still placed on websites, mobile app orders are “growing more strongly.”

If this trend continues, consumers will eventually place more online orders through their phones than their computers, potentially presenting c-stores with an opportunity for more on-the-go customers. What’s to stop a working parent from placing an order on his or her phone for a hot meal from a c-store and picking it up on the way home from work?

The kids are all right

Children's party

NPD reportes that 35% of total digital orders involve parties with kids. The report also says that consumers younger than 35 and those with higher household incomes both order food through digital means more on average than other groups.

Based on this data, c-stores are uniquely positioned to cater to hungry millennials looking for a snack before they start binge-watching their next Netflix show, or parents who are about to host fifteen 10-year-olds for their son’s birthday party and realize they have no candy.

Let’s make a deal

Mobile coupon

NPD also found that deals and promotions commonly play a role in digital ordering. Twenty-nine percent of all digital orders last year used a coupon, according to NPD. Other top deals included discounted prices, daily specials and combined special items. The company also reported that 50% of digital orders are placed at dinnertime.

One bad experience on any ordering platform can turn off fickle consumers from the practice entirely. Offering a coupon for a customer’s first mobile food purchase may ease the transition from placing orders in person to placing them through a device. It might even persuade them to order from a c-store instead of a restaurant.