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An app-etite for profits

From the December 2013 issue.

North American coffee retailers are proving that the modern way to a customer’s heart is through their smartphone.

AppsAs global internet usage rates shift towards access by smartphones and tablets, marketers are finding unique ways to get their brands into consumers’ pockets.

They’d be silly not to. Smartphones and tablets have driven a doubling of time spent with digital media over the past three years in the United States, according to a recent comScore report.

As a result, digital retail content usage has also seen impressive growth rates. US retail site usage by smartphone has increased 385 per cent in the past three years alone.

The coffee industry appears to be taking notice. Anyone who does a quick search on their smartphone will find hundreds of apps that aim to enhance the coffee lover’s experience.

Some provide practical solutions, such as allowing a consumer to record group orders for a coffee run. Others focus on a more educational experience, like teaching how to brew a perfect cup in a French press.

And then there are those that offer more of a novelty experience. A café kiosk in Taiwan embraces the art of the selfie by allowing a user to take a picture of themselves with a smartphone and turn it into coffee art. Yes, really.

Whether useful or absurd, some of the leading coffee retailers are realising the potential of apps to enhance a customer’s experience and drive them in-store.

A new era for fast food

With some of the world’s largest coffee retailers investing serious dollars into mobile applications (see breakout box, right) that help consumers get their caffeine fix faster and easier, some experts believe the future of fast food is about to undergo a big change.

Evan Sornstein is a principle designer at Fuseproject, a company that is helping Briggo redesign its barista Robotic Coffee Haus and mobile experience, which allows consumers to order coffee and pay online. Not only does he think Briggo’s app will catch on in a big way, he believes it will change the way people think about ordering food.

“It will change people’s expectations on ordering,” Sornstein tells Global Coffee Review. “We’ve gotten used to ordering food by phone… and in other aspects in our lives. Once the Briggo is running, I think there will be a lot of competition in that space for any type of food. We’re depending on our phone for so many things. It just seems like a natural extension.”

Sornstein suspects other companies who use computer technology to make their coffee, such as Starbucks, will eventually be able to replicate the ability to order drinks remotely. 

With mobile technology becoming such a daily part of consumers’ lives, he believes it is crucial for businesses to have a mobile strategy.

“At one time, it was something that was cool for businesses to do,” he says. “But looking at the data of how many people use mobile devices for everything in their life… the Internet of Things and all these elements are becoming so ubiquitous. To not do it would hinder your brand experience as a company and also the point of entry.”

Digital marketing evangelist and Market Motive co-founder Avinash Kaushik, is certainly an animated mobile enthusiast. An industry-recognised thought leader who speaks professionally on the subject, Kaushik says businesses need to focus on mobile marketing to stay competitive, as smartphones and tablets increasingly become the access point for internet use.

Avinash Kaushik“Mobile presents a unique opportunity to shift from interruption to becoming a persistent part of someone’s life,” wrote Kaushik in a blog post entitled Mobile Marketing 2015: Rethink Customer Acquisition, Intent Targeting.
While several companies have existing apps that provide helpful features, he advises companies who want forward-thinking mobile solutions to embrace the concept of utility marketing.

“In normal marketing, we do research, bidding, guessing and demographic, psychographic, and behaviour targeting and so much more just to guess when to interrupt people with a message about our brand,” he wrote in the blog post. “Utility marketing is about delivering such incredible value that you simply become part of your audience’s life.”

Kaushik uses Skullcandy as an example of a company getting it right. While its product line consists primarily of headphones and accessories, Kaushik, an avid surfer, found the app while searching for wave reports on his smartphone.

While it may not lead to direct sales, the company app offers a useful service that gives its target audience a reason to interact with the brand on a regular basis.
Kaushik predicts utility marketing is the wave of the future, and advises companies to adopt the tactic in order to “future-proof their marketing strategy”.

“Strictly speaking the ability to order (or pre-order) coffee is good but it is not utility marketing,” he tells Global Coffee Review. “It is just enabling ecommerce more efficiently. That is important, but not sufficient in a mobile world.”

Kaushik says that these apps could provide even more value to their customers.

“Utility would be… if their app provides the ability to connect with like-minded peer coffee lovers and set up parties or coffee binges. The utility is creating community. If their app allows the users to micro-finance small coffee growers in the Andes so that they can have a better life, the utility is making it easier for coffee lovers to do good in the world.

“If their app keeps track of my coffee consumption and automatically computes how much I have to run to burn off the calories, or it prevents me from ordering coffee after 6 pm because I won’t be able to sleep, the utility is my wellbeing,” he says. “It’s not just about making money, though that is great as well. It is about making a deep connection with the brand by delivering utility that you can’t get through any other device on the planet.”

And according to Kaushik, the technology is pretty cheap. He points out that developing an app costs a fraction of producing a television commercial.

Done right, “it delivers a hyper-relevant audience you never have to “rent” again via TV or magazines or Google, because you’ve invested in building a relationship with them and created a meaningful long-term connection,” he says.

“And you’ll never have to remember to interrupt them, because you’ll be part of their life already.” 

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