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Food and Mobile: Delivery and Beyond in 2019

Lexi Sydow

A range of restaurant and food delivery apps are fighting for customer’s attention and loyalty in new, innovative ways on mobile.

If you’re one of the 110 million Americans tuning into the Super Bowl this Sunday, you’re not just going to be watching football. You’re going to be eating. After all, Super Bowl watch parties help contribute to the fact that this is the day when more than 1 billion chicken wings, 4 million pizzas, and over 11 million pounds of potato chips are consumed in the US alone. Whether going out for the game or ordering in, Super Bowl Sunday is a huge day for restaurants and food delivery apps.

When it comes to mobile, 2018 was a similarly big year for the food industry. More than ever, consumers are using their smartphones for delivery, while companies are expanding their mobile marketing efforts to drive traffic both online and in physical locations. In our State of Mobile Report, we found that consumers sourced food and drinks through mobile 130% more in 2018 than in 2016. Global downloads of the top 5 food delivery apps grew 115% over that same time period.

For more insights on mobile's role in restaurant and food delivery in 2019, download our latest report: 

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When it comes to downloads of top delivery apps, such as Grubhub, Uber Eats, Zomato, Postmates, DoorDash, the highest growth we saw was in emerging markets. India, for example, experienced a remarkable 900% increase in food delivery app downloads in 2018 compared to 2016.

As we discussed in our last post, these new users in emerging markets are in the experimentation phase and therefore downloading many apps to see what they prefer. Engagement is key to more established markets — which nevertheless saw steady growth in food delivery app downloads, up 255% in Canada and 175% in the US over that same time period.

Engagement is vital for markets in the ubiquity phase of app usage — marked by mature mobile markets. Beyond the delivery apps, many of the traditional Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) like McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, Chick-fil-A are taking note and getting creative with their marketing efforts on mobile in order to enhance engagement and make their apps stickier.

Many of these old guard chains are leveraging the power of loyalty programs to gamify and incentivize purchases for consumers — similar to frequent flyer programs. The difference is that most individuals do not purchase a flight every day or even every week; many consumers will buy a meal on a daily basis. That makes these mobile loyalty programs extremely powerful: mobile enables QSR restaurants to push promotions via alerts, text messages and even promotional text on the App Store page, often targeting specific demographic groups or geographic regions. McDonald’s UK shrewdly invested in World Cup 2018 promotions coupled with their McDelivery launch — fulfilled by Uber Eats — as an avenue to reach new consumers and drive adoption. The effort worked: the app ranked 10 spots higher in smartphone monthly active users in July 2018 compared to July 2017. Burger King meanwhile put McDonald’s directly in its crosshairs with a December promotion offering one cent Whopper burgers to those who downloaded its app within 600 feet of a physical McDonald’s restaurant. The result: Burger King hit #1 for daily iPhone downloads for food and drink apps in the US in December for 9 consecutive days.

Burger King has also already teased a different promotion in 2019: they’ve partnered with food delivery app DoorDash to let consumers order a “Mystery Box” ahead of the Super Bowl, which provides “instructions” tied to their 45 second television spot that day. While we have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday 2019 to find out, one thing that is far less mysterious is the outlook for mobile and food in 2019. Whether it's mystery boxes or one cent burgers, you can expect more mobile innovation from both food delivery apps and established QSR players in the year ahead.

For more insights on the restaurant industry, download our State of Mobile 2019: Restaurant & Food Delivery Report:

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