Mobile Ordering: A Difference Maker

LAS VEGAS -- Convenience store retailers looking for a new way to differentiate themselves from the competition may want to look at adding a mobile ordering option, Noah Glass, founder of Olo, said during the “Right at Your Thumbtip: Mobile Ordering” educational session Wednesday at the 2014 NACS Show.

With the rise of smartphones and the spending power of Millennials, mobile ordering that allows customers to order ahead via smartphones or the Internet and have their orders ready when they arrive at the c-store will become more and more important.

“Mobile ordering makes customers feel like VIPs,” said Glass, who founded mobile ordering technology provider Olo in 2005. “They can skip lines and even save their favorite items to make future purchases easier.”

Olo generally works with retail chains of 10 stores or more. According to Glass, c-store operators can especially benefit from mobile ordering because they can offer to deliver foodservice or other in-store merchandise items to customers at either a curbside parking lot or at the pump.

“For example, you can offer a three-minute guarantee whereby customers get a free doughnut if their order isn’t delivered to them in three minutes of arriving at the pump,” relayed Glass. “That’s a way for c-store retailers to really set themselves apart from other competitors.”

One retailer implementing mobile ordering is Giant Eagle Inc. The Pittsburgh-based company is testing the service at its 50,000-square-foot Market District Express location.

“Mobile ordering has done really well at Market Express, said Rugwed Phatak, Giant Eagle’s marketing manager. “The average order [through mobile ordering] is 35 percent higher than when customers come into the store.”

In fact, Giant Eagle plans to begin rolling out the technology to its 190 GetGo convenience stores in the summer, Phatak said. The retailer will utilize some of its learnings from the Market District Express store test.

“We learned that mobile ordering needs to be clean and easy for the customer,” he stated. “Also, the mobile app must be implemented into the restaurant management system.”

C-store retailers planning to implement mobile ordering need to heed some caution, however, Phatak advised. The Giant Eagle executive pointed out that mobile ordering will cost retailers approximately $100 per location and c-store operators can’t expect an immediate return on investment.

“You need to build up this aspect of the business,” he said. “But it’s definitely achievable.”

Looking ahead, demand for order-ahead technology will only grow, concluded Glass.

“We are living in extraordinary times,” he said. “The transition to mobile ordering could be a bigger transition than what we saw with drive-thrus.”

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