2011 June: Going Mobile

The U.S. has gone mobile. To be specific, wireless penetration in the U.S. reached 93 percent in 2010, according to the International Association of Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CTAI). Those are some serious numbers.
And, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) reports that nearly 30 percent of those users are sporting smart phones. The fancy little gadgets like iPhones, Droids and BlackBerrys are powerful computers in the palms of American consumers, capable of surfing the Web anytime, almost anywhere.

Some of the best examples of mobile strategies can be found in the pizza industry. Many major pizza chains are fully mobile with a mobile Web site, an app for each type of phone and the ability to order pizza right from a handset. But what about independent owners? What’s feasible for them? Many owners may ask: can people just visit my traditional Web site on their cell phones or iPads? The answer is yes. “So many owners love their desktop sites,” says Chad Middleton, CEO of Outerwoven, a digital media agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. “They are passionate about them. But, if it’s not mobile-friendly, ultimately you are hurting the experience for the user. “Sometimes the desktop site has so much information, images and plug-ins that it takes too long for it to load on the phone.”

While customers may be able to pull up your site on their phones, there are several items that just may not be compatible. For instance, if visitors have to download a PDF menu, many mobile web users can’t view PDFs properly. The same is true for Flash, a popular platform in the restaurant industry that allows you to add animations, video and interactivity to a Web page. It’s great for desktops, but for now, people on BlackBerrys and iPhones can’t load Flash sites. They just see a blank screen.

The limitations of viewing traditional sites on phones have many businesses flocking to the mobile Web market. Clayton Krueger, director of marketing and communications at Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza, got excited about mobile a few years ago after sitting in on demonstrations at Pizza Expo. “For us, we understand that, with technology the way it is, people are making their dining decisions on the fly,” he says.

Krueger sought advice from his friend and web designer for Farrelli’s: “He said, ‘you don’t need an app. All you really want to do is convey some information. So we can just trim down your Web site with those basic elements that you want to get across and put it in this mobile format that can reach everyone’s mobile phone.’”

From a marketing standpoint, North American managing director of MMA Michael Becker says making the decision to go the app or mobile Web route boils down to demographic. “If they are two miles down from a college or university, that iPhone app may be appropriate because the majority of their customer base may be highly penetrated smart phone users,” he says. And he would be correct. The leading news source for college faculty members and administrators, The Chronicle of Higher Education, reports that of the 99.9 percent of college students who have cellular phones, 50 percent of those have smart phones.

On the flipside, Becker contends, apps may not be the right move for a pizzeria in a strip mall in a general community. “You then want to focus on a mobile Web site,” he says, “because a mobile Web site can go across all of the phones.”
Ultimately, it may come down to price. “By far, mobile web is more cost-effective because it’s buildable once and works on all handsets,” Becker says, adding that an app has to be built for each of the eight different operating systems for the thousands of handsets available in the U.S. Middleton adds that getting a basic mobile site up and running can be as inexpensive as $150.

For Meghan Ristau, Internet marketing specialist at Lou Malnati’s, the restaurant’s mobile Web site that launched in fall 2010 is the stepping stone to a mobile app. “We are working towards creating a mobile app through which our customers could place carry-out/delivery orders,” she says. With more than 30 stores throughout the Chicagoland area, she adds that using mobile Web has helped Lou Malnati’s “keep up with the methods of technology our patrons are using.”
Jocelyn Gelphi, owner of Antonino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Sunrise, Florida, is content with her mobile Web site. “Our mobile site looks and feels the same on 99 percent of smart phones out on the market,” she says. “I monitor the traffic and so many people are using our mobile site,” she says.

Gelphi worked with Middleton of Outerwoven to get her site up and running, having it go live within 24 hours. When considering a mobile Web site, “the key is simplicity. You don’t need a whole bunch of information in the mobile site,” Middleton says. In contrast to traditional Web sites, mobile sites get back to the basics. Gelphi had quite the wish list for Antonino’s mobile site. “I wanted a little bit of everything on the site but we had to scale back,” she says. “I want the user to have the most user-friendly experience.”

Building a user-friendly experience is crucial in mobile Web. Here are tips for effective mobile sites: Information is still king. Be sure to include location(s), menu, contact information and engagement with your social media pages. You can even include a photo gallery, online reservations and coupons. Always keep the information up-to-date. Users expect it
Find the right person to develop a mobile site. Just because someone is a good Web designer doesn’t mean they know how to optimize mobile browsers.

Continue your company branding. Even though your mobile site is simplified, it should have the look and feel of your company brand with your logo, colors, fonts, etc.
Include Click-to-Call and Click-to-E-mail buttons. These allow the user to touch the screen where the phone number or e-mail address is and it connects instantly.
Track your site. Know what kind of traffic is visiting your site so you can market to them.

Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.

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