mobile ordering and what it means for brand customer experience and loyalty

Before smaller brands and local, small businesses jump onto the mobile ordering trend because they feel they need to to complete, one should consider how this impacts the customer experience (CX). One could say coffee is just coffee and it doesn’t matter where it comes from, but I don’t always think that should be the case. For three years, Tony at my local Starbucks would see me coming in and immediately put my drink in que. By the time I got to the register, it was already prepared. That type of CX beats the seconds saved on mobile ordering any day. I may be in the minority in my opinion, but I am far from alone.

The Problem with Mobile Ordering

Earlier this year, news circulated that coffee chains, such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, are seeing weaker than expected sales gains (and some losses) due to the influx of mobile orders. The problem they are facing is customers-to-be walking past, seeing a number of people waiting at pickup, and assuming the store is too busy. In an ideal world, people would order a few minutes before arriving at the location, and their drink would hit the pickup counter as they arrive. Think just in time delivery, but with coffee. The ideal is far from the reality, especially at already busy peak hours.

Why I Hate Mobile Ordering

I will admit, I mobile order from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, I have mobile ordered Chipotle, and I have definitely considered mobile ordering Taco Bell. (The last one is mostly about minimizing the feeling of shame that I would eat Taco Bell.) It is definitely a great convenience when running late for work, but the experience is never great.

You walk over to the designated pickup location, look through strangers drink/food orders and hope you find the right one? Then casually dart through, or around, the rest of the crowd waiting – feeling guilty you cut the line. The customer experience though is overall impersonal and disjointed. You miss out on much of the brand experience by not actively engaging at the location. Does this play into the increasing disloyalty brands are facing?

The Customer Experience

In my experience with several chain’s mobile ordering apps, it is messy, clunky, data consuming, and frustrating. For example:

  • Starbucks, why do I have to re-enter my modifications if I decide I want a larger size?
  • Everytime I open my Starbucks app, it uses 25-50 mb of cellular data. That is a lot. Especially when on a bad connection (like a busy city street) and it takes three times longer than it should to geolocate a store and load everything needed.
  • Chipotle, what about when I want double rice or just a little black beans? Entering a note at the end of the order cannot be an efficient way to handle those modifications.
  • Orders are kept behind the counter, but the baristas are too busy getting the drinks ready of people who waited in line to ask if they can help you, get your name, go to the mobile orders, look through them until they find yours (if it is ready), and bring it back over to you.

All of this together makes the process much more frustrating and time consuming than simply going to the counter and talking through your transaction with an actual person that can react to situations not programmed into them.

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