Fast food restaurants, fast casual places, and even Disney World restaurants aren’t the only food vendors that use mobile ordering. The next frontier: mobile ordering for convenience stores. Mobile ordering. Some convenience store chains currently offer the service, however, it’s not widespread. Convenience store owners should prepare now and capture the mobile market. Why? You only need to look at Starbucks, a pioneer in the mobile ordering game. An estimated 23.4 million people are expected to use Starbucks’ mobile app to place an order. Introduced in 2015, the Starbucks mobile app drove growth for its stores, with mobile orders representing 11% of all US transactions. Plainly put, that’s a lot of coffee sales placed on a mobile device.

The mobile payment landscape is growing every day, and more than 25% of US smartphone users are expected to make a mobile payment at least once every 6 months. Convenience stores are in a perfect environment. Customers have embraced mobile ordering in convenience stores, as restaurant mobile visits grew by 50% in 2017. Convenience stores are made for offering convenient solutions for food and beverage purchases, so it’s the right time for this new twist on “grab and go.” On the whole, mobile ordering is on the rise. Business Insider predicts the practice will reach $38 billion by 2020; it was under $4 billion in 2015. Food delivery company Grubhub has just announced it plans to purchase mobile ordering company, LevelUp, for $390 million.

We can’t forget about the ever-important consumer base that is millennials. A Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle study found that 61% of millennials surveyed had used mobile ordering in convenience stores within the last month. These customers are highly digitally-centered and rely on smartphones throughout nearly every aspect of their life. Not only do they like mobile ordering, they expect it. They’re twice as likely to place an order via a mobile device and 62% of respondents surveyed had placed a digital order with a restaurant in the past six months.

Benefits of Mobile Ordering

There are multiple benefits associated with mobile ordering for both customers and convenience store chains.  Mobile ordering in convenience stores is a fantastic way to pick up food for busy individuals. Whether they’re students rushing to class, a worker trying to snag a quick breakfast, or a parent picking up a snack before attending a child’s practice, the service makes “grab and go” even easier. For customers who only have a brief 30-minute break in which to pick up food and eat it, mobile ordering presents a handy solution and eliminates time spent waiting in line.

Health-minded individuals can also receive a benefit from mobile ordering. Convenience stores such as 7-Eleven are making it easier for consumers to make health-conscious decisions. These customers might place a mobile order for a fresh salad or fruit cup over a hamburger at a fast food restaurant. As consumers become more concerned about what they eat, a mobile ordering option for healthy fresh food should definitely win over some customers.

For the retailer, mobile ordering allows them to reach the customers who might otherwise go to a local fast food restaurant’s drive-thru lane, thereby getting a piece of the billion dollar industry.

Mobile ordering apps are often built into a convenience store loyalty app, so each order results in a reward for the customer. This action then inspires brand loyalty, which traditionally leads to more visits. Having customers use mobile ordering may also increase foot traffic, especially if they become brand loyal. Customers who walk into the store, pick up their pre-ordered food with ease and leave will have a satisfactory customer service experience, driving them to return for their next meal.

Stores Cashing In

QuikTrip added a mobile order feature to their app in February 2017, letting customers place an order of fresh food for pick-up at a local QT Kitchen. QT Kitchen is the Tulsa-based chain’s fresh food preparation station. Options include breakfast, specialty coffee, pizza, sandwiches and assorted snacks. Following QuikTrip, beloved convenience store chain Wawa introduced mobile ordering first to Philadelphia-area customers in May 2017. The chain has since rolled out the feature to all Wawa Rewards users. Not to be outdone, 7-Eleven began testing on-demand mobile ordering, delivery, and pick-up at 10 Dallas area stores in December 2017. Customers can use the 7-ElevenNOW app to order snacks, food, home goods, gift cards and more for delivery or pick-up. Whether 7-Eleven will roll out the service to additional stores has yet to be announced. Sheetz also offers mobile ordering through its app to consumers.

Despite these advances in mobile ordering, many convenience stores still don’t offer the feature. While Speedway offers online ordering for its Speedy Cafe food options, mobile ordering isn’t available. Brands who want to offer mobile ordering in convenience stores need to focus on building the feature into their app, finding a way to connect with and reward with customers who order. Above all, remember that they’re there for convenience and make the process easy.

To read about  VR and AR in Retail and Experiential Retail, visit our blog. If you’re curious about how machine learning can help improve store operations, read more here and here.