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A CMO’s View: Taco Bell’s Chris Brandt Makes Mobile A Priority & It Has Paid Off With Nearly 2M App Downloads
Taco Bell CMO says his brand's mobile app shot to the top of iTunes Food & Drink category the day it launched.
Taco Bell has more than proven its mobile marketing acumen.
Two months ago, when the brand launched its mobile app, 75 percent of the 5,900 participating Taco Bell restaurants received orders via the app, pushing it to the top spot in the Food and Drink category on iTunes that day.
The app remained one of iTunes’ top ten Food and Drink apps during its launch week, and is already approaching more than two million downloads since its launch on October 28, 2014.
When I asked Taco Bell CMO Chris Brandt to list his top three rules for creating a winning mobile marketing strategy, he said brands need to be prepared to “live in beta” and pay attention to their customers.
“You really need to listen to your customers and constantly evolve,” said Brandt, “We started with a great product with a variety of unique features, but already have a long list of things to add post launch.”
Brandt says his brand now prioritizes based on all the great feedback he and his team hear from fans.
According to the CMO, mobile is integrated into everything Taco Bell does from television spots to digital to the packaging in its restaurants.
Recently, Brandt told Marketing Land, that he believes mobile will continue to elevate the consumer retail experience and give the consumer more control.
“Mobile ordering and payment plans are just the beginning,” said Brandt.
In today’s A CMO’s View column, Brandt offers more insight into how Taco Bell took bold risks with its mobile marketing efforts, and how it paid off with nearly two-million mobile app downloads.
Taco Bell’s CMO Dishes on What It Takes to Become a Mobile Marketing Leader
- Stay true to your brand. Apps are built to connect with your loyalists and they need to feel everything that they love about you in that experience.
- Your “traditional” competition is not the only competition, there are 1.2MM apps in the app store and you compete with every one of them. In order to break through, you need marketing built into the experience and work that will get people talking.
- Be prepared to live in beta. You really need to listen to your customers and constantly evolve.
Amy Gesenhues: Taco Bell is a frontrunner when it comes to mobile marketing, can you offer a quick history and the strategy behind your brand’s mobile efforts?
Chris Brandt: We see technology as a key enabler to bringing Live Más to life and creating experiences that matter.
As mobile usage among our core target continues to increase, our customers told us they wanted a mobile ordering and payment option at Taco Bell. We saw the opportunity to build an app unlike anything else in market: one that would deliver location-based orders and secure payment, while showcasing customization and a personal experience.
So we’re the first Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) to offer these features in both the drive-thru and dining rooms at our restaurants.
Amy Gesenhues: When Taco Bell launched its mobile app, you chose to promote it by turning off your social messaging – did this feel like a risk at the time? Did it deliver the results you wanted?
Chris Brandt: We knew we had to be disruptive and drive not only awareness, but also app downloads. We also wanted our fans to know about it before anyone else.
We love thinking of new and innovative ways to engage our community and give them something to talk about – what better way than to “shut down” our popular social media presence?
This proved to be a big win, as it was definitely a bold move. It generated outstanding headlines for the brand, and successfully drove downloads and orders immediately.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you offer any engagement rates on Taco Bell’s mobile app?
Chris Brandt: We are extremely excited about the response to our new mobile app:
- 75% of the 5,900 Taco Bell restaurants participating in mobile ordering processed an order the day of launch and we have received orders at virtually all of our participating restaurants.
- Taco Bell’s Mobile Ordering and Payment App shot to the top spot in the Food & Drink category on iTunes during the day of launch and remained in the top ten the rest of launch week.
- Taco Bell is approaching 2MM downloads in iOS and Android just two months after the app launched.
Amy Gesenhues: Beyond increasing sales, what are Taco Bell’s mobile goals?
Chris Brandt: There are two other goals with our mobile app: increasing transparency and improving consumer engagement.
Our mobile app is a fantastic way to be even more transparent about our food and the tremendous variety that is available in our restaurants. It gives customers access to the Taco Bell kitchen unlike anything else, and they can customize virtually anything.
This customization enables a consumer to get our food exactly the way they want it which improves consumer satisfaction, as no burrito is as good as the one you design for yourself!
Next is engagement. We will continue to leverage #onlyintheapp and reward users with offers that are only available in the mobile app.
For example, we’re currently giving away a free Doritos Locos Taco with every mobile order. This #OnlyInTheApp launch saw the highest number of mobile orders in a single day and will hopefully drive trial and repeat.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you tell us more about how Taco Bell leverages mobile to drive orders and gain more customers?
Chris Brandt: We believe that our mobile app is the biggest thing to happen to QSR since the drive-thru, so it has to provide users with a great experience.
We spent a lot of time perfecting the app’s design and layout, and it reflects visuals from our social channels which are highly relevant to a millennial audience.
We also designed the ordering process to “trade up” consumers in a relevant and non-disruptive way. For example, users can add additional ingredients to their menu item, creating exactly what they want.
The app also suggests a beverage or dessert if one hasn’t been ordered. We’re seeing a significant increase on check-on mobile orders over in-restaurant orders.
Amy Gesenhues: In a previous interview, you predict “smart marketers will leverage access to new levels of consumer information” to provide mass personalization – is this something Taco Bell is currently doing with their mobile efforts?
Chris Brandt: With the mobile app, we will know our consumers on a more personal level. This opens up a host of exciting possibilities to serve up customized offers and to get people to have a higher level of engagement with the brand.
Amy Gesenhues: What have you learned about your customer base from your mobile results?
Chris Brandt: We’re just in the initial launch phase, but in the future, we see tremendous potential in providing relevant offers to incent and reward specific consumer behavior.
This year we’ll use data from the Mobile App to create a loyalty program that is completely unique to Taco Bell.