Digital Ordering: Consumers want Technology to Order and Pay for Fast Food

Online shopping has changed how consumers purchase airline tickets, shoes, and more. Now, according to a survey from EMN8, consumers want more of the same technology choices when it comes to ordering fast food.

Consumers are ready and willing to use technology to order from their favorite QSRs. The survey conducted online nationwide by Harris Interactive on behalf of EMN8 in February among 2,230 (among whom 1,904 consumed in the past 12 months) U.S. adults aged 18 and older, shows that 43 percent of Americans who consumed fast in the past 12 months would be interested in ordering from a QSR in the next 12 months via computer and three in ten would like to order from their device.

"Consumers are extremely comfortable ordering goods online and, as generations grow up with mobile technology, they will increasingly want to engage with their favorite brands through this channel. It is increasingly clear that the food industry as a whole needs to embrace methods of interaction where they are comfortable," says Perse Faily, CEO of EMN8. "Through our research, it's clear that QSRs can reach a broader audience by adapting to these desires."

E-commerce continues to gain momentum in the QSR industry. While the majority of 18-34 year olds who consumed fast food in the past 12 months ordered in person (81%), this is predicted to decline over the next 12 months. Technology is providing the catalyst for this shift as mobile technology proliferates. Consumers are increasingly comfortable using this method with 30 percent of those who consumed fast food in the past 12 months saying they'd use their mobile device to order in the next 12 months. Additionally, 48 percent of 18-44 year olds would place an order via a computer in the next 12 months.

Loyalty Programs Are Necessary

Technology doesn't mean just "connected devices" but also that provide added value to consumers. As companies try to capture data and insights about their consumers, loyalty programs have become increasingly important to not just the brand but also the consumer. What's more, the integration of physical and digital with respect to loyalty programs has offered consumers added flexibility when it comes to buying at their favorite places. Today's branded loyalty or gift cards often include pin data that can automatically sync with a customer's digital rewards program instantaneously, making the transaction process a more seamless experience.

More than two in five (42%) of those whose favorite QSR does not provide all services would like their favorite QSR to use a loyalty/rewards/frequent buyer program that incentivized them for purchases. Additionally, 77 percent of those who consumed fast food in the past 12 months would use stored value cards to pay for their purchases if they could receive additional benefits such as loyalty points or extra coupons.

Interestingly enough, those between the ages of 45 and 54 said they are more likely to want to see their favorite QSR use a loyalty program than those age 18-34 (48% to 38%) - providing a new way to reach this consumer base. The 55 and older age group who consumed fast food in the past 12 months responded quite positively to using a branded store value card to pay for orders if they could receive additional benefits with roughly two-thirds (66%) willing - highlighting a new way for QSRs to attract this demographic.

"Everyone from the local neighborhood to big brands like Amazon use loyalty programs to increase their customer loyalty - and ensure repeat customers - yet we've not seeing this in the QSR industry as much despite consumer desire," says Hope Neiman, CMO of EMN8. "Loyalty programs are one way to offer incentives that the consumer sees near instantaneously - and one they continue to want from their favorite brands."

In addition to loyalty programs driving repeat business, more than four in ten (42%) of those who consumed fast food in the past 12 months stated that they were more likely to return to a quick service if their past orders were saved within the ordering system. Additionally, those between the ages of 18 and 44 (55%) were more likely to agree with this statement than those ages 45+ (30%) - highlighting the need for quick service restaurants to embrace technology that allows swift recent order recognition.

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