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Wendy’s catches up on mobile ordering frenzy with Frosty incentives

The Wendy’s Company is aiming to pull mobile-savvy consumers away from its fast food competitors by beginning testing of a mobile ordering application in Phoenix and offering users a Frosty incentive.

Consumers in Phoenix, Arizona, will be able to download the app to place an order for pick-up at a bricks-and-mortar location, which will be processed via Bluetooth. The chain is offering a complimentary Frosty treat to anyone who completes an in-app purchase, proving that incentives are still golden for trial periods.

“A well-run mobile ordering and payments solutions leads to a much more efficiently run business,” said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. “Consumers don’t have to wait as long for their food, lines don’t get backed up because the person in front is searching for loose change, and there is less room for an order to be misheard.

“From an operational standpoint, it dramatically cuts the amount of time employees have to spend filling an order. Staff don’t have to listen to phone calls and transcribe orders, and payment processing time is cut as well.”

Instant gratification meals
Fast food chains often lend themselves well to impulse purchasing, as consumers can easily stop by at a location and pick up a snack or meal that can be ready to eat in several minutes. Quick-service marketers are hoping to bring this same instant gratification to mobile, so that consumers can spend even less time in stores and simply pop in to retrieve their paid-for items.

Wendy’s fans in the Phoenix region may place an order through the app and customize it as they would with in-store purchase. They must, however, turn on their smartphone’s Bluetooth capabilities, so that local restaurants may be alerted when consumers are within range.

This way, the meal can be as fresh as possible when the customer walks in.

The chain claims the app will be a huge time-saver for guests. It is estimated to shave off 30 seconds from the drive-thru experience and one to five minutes for in-store ordering.

Users may load their credit card or gift card information into their accounts, which will allow for a one-step checkout for future purchases.

The app is currently only available for iOS users in Phoenix, although Wendy’s is planning to roll out additional beta tests in Portland and Austin. Consumers interested in piloting the new features may find participating restaurants by visiting

Incentives and driving usage
While other chains, including Burger King, have beaten Wendy’s to the punch with mobile ordering pilots, the marketer is still well-poised to attract burger fans and mobile users, especially as McDonald’s lags behind in rolling out its first-ever app in the United States.

Made-to-order sandwich chain Subway Restaurants is also playing catch-up to other quick service marketers via a collaboration with PayPal to garnish its mobile offerings with a new app for placing and paying for orders that could culminate in a revenue uptick (see story).

However, Wendy’s may differentiate itself from the pack by offering all consumers who place an order via the new app a free Frosty treat. This will likely entice the chain’s fans to download the app, although the process must be impressive and seamless to ensure future ordering takes place.

“Consumers aren’t quick to link up their credit or debit card information to a mobile payments portal,” Ms. Lowy said. “Mobile payments require a consumer to trust a brand with financial information as well as see a sufficient value proposition, such as ease of use, to justify the step.

“It therefore is very common for new payment portals to start off with giving consumers a credit or some incentive to try out the service.”

Offering additional incentives throughout the beta testing period may culminate in more customer engagement. For example, the brand could offer a surprise coupon to one user each week for a free meal to ensure that consumers continue using the app.

Wendy’s recent focus on mobile strategy suggests it will work hard to roll out these capabilities on a national scale as quickly as possible.

This past May, Wendy’s opened an innovation lab in Columbus, OH, as it looked to mobile and digital to help shore up recent sales successes and pull further ahead of the competition by continuing to innovate how younger consumers interact with the fast-food chain (see story).

Wendy’s, like many other brands, is testing this out on a small scale to get the process right in consideration of a broader role out. Testing at a single location is the prudent method to roll out a program of this scale—as there can be many unforeseen challenges that Wendy’s can quickly pick up an solve before expanding the program.

“One notable oversight that the brand made is that in the app description, Wendy’s didn’t clarify that the app is currently only working in one location,” Ms. Lowy said. “Uninformed Wendy’s fans from other locations have therefore downloaded the app, loaded a credit card onto the app, and were disappointed when they found out their Wendy’s location had no idea how to use the app and that their money is trapped in cyberspace.

“That has led to poor ratings for the app in the App Store.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York