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Will Dunkin’ Donuts’ mobile ordering expansion help overthrow Starbucks’ throne?

Dunkin’ Donuts is bringing mobile ordering to the metropolitan New York area this May while promoting the latest version of its application, suggesting the chain is barreling full steam ahead when it comes to tackling Starbucks’ stronghold in urban locations.

The quick service marketer is rolling out on-the-go ordering to Big Apple residents in several weeks, enabling its DD Perks loyalty members to purchase coffee, sandwiches and donuts via their smartphones and retrieve them at a nearby location. Dunkin’ Donuts’ rapid regional expansion of its mobile ordering program suggests it is ready to grab a stronger stake in metropolitan markets and challenge its on-site competitors, although consumers’ existing brand affinity will likely matter more than anything else.

“We have received positive feedback from the customers and franchisees so far,” said Scott Hudler, chief digital officer of Dunkin’ Brands. “Following the initial On-the-Go Ordering test in Portland, Maine at the end of 2015, Dunkin’ Donuts expanded the test throughout the Greater Boston area in March.

“We’re excited to expand the technology to the metro New York area, which one of our brand’s largest and most important markets, and to keep our loyal guests running on Dunkin’ faster than ever before.”

Uncapping new markets
The donut chain also announced a plethora of competitive measures during its earnings call on Thursday. Dunkin’ Donuts is planning to pilot a curbside delivery service that would involve employees bringing customers’ orders directly to their cars, pouring out additional convenience for time-strapped commuters.

Additionally, the company is testing partnerships with several delivery apps, including DoorDash and Favor.

Both of these initiatives expand the reach of the brand’s mobile ordering service, which continues to permeate new markets.

Starting mid-May, DD Perks members in the metropolitan New York region will be able to pay for their orders via mobile and swing by the store to pick them up at their leisure, allowing them to bypass long lines during peak times, such as the morning rush or lunch hour. Orders can be placed up to 24 hours in advance.

To take advantage of this service, New Yorkers must download the latest version of Dunkin’ Donuts’ mobile app, titled “New Dunkin’ Donuts” in the Google Play Store and App Store.

Dunkin’ Donuts recently caffeinated its mobile strategy with an updated app featuring enticing imagery and a touch-friendly interface, a loyalty promotion giving away 125 points and an app pilot for Baskin-Robbins (see story).

The revamped app includes a contemporary redesign that complements the one-tap functionality for mobile ordering as well as the visual menus.

Users will also be able to locate nearby Dunkin’ Donuts stores, available mobile coupons and nutritional information within the app.

IPhone users may reload their Dunkin’ Donuts account balances via Wallet or Apple Pay. Additionally, they can collect DD Perks rewards points by adding their card to the Wallet app.

Consumers can also use Touch ID to quickly reload their balance without having to manually type in credit card numbers or passwords.

Dunkin’ Donuts initially conducted a mobile ordering pilot in the Portland area at the end of last year.

In March, the chain prepared itself for a surge in rewards membership sign-ups following the expansion of its mobile ordering pilot to select locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as only DD Perks members can take advantage of its VIP app (see story).

Ramping up competition
Dunkin’ Donuts’ dedication to being a purveyor of mobile ordering has placed it at the forefront of the QSR sector, which is a mixed bag when it comes to mobile platform adoption. While some chains are fast adopters, others lag behind and risk losing out on sales.

However, in order to more effectively compete with Starbucks – widely considered a mobile commerce behemoth – Dunkin’ Donuts must ensure its mobile experience is as seamless as possible.

Mobile ordering may not help the chain sweep Starbucks’ diehard fans off their feet, but it could convert a plethora of new customers who do not have an affinity for a particular brand of coffee.

Tapping that audience provides a major opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts to capitalize on mobile sales.

“Will a new app help Dunkin’ compete with Starbucks?” said James McNally, senior manager of business development at Prolific Interactive. “Perhaps, but these brands aren’t competing on who can create the best app – at the end of the day, brand affinity and loyalty to a coffee chain is driven by that brand’s connotation and product, not because it has a better app than a competitor.

“Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ is a lifestyle decision much more than an app decision.”