Click to Eat: How GoMobo Is Making Ads the New Point of Sale

One Startup's Quest to Make Restaurant Advertising Transactional

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Allison Mooney
Allison Mooney
For the mobile marketing guide published earlier this week, I chose GoMobo as a service I was particularly excited about. The New York-based startup, which lets restaurant customers order ahead via a website or through a text message, works with a number of national QSR (quick-service restaurant) chains and their affiliates including Burger King, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, Papa John's, Quiznos and Krispy Kreme, as well as many independent restaurants. Its "skip the line" premise is a great example of how retailers can use mobile to provide value and utility to their consumers.

For more insight into how mobile apps are changing the marketing landscape, come to our Apps For Brands conference on September 23.
While I'd admired what CEO Noah Glass and his team have been doing for the past few years, it was a recent conversation with Glass about a couple new products that really got me bullish on GoMobo's future. "GoMobo Agency API" makes it easy to tie digital assets to their remote ordering platform, meaning a consumer can click to buy directly from an ad. Then there's the "GoMobo CRM" solution, which provides an incredibly (almost creepily) robust profile of a restaurant's consumers -- from type of phone to number of Facebook friends.

In a phone interview, I grilled Glass for the specifics.

What exactly is the GoMobo Agency API and why did you create it?
We assume that a lot of the big restaurant groups have interactive agencies, and we work with many groups that are doing a lot of cool stuff. The idea of the API is to tie the digital assets that these agencies are already creating with our remote ordering engine, basically making advertising transactional. They can include a link in the creative -- an e-mail, a website, a banner, a coupon -- that is a "buy now" call to action. This basically extends the point of sale beyond the four walls of the restaurant and gets the consumer in the buying funnel as soon as demand is created. The longer you wait, the less action you get.

How does an agency work with the API?
The agency does the CSS work that goes on top of our framework. They do the design, and we work with them on integrating it with our back end. The API plugs into mobile apps and WAP sites just as it does for online assets.

You are known for your mobile ordering platform, which lets you place an order via text message. How does this fit in?
When we launched in 2006, we got a lot of attention for our SMS capability as that was a big differentiator for us, though we always had an online component as well. The problem with SMS is that it's clunky, and you need to sign up online (or on a mobile site) to set your preferences. Now, with smartphones like the iPhone, we see the opportunity to create an experience through applications even better than online (and SMS).

Burger King iPhone
Burger King iPhone
So you are focusing more on apps now?
We see apps as game changers. Consumers are more aware of what their phones can do.

We are building mobile apps for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm Pre that take the online ordering experience and optimize it for the mobile device. By incorporating the touchscreen and GPS, you don't even need to enter an address to locate a store. An "order now" button can then let people pre-order through the phone -- everything is automatically charged to their credit card. We did this for the Burger King Now app (pictured).

We are also creating new functionalities that agencies can make use of, like group ordering. Dunkin' Donuts did this for its DunkinRun app, but you had to print something out or bring in your phone. With ours the order is sent in directly to the store, closing the loop.

But what about people without smartphones?
We have a comprehensive suite of remote ordering tools, which still includes SMS. We also have a GoMobo Call Center that we are launching at the end of October. We realized that the older generation was not going to make the behavior change required to text in or use an app. This new system will let them call it in and still get to skip the line.

How much can you tell about mobile consumers and their behaviors through your platform?
This leads to our CRM tool. Perhaps the most powerful thing we have is our ability to track new data about buying habits -- who, what, when and where -- and how those habits are changing.

We've also started to work with Rapleaf to tie their wealth of online profile data to purchasing patterns. We can pull in demographic data from Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Wishlists, etc., and that all becomes part of a restaurant's database. They can track customer-level purchasing data, location data, demographic data, social influence data, and of course tracking conversion values of digital advertising to better define ROAS (return on advertising spend).

Where does all this information come from?
Email address and public profiles. Rapleaf culls from about 40 different sites and creates customer profiles.

How are clients using this information?
There are lots of different ways. Messaging can be targeted directly to high ordering consumers when they are making their meal decisions. There can be special promotions for influencers. But the best part is simply that advertisers can track not just the click-through rate, but also conversions into actual purchases.

So how's business?
Growing. Last year we were in 300 restaurants, and we expect to end the year with 5,000 and get about a half million unique users. Our goal for next year is to be in 20,000 restaurants and get up to two million users.

Allison Mooney is VP-director of trends and insights at MobileBehavior, an Omnicom Group Company, and runs their blog Next Great Thing.
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