Your guide to creating a food delivery app marketing plan
The food delivery market is now worth over US$30 billion in the U.S. alone, and 106.1 billion worldwide. By 2025, revenue from food delivery apps in the U.S. is expected to reach $42 billion — and already hit $28 billion in 2021. As food delivery using mobile apps becomes an increasingly routine part of our daily lives, it is critical for app marketers to know how to find their audience. In this guide we will outline ways you can create a comprehensive food delivery strategy for mobile apps.
What is a food delivery app?
What’s in a name? In the case of food delivery apps, a lot. While the name sounds self-explanatory, the truth is, there are many different services offered under the umbrella of food delivery apps.
Many restaurants including pizza chains famous for their fast delivery, such as Domino’s and Pizza Hut, have invested in their own direct to consumer apps. This model makes sense for restaurants that were already heavily invested in delivery and had a network of drivers at their disposal. The restaurant-to-consumer model effectively cuts out the middleman and allows restaurants to keep all of their profits.
The platform-to-consumer apps model works for restaurants without their own fleet of drivers. Apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and UberEats aggregate menus from a wide variety of restaurants, allowing users their choice of cuisine and meal-type, from breakfast through to dinner and everything in between.. Delivery drivers are employed by the apps not by the restaurants. The apps monetize by taking a percentage of each order, in exchange for marketing and delivering the food for the restaurants.
While the first thing that comes to mind when you think about food delivery may be take-out, this vertical has expanded to include grocery delivery apps, which boomed in 2021. Apps like Instacart have made it easy for people to get everything they need to make dinner or quickly purchase something typically available at a grocery store delivered to their door within windows as short as 10 minutes.
Meal kit delivery
And finally there are meal kit delivery apps, like HelloFresh and Blue Apron, which allow users to choose a meal kit that they can prepare at home. Whether it’s just ingredients and a recipe that users cook and assemble themselves, or a heat-and-eat meal, these kits make at-home cooking easy.
How to make a food delivery app
The food delivery app market is hot, and while the market may seem saturated, the truth is there is always room for innovation — and some markets are not as mature as others. So let’s explore the steps to starting a new food delivery app.
- Validate your idea: The first step to starting a new food delivery app is finding your niche and ensuring your app has a unique value proposition that sets it apart from the competition. If you’re a restaurant owner, this may be as simple as making your food available only through your app. Whatever your value proposition is, be sure to test your idea through market research.
- Decide on an app development type: These days there are several ways to develop an app. You can create an entirely custom app, but that can take months or even years and cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. Increasingly, you can also use low-code and no-code development tools to get a custom app to market more quickly. This is likely the best option for restaurant owners looking to get an app on the market quickly and efficiently. And remember, depending on the functionality you require, you may actually need to create multiple apps — one for the user, one for the delivery person, and maybe even one for restaurant or store staff.
- Choose your features: While there are certain features your users will expect, such as the ability to order and pay for their food through your app, but if you’re planning to innovate the form, you will want to consider the other features you may want to include. Don’t neglect other simple but critical features such as search — you want to make it as easy as possible for your users to find what they need and hit the order button.
- Test your minimum viable product — Before you go to great lengths to build a fully-featured app, consider creating a test version of your app with a minimum viable product (MVP). Putting out a bare-bones version of your app can help collect important feedback and data to help you understand how to make the final product the best it can be.
- Soft-launch your app — Once you have collected data from your MVP you can build out the final product and soft launch it to a targeted audience. Are you hoping to launch nationwide in the U.S.? Consider a soft launch in New Zealand. If your aspirations are more modest, choose a test audience — such as your most loyal restaurant customers — to work out the kinks before you launch to a wider audience.
Armed with data from your soft-launch, it’s time to finalize your app and release it to the masses. To learn more about starting a food delivery app, read our post, “How to launch an app: From market research to monetization.”
Food Delivery App Marketing: Where to begin
1. Define your target audience
When developing your food delivery marketing plan, your first step is to define who you will be targeting. You need to perform tests that reveal insights such as your key demographic and common trends you can benefit from. You will also need to perform competitor research for the best results. This will help you identify which demographics will be harder to target and which potential users are currently not properly catered for by your competitors.
A defining question for all food delivery apps is how you will work with food providers. For example, a discovery platform will have different goals to an aggregated food delivery app. These are critical questions that must be answered in order to lay the foundations of your overall strategy. User personas are also needed to successfully target different user types who will find your product valuable.
2. Know your USP
Once your target audience is defined, you will know which areas to focus on when developing your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). It is essential for your app to stand out and have a clear path to building loyalty with your users over time. Defining your USP will enable you to develop your messaging, select the best marketing channels for your app and communicate your value to users. Examples of USPs for food delivery apps include the speed of delivery, the type of foods on offer and pricing.
Your USP covers these three critical areas:
- Your target audience’s consumer demands
- What your food delivery app does well
- What your competitors don’t do well
Your food delivery app will be going up against competitors who have already established themselves in the market, so it’s important to convey your USP in every aspect of your branding. For example, incorporating your USP into your app’s name and tagline will allow users to instantly recognize why they need your food delivery app – even if they already have a competitor’s app installed. This is increasingly important now that a handful of popular food delivery apps have claimed sizable portions of the US market, such as Uber Eats (25.2%), GrubHub (26.7%) and DoorDash (27.6%).
Marketing channels for your food delivery strategy
Your overall strategy should combine content strategy, social media, user acquisition and branding campaigns – and here are the six marketing channels you must use to achieve the best results.
The most successful food delivery apps offer their customers a website that can be used in unison with their mobile app. Users can log in via their desktop and in-app, enabling them to use your services in whichever way best suits them. However, you can use your landing page to direct users to your app and ensure users get the best experience. For example, Uber Eats and Just Eat both advertise their mobile apps with large panels on their landing page. The advertisement suggests downloading the Just Eat app “for faster ordering and more personalized recommendations”. Just Eat’s website also has a page dedicated to the benefits of downloading the app.
Your website’s blog should be regularly updated as part of your content strategy. Blogging is a great way to spread awareness of your brand and let users know your company values. App verticals such as fitness and fashion will have obvious incentives to blog about their community, but this can be more complicated for food delivery apps – so this is another area that should be informed by your target audience and competitor research.
With the right content for your audience, your blog will also increase your website’s traffic and build brand loyalty. Just Eat’s blog focuses on the company’s charity work, posts related to nutrition and company updates. Uber Eats’ blog has similar content , sharing competitions and localized updates. It also features shareable entertainment content such as “Love Island 2019: what we reckon so far.” While this may seem unrelated to the food delivery app, this was in fact a partnered campaign where fans of the popular TV show could claim a discount on their first order.
ASO (App Store optimization) is a critical component of an app’s overall strategy. Just like SEO, which uses keywords to bring users to your website organically, ASO is the practice of increasing installs in the App Store and Google Play Store. This is achieved through a series of best practices, such as:
- Using keywords in your name and app description: It’s important to feed the app store’s algorithm with the necessary information so that you can acquire organic users
- Detailing app features, key benefits and your USP within your description: Make sure potential customers know why they should install your app instead of your competitor’s.
- Including useful and engaging screenshots and videos: This will make your app store entry more engaging and give users the best impression possible as to what they can expect post-install
- Localization: Localizing content will mean you stay relevant across different markets
- Using primary and secondary app categories: This is a field you will have to enter to make your app searchable by vertical. Selecting your app category is another important step that ensures your app can be found to increase your organic installs. Including your app in a secondary category increases the ways in which users can find your app organically.
Reviews are also important to your app store ranking. When a user has had a positive experience, it’s smart to send them an in-app message that directs the user to the app store. They can then give your app a starred rating and leave a comment, encouraging others to organically install your app.
Social media marketing
Food delivery apps can also utilize social media marketing as a way to connect with their audience, offer superior service and raise awareness of promotional offers. 90 percent of social media users already use social media to communicate with brands and businesses, and 63 percent of customers expect brands to offer services via social media. Here are the three ways social media should be leveraged to your advantage.
- Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing is the practice of partnering with influential social media personalities that can connect you with a relevant audience, and is now worth between $5-10 billion worldwide. Food delivery apps can partner with everybody from celebrity chefs on Twitter to influential foodies on Instagram. This is an increasingly popular method of advertising your app, with 17 percent of companies spending more than half their marketing budget on influencers. Once you have identified which influencers are relevant to your target audience, you can work with them in several different ways. For example, you can offer a free service with the understanding that your app will get coverage across their social media channels. You can also pay for product placement, agreeing to a set number of posts featuring your app’s services.
- Customer service: Social media has become a part of our daily lives: 38.4 percent of Americans currently use Facebook Messenger and Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes on the app per day. As a result, many users now prefer to contact customer services through social media when they have a query or concern. Connecting with your users across social media channels enables you to offer your service in a way that is best suited for their internet usage habits.
- Promotional offers and contests: Utilizing social media as part of your overall strategy also allows you to easily share promotional offers and competitions. This is something you will see on every food delivery app’s social media channels, as your competitors attempt to drive traffic to their app.
Food delivery apps have a significant advantage when developing a social media content strategy: when done right, food is visually appealing and extremely eye-catching. People therefore love to see well-presented food across their social media channels. For example, the tag page for #food on Instagram currently has almost 400 million followers while #foodie has over 150 million.
Email marketing is still a successful marketing method that can help you connect with users. According to HubSpot, “more than 50 percent of US respondents check their personal email account more than 10 times a day and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands”. Here are two ways food delivery apps should use email marketing.
Reward users with promotional deals: Email marketing is another way in which you can share promotional offers and competitions, rewarding your most loyal users. This will build brand loyalty and incentivize users to return to your app.
Newsletter updates: Your subscribers can receive a regular newsletter that informs them of important updates. You can also use this as another way to share your blog content and encourage users to follow you across your social media channels.
Email marketing is a successful method of reaching out to customers because users have to opt-in. While there’s no guarantee that everyone who sees your post on social media will have an interest in that content, your mailing list only includes users that have actively shown interest in receiving emails related to your app. However, you should still A/B test your email marketing content and learn what works best.
Paid user acquisition: Identify your most valuable users
User acquisition is the practice of acquiring new users for your mobile app. This means generating installs through advertising and promotional offers. This is a critical, data-driven component of your food delivery marketing plan. It’s essential that you analyze data and identify behavioral patterns to increase growth, retention and revenue. There are several ways in which Adjust can help with this process. For example, Adjust’s Audience Builder allows you to segment audiences with your data. You can then create lookalike audiences and optimize results.
If you enjoyed these insights into food delivery app marketing, you may also like “Meals on mobile: The state of Food Delivery apps in 2019” and our Back to Basics guide for mobile attribution.****
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