There are two popular ways you can have a mobile ordering system for your website:
1. Set up a mobile optimised version of your website.
2. Have a mobile app for your customers’ smartphone.
Mobile Optimised Site
The first option requires a mobile version of your site, typically a sub-domain of your website. If your site is http://mysite.com, the mobile version could be http://m.mysite.com. There are many companies that specialise in creating mobile ordering systems based on mobile versions of existing websites.
This option, in theory, should work for any mobile browser and any type of smartphone that can show mobile versions of websites.
A mobile optimised site that also has a mobile ordering system function is advantageous in that customers don’t need to download anything into their cellphones. You don’t have to worry about creating different versions of a mobile ordering system for each of your customers’ phone operating system — whether it be iOS (iPhone and iPads), Blackberry, or Android.
The downside to this is there could be functionalities that cannot be achieved by current website technologies (although online apps that are web-based are increasingly bridging this gap).
And, developing a mobile ordering system that is intimately tailored to your website is not going to be cheap. Some mobile ordering developers wouldn’t tell you it’s expensive, they’ll tell you it’s not the price that matters but the potential profits you stand to reap after you have your mobile ordering system plus mobile website in place. And they have a point.
Mobile apps are popular because customers tend to have a richer experience of your business, say a restaurant. Almost all the services you’d like the customers to experience — online menu, payment system, message notification or email, location searching, virtual coupons — can be contained inside a mobile app. With an app, your promos and specials can be sent immediately to your customers’ phones — without appearing spammy.
This level of targeting used to be expensive. Not anymore. Since the parts that go into mobile ordering are now relatively well understood, developers have now made it possible for business owners to create their own app. That’s right, no programming needed.
By making use of app building blocks called modules, it is now possible for you to design your own business app. Need payment capability using PayPal and other popular online payment methods? Just add the payment module. Need push notification (aka ‘specials and promos’)? No problem. Need to put in a map where they can find your branch nearest to where your customer is? Just add the locator module. Need to customise the look and feel to reflect your brand? Sure. Facebook sharing? Go ahead. And so on.
Your do-it-yourself app then gets automatically translated to different phone operating system versions. The modular system also facilitates relatively quick approved by most major app stores (Apple Store, Google Play, etc.)
Why not have both?
If you have the budget, why not have a mobile website with mobile ordering capability plus the option of using a mobile app for customers who don’t like to use a browser? The two can complement each other.
An app icon on one’s phone becomes a status symbol for many consumers, especially if it’s an icon of a well-known brand like Starbucks or Burger King. But, even if your local business isn’t yet as big, as long as your business has something customers love, having your own app and announcing it to your loyal patrons through your mobile website can draw more customers than having an app alone or a mobile website alone.