Case Study: Pizza Hut Upgrades Mobile Ordering With Localized Deals

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PHMerchant: Pizza Hut
Size: Nearly 10,000 restaurants
Location: 90+ countries
Bottom Line: The ideal mobile ordering app is fast, simple, and peppered with local content from community franchise locations.

Almost two decades after Pizza Hut first began accepting orders online, the company is continuing to beef up its digital presence. The latest step is a major overhaul of the Pizza Hut mobile app, upgrading the online ordering experience with location-aware features and user-recognition capabilities. “The way apps are now, you want them to be able to perform what you need them to do, and then be able to close and be done with them as quickly as possible,” says Doug Terfehr, Pizza Hut’s director of public relations.

In an ideal world, customers should be able to use their smartphones to make orders without putting much thought into the technology that’s powering their mobile apps. Pizza Hut has integrated hyperlocal technology and localization features into its latest app release, making it possible for consumers to find nearby restaurant locations and source relevant coupons from individual franchisees. “[We should be] able to localize that menu for you, so you’re not just getting our national deals, but things that might be specific just to your city or the city you’re in,” says Terfehr.

Terfehr’s goal going into the app redesign process was to create a mobile system that would allow customers to place orders in less than 30 seconds. “It finds you no matter where you are. It will give you the contact information and anything you need for your local restaurant based upon what city you may be in,” says Terfehr. “That was our big focus.”

Individual Pizza Hut franchisees have the freedom to post local specials based on events going on in their communities, and Terfehr says it was important to be able to bring those specials into the mobile and application space.

One of the ways that Pizza Hut has sped up the mobile ordering process, besides providing customers with localized app content, is by ensuring that users stay logged in to their apps. “Once you’ve done it one time, it stores all of your information,” says Terfehr. “One your information is stored, like your home address, it recognizes you [and] it will immediately call up the menu. It’s all right there for you.”

This focus on speed and efficiency is a departure for Pizza Hut. Terfehr says there was a time when “fun” features like being able to “design” a pizza on an interactive screen were trendy. Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction and simplicity is everything. “It was fun when apps first launched for you to be able to pinch and drag and do all these things, but now it’s more about the quickness and making it as simple as possible,” says Terfehr.

Since Pizza Hut’s new mobile ordering features were released last month, the company has already seen an increase in sales through the mobile app. Digital ordering now accounts for roughly one-third of deliveries and carry-out orders nationwide for Pizza Hut. “The customer feedback, as well as the sales results, have both been favorable and positive,” says Terfehr.

Terfehr expects Pizza Hut’s push into hyperlocal to continue, as the company strives to make its mobile app into more of an “experience.” “We know the primary reason why you’re there is to order pizza. We want to make that as simple and clean as possible. But while you’re there, or after you’ve finished with that experience, is there more we can do to make you learn more about our brand or engage more with our brand? That’s a little bit where we’re going,” says Terfehr. “We want to make it faster than it already is, but once you’re in the experience, we’d like to be able to provide you with some entertainment.”

The Takeaway
Pizza Hut has shifted gears in the four years since it first launched a mobile application in 2009. Whereas the company once focused on features built for entertainment — like allowing customers to “design” their own pizzas — Pizza Hut is now focusing more heavily on simplicity and ease-of-use. Technology should fade into the background, and user experience should be the most important aspect when designing a mobile ordering app. A major part of that user experience involves speed, which is where location-aware features come into play. By including GPS features and localizing deals for individual restaurants, Pizza Hut is making it easier for consumers to quickly complete their orders, even when they have spotty service or a poor Wi-Fi connection.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.