In 2022, quick service restaurant (QSR) apps saw prolific growth. From cost-savings to convenience, consumers are taking advantage of the benefits of QSR apps. With inflation shifting the economy, it’s a key time for QSR apps to cement their growth with promotional re-engagement campaigns that enhance user retention. Below, find out why retargeting is crucial for QSR apps in 2023.
The growth of QSR apps in 2022
According to Apptopia, both installs and app user sessions of QSR apps hit all-time highs in Q3 2022. Quarterly downloads topped 3.7 billion and the average session duration reached 45 minutes.
What can account for this steady rise in both installs and session lengths? One trend to consider is the continued rise of consumer interest in deals and cost-savings. In recent surveys, 2 in 3 customers have reported they’ve downloaded restaurant apps specifically for deals and freebies. As consumers hunt for ways to cut dining costs, QSR apps have seen a coinciding surge in downloads over the last year. Quarter-over-quarter downloads of QSR apps grew from -2.2% to +15.5%. This represents a 17.7 point surge. This is the second most growth across marketplace categories (only topped by the quarterly growth of Membership Club apps).
What’s driving QSR app growth?
As mentioned above, economic factors are a major driver of QSR growth. Furthermore, many top QSR apps have taken advantage of economic trends to offer promotions and interactive brand experiences to entice consumers into using their app even further.
According to Apptopia, in 2022, QSR apps invested more resources in launching special in-app promotions and features than food delivery apps. Unlike food delivery apps, brand-based apps like QSR apps have the ability to build out special brand promotions. In contrast, food delivery aggregator apps do not have this easy ability as they aggregate the offerings of other brands. This has also contributed to an 11.6% fall in downloads year-over-year for restaurant delivery apps; a decrease that stands in contrast to QSR apps’ steady rise.
As can be seen in the chart below, the three leading apps when it comes to building out special in-app features are QSR heavy hitters Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Taco Bell.
The value of in-app promotions to growing new users is clear from the data. According to Apptopia, top QSR app promotions in 2022 increased average daily downloads for brands who took advantage of them. As can be seen in the chart below, Moe’s increased their daily downloads by 433% because of their T-Mobile Tuesday deal, during which customers could claim a free or discounted meal with a T-mobile phone number on Tuesdays. Taco Bell drove 379% more daily downloads with its Mexican Pizza Meal for 2 promotion. Not only did this drive interest in its new Mexican pizza menu item, it also incentivized customers to download their mobile app in order to take advantage of the deal.
The top QSR apps of 2022
The McDonald’s app was the leading QSR app in 2022 by downloads in the United States. McDonald’s lead was far and away the greatest of its competitors. At 40 million downloads, McDonald’s drove 194% more growth than the second most downloaded QSR app, Starbucks.
Rounding out the top 5 after McDonald’s and Starbucks were Domino’s, Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A.
For context, the McDonald’s app was not just the leader of QSR apps in the U.S., but also of the entire food and beverage app category worldwide. Across the world, the McDonald’s app drove 127 million installs. This was more than double the growth of the second leading app of the food and beverage app category, Uber Eats. Again, this reflects the rising performance of QSR apps over food delivery apps.
In terms of year-over-year download growth, the leading QSR app was KFC, which grew its new users by 639% since early 2021 when it first launched its app. The second leader in year-over-year gains was, again, QSR heavyweight McDonald’s which grew 69% year over year from 2021.
Why re-engagement is crucial for QSR apps in 2023
So, it’s clear QSR apps have seen some rapid and notable growth in the last year. But, that growth has not necessarily translated into long-term user engagement and increased LTV. In fact, data in Apptopia’s QSR 2022:Loyalty Do’s and Don’ts guide, spells out the limits of the use of one-time promotions when it comes to driving long-term value.
According to the charts below, one-time promotions by QSR brands like Moe’s and Jack in the Box drove a massive surge in downloads and daily active users for a short period of time. However, less than three months later, both apps saw their DAU drop to similar if not worse levels than they had been prior to the promotion.
On the other hand, QSR apps that created recurring (versus one-time) promotions not only saw a surge in downloads but also a steady and retained increase in DAU. In the chart below, two promotions by Taco Bell — one for their subscription plan and one for their Mexican Pizza 2 for 1 meal promotion — contributed to an increase in DAU that remained strong and steady months after the promotions were launched. Both promotions were recurring and the Mexican Pizza promotion enticed users further with exclusivity, or the knowledge that customers could only take advantage of the promotion through Taco Bell alone.
Retargeting best practices for QSR apps
Launch recurring promotions
As we’ve made clear, short term rewards lead to short term gains. In contrast, recurrent promotions lead to sustained and long-term gains in LTV. To gain new users and keep them, your QSR app should focus on crafting promotions with a recurrent theme. This might be offering a free or discounted item a certain day of the week during a certain month or season. A recurrent promotion could also be offered in the form of a subscription that provides special benefits to the customer, like discounts or free delivery.
Offer exclusive in-app rewards
Make it clear to a new user that keeping and re-engaging with your app offers value. As stated above, this could be done by offering a subscription meal plan to customers. It could also be done by offering special in-app rewards. For example, many QSR apps offer a points system that rewards users with points for checking in on their app when they make an in-store purchase, or making purchases directly from the app. These points then add up to freebies, add-ons and discounts.
Make your app your new storefront
Similar to the previous point, as you craft your in-app promotions, start to think of your app as your new storefront. How can you keep new customers coming back to your “store” over and over again? This is where offering promotions like early or exclusive access to new menu items, free delivery, etc. can benefit your brand in the long run. Make it clear to your customers that using your app gets them deals and discounts.
In 2022, QSR saw prolific growth topping 3.7 billion downloads and averaging a 45 minute session length in Q3 2022. The top QSR app was McDonald’s driving 127 million downloads worldwide.
- The short term gains made by QSR apps in the last year has not necessarily translated into increased LTV.
- To keep new users engaged, QSR apps should think of their app as a storefront by offering recurrent promotions and exclusive in-app rewards.
Turn new users into long term customers for your QSR app in 2023
YouAppi’s team of mobile retargeting and retention experts have been in the game long enough to know what works. We can help your marketing team turn new users into long-term loyal customers to reach your brand’s revenue KPIs. Schedule a meeting with us to get started.