Mobile App Development Blog

Blog Home

How to Acquire App Users in a Competitive Food Tech Space

October 7, 2016

How do you get to the top of the food chain? In an industry which has been bursting with new food startups for years now, this simple question provides no easy answers. The problem has become not how can you get these products to consumers, but how do you get consumers to choose you? It’s not easy to do.


Food delivery startups are expensive to start and maintain, and with the struggles these young companies face, a lot of investors are concerned about their profitability. Even larger companies like Blue Apron have adapted to cut costs, lowering the number of ingredients and simplifying recipes at the customer’s requests. Introducing assembly-line production in these businesses has helped to lower the cost of individual meals but companies still face other operational costs – like safe delivery of perishable items, quality ingredients, and more.

Prepared food delivery faces its own challenges. In cities where there are countless restaurants to choose from, what will make users pick your app rather than just call and order in? If you want to make your app one that every smartphone user has on standby, it’s important to focus on creating an engaging and thoughtful interface that is intuitive to the customer’s needs and desires.

Successful food apps should have these six key ingredients to acquire new users and to keep them around for the long haul.

  • Whet their Appetite: Make them Salivate with your App Design

With all else being equal, the more effectively a food discovery mobile app uses color in their app design, the greater the chances are of attracting users. If you want users signing up and staying engaged with your app, have a design with images of delicious food because the mere sight of these pictures will rouse their appetite. As the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers points out, “we eat with our eyes.” Color is a visual stimuli and has a psychological association with the sense of smell. Here is an interesting research to prove why pictures of appetising foods create feelings of hunger.

You are at the intersection of food and innovation. You know that ‘presentation is everything.’ Just as it takes a great chef to plate food well, it takes a kickass app designer to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your app. When you care for the appearance of your app, it shows that you have taken the trouble to attract the people you have made it for. Crowding your app with badly shot pictures of lobster sliders and pork burritos with no consistent design theme will come across as a pathetic attempt to pass off junk food as haute cuisine.

  • Don’t Test the Patience of the Hungry: Make Signing Up as Quick as Possible

The term ‘hangry’ is no joke. Some people just get grumpy on an empty stomach. Chances are that when a new user opens up your app for the first time, they’re already thinking about food. Don’t let that curiosity turn into anger with a lengthy and tedious registration process. Get your customers to the menus and drool-worthy photos as fast as you can with a simple sign-up.

Some of the most successful apps allow users to sign up for their service by simply connecting to one of their already existing accounts. By allowing new users to sign up using their Facebook or Google accounts, you can eliminate the need for all the pesky typing that delays their delivery any further. With connected accounts, all the essential information you need is automatically filled in, significantly shortening the time it takes for new users to sign up. In fact, when users sign up with a connected account, it takes on average about 14 seconds to complete the registration. The speedy process prevents users from losing their interest and gets them to the meat of the app—right where you want them.

Some apps will even allow you to browse nearby restaurants or reviews without signing up first. These services can prompt the user to register later, after they’ve explored and gotten a taste of what is available. If your app does need users to fill in more than just the basic contact information, spread the registration forms across multiple short screens. This keeps the user focused and eliminates the potential of scaring new users away with a long, intimidating form.

  • Make it a Delicious Journey: Provide the Best First Time User Experience (FTUE)

Once they’re in, you don’t want your new users to leave until they get to the core value of your product. Often, an app that is confusing, slow, or difficult to figure out will discourage new users from coming back. In fact, more than 20% of apps are used only once by a user before being thrown into the recycling bin with yesterday’s news. You want the first time user experience to be so good that they can’t help but come back for s’more.

The first step is ensuring that your app is both intuitive and fun. No one wants to work hard to figure out something that should be easy, especially when they’re hungry, so make sure your new users can experience all the perks of your app and none of the kinks. Launching a guided walkthrough or coach screens when the app opens can help to visually show new users how to use the interface as well as all of its great features. These initial introductions quickly show users the value of the app and can make them aware of certain features or benefits they did not initially know about.

Of course, you should also make sure that your app performs quickly without any issues. An app that takes more than 2 seconds to load is actually considered slow in the food app world. Be sure to evaluate your app’s load time and make sure that everything is functioning without error. The easier you make the experience for new users, the more likely they will be to return.

  • Let them Have it their Way: Personalize the App Experience for Each User

Customers want to feel special. One of the easiest ways to make your new users feel this way is to give them control of what they see. Apps that allow users to opt-in and out of receiving push notifications not only give users flexibility, but also allow them to decide when and where they want to be reached. Users can opt-in to receive push notifications that alert them of a restaurant they might like nearby, or a special deal that is being offered at a particular time. Grubhub’s marketing campaign has done a great job at personalizing notifications to specific customers. For instance, when it rains in your neighborhood, they send out an email suggesting you skip the bad weather outside and order something straight to your front door.

Allowing users to customize their preferences is also a key component in user retention. Several fast food restaurants have created their own apps that allow users to locate nearby stores, pre-order food to pick up, track the delivery to their door, view how many calories they’re about to consume, and even pay via their phone. With more and more options, users are looking for an app that knows they always want guacamole on their burrito, not one they have to keep reminding.

  • Leave a Great Aftertaste: Reward your New and Returning Users Often

Who doesn’t love a free bagel or 20% off? One of the easiest ways to attract new users is by offering them something for free. Sign-up bonuses are a great way to attract new users with an immediate pay-off. However, continuing to offer incentives to those that use the app regularly will help you to establish brand loyalty and keep your customers coming back for more. Customers love when they get a great deal, so if you can offer them a free coffee for every dozen they purchase through your app, you’ll be their morning hero. Loyalty programs can encourage users not just to shop more often, but also to spend more when they do which can increase your sales significantly.

  • Let them Share the Love: Make your App “Share-Friendly”

In today’s modern food world, your users are your best marketers. Let them help you by creating an inherently social app that they will be inclined to share on social media platforms. The easier it is for your users to share something on Facebook or Twitter, the more likely they are to do it. You can make it even easier for your users by creating an in-app message that allows them to simply click to share on their social media platforms. If your current users think your service is worthwhile, chances are their friends will be interested in giving you a try too.

While some people are inherently sharers, some of your users may not be as interested in proclaiming their love online. Bring these wary users on board by incentivizing them to share what they think on their social platforms. Offer them a discount for every new user they encourage to sign up with a unique referral code or give them free delivery on their next order. Remind them that sharing is caring and they’ll certainly be back again.

What’s Your Takeaway? ‘Reliable Delivery Experience’ & ‘Consistent Quality’ please

The idea is simple: provide high-quality food to customers without making them ever leave the house. By now, we can get almost anything delivered to our front doors, from wine and cheese to tacos, to locally-sourced produce and fair-trade coffee.

Users love their right to choose, which means you must give them lots of options otherwise they will just go somewhere else. The more connected you are to as many restaurants in a neighborhood as possible, the more orders you can take and therefore deliver. Of course, what keeps customers coming back has been the same since the start of time—consistently high quality. Low prices and discounts might draw new users in, but delivering delicious food, quickly, without any issues is how your business will continue to grow.

We’re writing another blog post which will have a curated list of new, exciting, popular and all the possible features for your food delivery app. Subscribe to our newsletter to get it in your inbox.

Want to build the most edible food startup?

Head Over Here >>