I reached out to Jonathan Zabusky, CEO of Seamless, a service for food delivery and takeout ordering, to find out his thoughts on what we can expect from mobile and online ordering in 2012. Seamless connects users to restaurants, and offers user-generated ratings and reviews and exclusive discounts from restaurants across the U.S.

What does the online and mobile ordering landscape look like for 2012?

Ordering food over the phone or finding a restaurant through the phone book has become outdated. Today, people turn to the Internet and mobile devices for everything from booking airline tickets to researching concert venues — food delivery and restaurant is no different. According to Google, 30% of all food-related searches occur on mobile devices — and with one in every two Americans making use of a smartphone today (based on Nielsen data), mobile is becoming increasingly entwined in our everyday lives. There’s great opportunity for the $25 billion food-delivery market in 2012, particularly in mobile development.

In 2011, Seamless’ mobile orders skyrocketed with more than 20% of peak day orders placed on mobile devices, up from just 1% one year ago. We will process well over 1 million mobile transactions by year-end across iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

What will the opportunities be for restaurants that offer online and mobile ordering?

For our restaurant partners, we expect increased mobile usage to enhance the customer acquisition and retention capabilities Seamless already offers. Through the Seamless mobile applications, members can access a list of their favorite orders, search for restaurants, or sort and filter available options alphabetically, by delivery time, by minimum order price or by rating. The apps also allow customers to filter options based on cuisine and location, opening the door to new restaurant options, beyond just the limitations of the places members pass on their daily commutes.

We expect continued growth in mobile sales as more consumers purchase smartphones and tablets and discover the ease and convenience of using apps in their daily lives, ultimately benefiting our restaurant partners. [Consumers] are no longer tied to their computers; they can place an order without getting out of bed, while they’re in a cab or even from a plane … with Web and app access to more than 40,000 menus and over 200,000 user-generated ratings and reviews across 50-plus cities. Mobile ordering also opens up a different way of thinking about food discovery, and a new way to order delivery and takeout. Seamless and MenuPages content allows people to explore new neighborhoods and discover new cuisines and restaurants. If a restaurant is not available through mobile and online ordering, they’re missing a key sales channel.

What will the challenges be?

The biggest challenge in the food ordering and delivery industry for 2012 is educating consumers that they don’t have to keep a menu drawer and pick up the phone to order delivery and takeout — there’s an easier way! Since we see such great potential for the mobile industry in 2012 building great apps and creating awareness, while continually improving our Web-based offering, showcasing the ease-of-use to customers will be our most exciting challenge.

In speaking with our customers and restaurant partners, Seamless recognized an opportunity to develop a solution to a common consumer problem — ordering delivery or takeout wherever they are. In 2012, our focus will be making hungry people happy. We’ll do this by giving our members the best experience possible, whether it’s discovering new neighborhood cuisines, making an informed decision around which restaurant to try, or ordering online via mobile or on a tablet.

What food trends do you expect to impact online and mobile ordering?

In 2011, we saw that pizza and diner food topped the list of most frequented cuisines ordered through our mobile apps. In 2012, we expect our members to begin to more fully utilize the app capabilities to explore and discover new restaurants and new cuisines in their neighborhoods. As more people discover the ease and convenience of accessing local menus, ratings and reviews, restaurant photos and ordering from anywhere at any time, mobile will continue to experience tremendous growth.

Image credit: Seamless

Does your restaurant offer mobile or online ordering? Share your stories in the comments.

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4 Responses to “Seamless CEO on mobile and online ordering in 2012”

  1. ash says:

    Great article — thanks! One thing that may be interesting to see is how restaurants and other small businesses integrate mobile ordering into their pre-existing mobile strategies (i.e. mobile apps).

  2. Magnus Hultberg says:

    Very interesting. I especially think the way that smartphones and tablets change the way people think and behave around finding online information and from there order or book a restaurant can't be understated.

    At Livebookings we see the same trend in traffic moving from "ordinary" web to mobile web with astonishing numbers of searches and reservations made through our own and our customer's mobile websites and apps.

    This trend is so strong that everything we do today applies "mobile is a must" thinking, like for example with our Freebookings free reservation service for restaurants where tablet and smartphone support was a given from launch.

    Personally I think the change that comes from the

    - combination of powerful mobile devices,
    - cloud computing, and
    - a shift in mindset where valuing constant access to the information we care about and require (rather than going to a specific web connected computer to do what up until a few years ago were considered "typical desktop computer tasks", compare the shift that the phone went through ages ago…)

    has only just begun.

    // Manne

  3. Barry Larson says:

    As a consumer and someone in the trade, I see mobile as very important. To me, mobile enables what busy people want most – more convenience. As commuters travel, it's nice to know dinner is on its way after 3 simple clicks on your mobile device. Restaurants that support these features have a definite advantage.

  4. stevetamer says:

    In today's demanding world, more and more people are turning to the web for simple ways to order food from their favorite restaurants. If you are a business owner and don't have your own website, there is a good opportunity you are losing business to your competitors. In addition, having a website does not promise that you will get the desired users coming to your site and this is where Eat online an expert on online ordering can help.