Acquisition & Engagement

How GrubHub Uses a Fun Feedback Loop to Re-engage Mobile Users

John Koetsier

How do you keep mobile users in your app? And how do you re-engage them every day, or every week? Popular food delivery startup GrubHub has figured out this core marketing challenge with something the company calls its “mobile feedback loop.”

We asked GrubHub CMO Barbara Coppola how it works.

Marketers know that it’s critical for brands to have tight relationships with their clients. And they also know that riding along on their customers’ mobile apps is probably a better way to accomplish that than any other marketing tool in history. But in a world where most people use 20-30 apps in a month, the vast majority of that time is in just 5-8 apps, and there are five million apps to choose from … how do you get and stay on the first screen?

Here’s Coppola’s answer:

GrubHub developed ways of connecting to customers emotionally outside of the app, and then in the app via simplicity, ease-of-use, and the ability to give feedback. All of those are absolutely key.

But the company also makes ordering food fun with a tiny 10-second game, Yummy Rummy, in which GrubHub users can win prizes like free food.

“We try to get people to play five times a month,” says Coppola.

Barbara Coppola, CMO of Grubhub

Barbara Coppola, CMO of Grubhub

The primary feedback loop in GrubHub is, of course, the obvious one. Order food, get food, eat food. Food is good, and good food is really good, so if the company is doing its job well and the ordering experience was smooth, you’ll likely repeat that loop. But the world is a busy, noisy place, and there are a lot of distractions. An additional feedback loop based on fun — and the opportunity to Win Free Stuff — serves as a smart little method to get you back into the GrubHub app, and running through the primarily feedback loop.

Originally Yummy Rummy was just a temporary initiative — just for fun. But it drove a lot of “loyalty and love,” says Coppola, and when the company ended the program after they thought it had run its course, users demanded its return via social media.

The result?

yummy rummyThe game, initially a temporary, throw-away part of the GrubHub app, drove a lot of incremental orders.

There are a number of lessons in this very simple story:

  1. Fun is good
  2. Your customers like fun
  3. Listen to your customers when they talk to you
  4. Even though gamification is a buzzword that has come and gone, sometimes the lessons last longer than the hype cycle
  5. Growing share of wallet from the customers you have is often easier and cheaper than finding new customers
  6. Try things! You don’t know what works until you do … and you might just stumble across a really strong tactic for improving business fundamentals.

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John Koetsier

Before acting as a mobile economist for TUNE, John built the VB Insight research team at VentureBeat and managed teams creating software for partners like Intel and Disney. In addition, he led technical teams, built social sites and mobile apps, and consulted on mobile, social, and IoT. In 2014, he was named to Folio's top 100 of the media industry's "most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers." John lives in British Columbia, Canada with his family, where he coaches baseball and hockey, though not at the same time.

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