Just four months after my experiment of deleting every app from my phone for 30 days, I’m disappointed to admit that I’m back up to 70 apps. Although this is still 66 fewer than when I originally deleted everything, it’s still too many. Frankly, I’m a bit envious of the Chinese “Super-Apps” like WeChat, which aggregate messaging, ride-sharing, e-commerce, gaming, and more functions in one unified app. I don’t expect a U.S. version of the “super-app” to emerge anytime soon, as each of these functions serve as the focus of the most valuable U.S. tech companies (Facebook / Apple, Uber / Lyft, Amazon, etc.). But as Jim Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape famously stated, “there are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle.”
In the mobile-app world, I think it’s time for some bundling. Here are a couple of specific opportunities that I think are ripe:
Restaurant Loyalty / Order Ahead
The other day, I found myself waiting in a long lunch line at Chipotle. Above the fast-casual counter of ingredients dangled a sign that said “Skip the Line: Download the Chipotle App and Order Ahead!” In that moment I decided it wasn’t worth it to skip this line if I had to have an entire dedicated Chipotle app on my phone — I don’t even eat there that often! Now, I’m a big believer that standing in line will be a thing of the past in 25 years — but I refuse to download an individual app for every restaurant I ever visit.
You may say “Wait a minute — there are plenty of aggregated food apps! DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates! Can’t these just add a ‘pickup’ option?”
In short, no. These companies were built around simplifying & aggregating demand for the delivery aspect of food ordering. This includes uniform UI / design for each restaurant, hefty fees (up to 30% of listed prices plus delivery fees from consumers), and a distinct lack of sharing customer data with restaurants. While this may fly for food delivery, order-ahead / loyalty programs require a radical rethinking.
Restaurants build their own independent mobile-order / loyalty apps in order to own customer information & messaging, create on-brand user experiences, an incentivize users to order more often.
A few restaurant brands have executed their mobile ordering apps exceptionally well: Sweetgreen reportedly has more than 50% of orders originate in its mobile app, and Starbucks mobile order & pay represents over 13% of all transactions. The success of these apps is generally attributed to user-friendly and on-brand user experience / design, engaging loyalty programs, and integrations with other platforms and services, such as Apple Pay.
Owning the customer relationship and building an user experience is so important to Sweetgreen that the company is planning to build out its own delivery network through its existing app, instead of relying on 3rd party delivery partners (and their exorbitant fees) such as Uber Eats, Postmates, etc.
Ordering ahead for pickup is much simpler logistically, and any aggregator should work closely with restaurants. An example of how this could work for both restaurants and consumers:
- Consumers can search for new restaurants and keep a list of those that are their “favorites” or that they’ve opted in to.
- Restaurants can integrate / build out the design for their “page” to create on-brand user experiences. Alternatively, the app can have a default / white label option for quick inclusion, even building custom loyalty programs for restaurants which don’t have one.
- Users have one-click registration for new restaurants. The aggregator app automatically fills out any necessary information — payment info, phone number, email, etc.
- Consumers can opt-in to receive notifications and communications from each individual loyalty program / restaurant.
- Loyalty programs are tracked separately, just as if they were separate apps.
- Restaurants have access to customer information, ordering analytics, and communication channels.
This proposition seems like a win-win for consumers and restaurants alike. I can have access to seamlessly order-ahead / mobile pay for any restaurant on a whim, and restaurants in turn have shorter lines and direct access to me.
Contact Info / Social Graph Hub
Have you ever met someone and either exchanged a business card (what year is it?), or asked for their email address, only to later look them up separately on LinkedIn / Twitter, or emailed them to ask for their phone number so you can text / call them?
These days, we have so many different channels for connection and communication, it can be overwhelming.
I’d love to have a central hub where all contact info / public profiles for people are accessible. This may include phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses (work / home), LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Medium, Spotify, etc. It could look something like this:
- Users input all contact info / profiles that they’re willing to share, and set rules for each piece. This could mean that my LinkedIn profile is public to everyone, but you can only see my email address if you already have my phone number (or if we are connected on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
- Users can also set group rules to determine who sees what information: Professional, work, personal, college friends, etc — all have access to different sets of contact info or social networks.
- In order to find someone, you must have one piece of contact info or confirmed connection. For instance, I can find John Doe because I have his email address or we are connected on LinkedIn.
- John’s privacy settings determine what other contact information I can see, but I can also request certain information if I don’t already have access to it. For instance, I want to send John a “Save the Date” for my wedding — if he hasn’t allowed me to see his address by default, I can request access through this hub while providing a reason.
- An ability to batch request info: instead of having to email / text message everyone who’s home address I don’t have individually, I can set up an info request with a specific message (“Hi, I’m sending out holiday this cards this year and would love to get your address so I can include you!”) and choose which connections to include.
If this were built and executed well, it would be the only piece of contact info you’d ever need to give anyone every again, regardless of the context of your connection.
Do you know of any services / platforms building out either of these aggregation opportunities? If so, I’d love to chat!