Applause's Rahul Shah discusses Shake Shack's mobile transformation

Shake Shack recently improved its mobile experience with help from Applause. (Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0)

Popular quick food restaurant Shake Shack recently revamped its mobile app experience with the help of Applause, a vendor offering testing, feedback and research for digital experience.

Applause was challenged to create a test of Shake Shack employees by flooding the restaurants with more the 100 mobile app orders at lunchtime. 

The resulting data allowed Shake Shack to better understand the customer journey, both online and in-store, and empowered the chain to make app and operational changes.

FierceRetail spoke with Rahul Shah, senior VP of global delivery and customer success at Applause, to learn more about how the harnessing of data can improve all points of the shopping experience. 

FierceRetail: Through the partnership, what was Shack Shack looking to achieve?

Rahul Shah: Shake Shack teamed up with Applause in early 2017 and wanted to ensure its new mobile app was providing the same superior and unique customer experience its guests have come to know and love. Therefore, the company needed the app to present the same tone and feel customers were accustomed to in-store. It had to be enjoyable and easy to use.

But the team at Shake Shack understood that a well-branded app alone wouldn’t deliver the added value its on-the-go customers were looking for. The QSR needed a way to ensure the app worked as intended and provided a seamless experience, so sought a partner to test its usability, functionality and payment validation.

Shake Shack also needed a testing partner and platform that could recreate the expected scale of a lunch or dinnertime rush to ensure restaurant operations could support an influx of mobile and in-store orders.

FierceRetail: How does the restaurant now offer a comprehensive omnichannel experience?  

Shah: Shake Shack has long understood the importance of combining digital and in-store experiences. The company put up a Shack-cam webcam at its first location 10 years ago to give customers at their computers a heads-up on line length and wait times so they could better plan their visits.

Today, Shake Shack uses its mobile app, as well as online and mobile web, as a means to provide information to customers, increase brand loyalty, and facilitate unique experiences. And, as we’ve seen with companies like Starbucks, mobile ordering and payment can be a boon to sales and customer loyalty.

By getting its mobile experience right, Shake Shack is able to provide the purchase channels that are most convenient for its customers. By ensuring the seamless integration of digital and physical experiences, Shake Shack is able to implement new digital experiences that satisfy its tech-enabled customers, while staying true to its vision and strong brand heritage.

FierceRetail: Why is omnichannel so important to consumers in 2018? 

Shah: Customer experience and digital experience are now synonymous. Digital properties have become the 'front door' for many brands, and they are often the only aspect of a brand a consumer knows or interacts with. Shake Shack understands that the customer culture of today is tied to technology and that digital experiences add to the overall guest experience, leading to better brand loyalty. Having an omnichannel approach and connecting with consumers across platforms in a consistent and engaging way opens up a two-way street of information sharing, which enables the restaurant to consistently improve its services and customers’ experiences.

FierceRetail: What are the results of the initial testing? 

Shah: During the initial testing, Applause was able to provide Shake Shack with a variety of technical feedback about the in-app experience, including that the app would crash when a drink was added to an order, or that some of the item prices changed unexpectedly in the shopping cart section. As a result, Shake Shack was able to correct the discovered flaws, ultimately enabling the brand to launch its mobile app with high quality in a timely fashion.

Furthermore, the testing helped to identify some operational issues and give insight into how guests flowed through the mobile ordering process. Testing found that guests who ordered through the app did not know what to do upon arrival at the restaurant. With this feedback, Shake Shack was able to update their signage to let customers who ordered via the app know where they should go to pick up their order in-store and even created a dedicated mobile pick-up window.

In addition to tweaking the app, Shake Shack made a number of other course corrections as a result of the testing feedback, including more training for staffers, better placement of store signage, and opening up a dedicated mobile pickup window to make the process more efficient.

Overall, 82% of guests found app’s ease of use better than expected or outstanding, and mobile orders via the Shake Shack app are on average 15% larger than orders placed at the counter.

FierceRetail: What does the future hold for the partnership between Applause and Shake Shack?

Shah: Shake Shack recently reinvested in Applause and we are excited to continue our work with its team to support them in delivering a seamless omnichannel experience throughout the development of new products, technology, in-store updates, and more.

Applause continues to do exploratory functional testing for Shake Shack’s mobile apps on both iOS and Android, and moving forward it will do security work and expand customer experience testing for usability and in-store workflows.

FierceRetail: What else can you tell me about the importance of omnichannel in 2018?

Shah: Delivering a flawless omnichannel experience will continue to be a significant piece of every retailer’s success. Today’s consumers are interacting with brands on a number of new technology platforms, transforming the customer journey. However, retailers need to be sure not to put all of their focus on the new technology, since the in-store experience remains just as important.