What’s WAP Got to Do with It?

I’m 27 years old, I work (sometimes more than) full-time, attend evening classes at a quite competitive MBA program, run the books for a small real estate gig with my father and somehow manage to keep my girlfriend moderately happy with me.  All of that takes time and doesn’t leave me with the energy to figure out what’s for dinner—much less shop for it and cook it. So, with that in mind, here are 3 ways the modern worker-on-the-go can maintain a decent eating schedule.


When I’m driving from work to campus for an evening class, I’m almost always hungry, but I’m also strapped for time. I prefer to eat something healthy, at least something not laden with fat and grease – but stopping by a Chipotle or a Subway has, at least until recently, taken more time than hitting a drive-through. Luckily, Chipotle has put together a great application for iOS that allows me to find the nearest restaurant and build my order step-by-step. When I swing by the store, I walk past the line and straight to the cash register. 

Why does this work so well?  Chipotle, like many restaurants, has a wide selection, but that selection can be turned into a fairly simple buyflow that never has more than a handful of choices.  Sure, if I order something really off the wall I may need to go in and explain, but for the 99% of customers who order off the menu, this app is a huge time saver. Not only that, but I get the feeling of being an “insider” as I walk past the long line of people. 

This buyflow approach isn’t just for food. While grocery shopping on a mobile device is a growing movement, using a mobile device to order and purchase meals to go has really taken off. As the technology becomes easier to use, using one’s mobile device to shop will penetrate deeper into other markets.  Imagine if your business were to embrace mobile ordering and purchasing the way some restaurants have?

Think about buying a car. First you choose a style (sedan, coupe, truck), then a model, trim level, and options.  Am I going to buy a car on my phone?  Probably not—but I can walk into a showroom with all the info from the dealer’s website in my pocket, including my preferences and how that affects pricing.  It works for retail as well. Not unlike creating my personal quesadilla and ordering it wirelessly, I can put together my perfect suit.  I can pick a two, three or four-button jacket, a vent style, the color and pattern, size, pleating.  Not exactly overwhelming.


Back in the pre-smartphone day, if I wanted to order a pizza, I had two choices: call (and most likely be put on hold), explain my order and then read my credit card information aloud to someone who punched it into a machine; or I sat down at a computer and ordered my pizza online.  Ordering online was clearly my preference, but if I’d left the office before realizing I had no food in the house, it was painful to turn around, go back inside, hop on the network, and order a pizza.  It seemed—to me, at least—equally painful to order via phone.  So I’d park my car and use my (now ancient) Sony Walkman phone to pull up a WAP browser—a simple and mostly text-based version of the internet—to load the Domino’s website and order my dinner.

Using that phone on GPRS service (not even EDGE!), I was able to order a pizza for carryout and pick it up on the way home—albeit, making the resolution that tomorrow, I’d make sure to conserve enough energy to go grocery shopping.

If your product has limited options and selection, WAP is a great choice.  Using just a few buttons and simple menu I was even able to use a coupon I found on the WAP site.  Could I see big pictures of the delicious pepperoni I was about to consume?  No, but I know what pepperoni looks like – I just wanted a quick, simple way to order it.  While the number is rising, currently, in the U.S., less than 25 percent of mobile phone users carry smartphones. If you’re a business owner, think about your typical customer profile—are they likely to own an iPhone, an Android, or a BlackBerry Torch?  If not, think about using WAP or other simple mobile services to reach those customers.


For those customers without even a WAP browser, there’s still text or SMS ordering.  Both Pizza Hut and Papa John’s allow you to place orders for pizza via text message. While being able to do so requires some initial online setup, if you’re a creature of habit and typically order the same thing—ordering by texting can prove easier than using your laptop or a WAP browser.

SMS ordering is mostly limited to items customers can set up ahead of time and that they’ll re-order again and again.  However, I recently came across a company called Zingle that allows a business owner to set up SMS ordering. Customers can text in an order “freestyle” (with whatever they want), and that order is printed out in the shop.  A little lower tech, but for small shops it’s a great option.

What’s next?

We’ve come a long way in terms of making purchases with a mobile device, but who knows how far it could go?  I don’t like ordering through a drive through speaker, so I’m all for setting up a Wi-Fi network that allows my order to be placed while I’m in line, my payment processed through a card I’ve set up through the phone or using near-field communications. I’m also all for setting up an express lane for sophisticated, mobile-ordering customers so they breeze right through—no waiting for the guy paying for his Buck Double in dimes or placing orders for a dozen people in his office through a broken speaker.

Have you used any of these methods to order on your mobile device?
David Egger IRU Mobility Programs Lead Marketing Manager AT&T About David