Military Hospitals, Domino’s Pizza, and Why Mobile Isn’t Everything

My grandmother recently had surgery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Because my grandfather was a retired Army veteran, after he passed away, my grandmother retained all her military dependent benefits. She’s always been able to shop at the PX and commissary, and she receives any medical care she needs nearly free of charge. So her hospital stay was at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC—pronounced SamSee), which is the main hospital component of Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC—pronounced BamSee) here in San Antonio. BAMC’s origins date back to 1879 when it was nothing more than a small medical dispensary. It’s grown exponentially over the years, and has been renovated several times, until a brand new building was constructed and opened in 2011. Today, SAMMC is a 2.1 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical facility that has become a centralized training and treatment center for all military branches. It’s also a very busy hospital due to the large number of military retirees who live in San Antonio, in large part to have access to high-quality medical care. So why am I telling you all of this on a digital marketing blog? I have a good reason. Bear with me a moment. During my grandmother’s recent stay, my husband and I went to visit her one evening. On our way out of the hospital, we saw this in one corner of the lobby: Military Hospitals, Domino's Pizza, and Why Mobile Isn't Everything Domino’s apparently received permission to place this ordering station inside BAMC. I snapped this photo of it because I’d never seen an ordering station like it, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I posted the photo on Facebook with an update saying so. The immediate and predominant response?
Big deal. The mobile app on my smartphone does that!
This is absolutely true. In fact, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see the station advertises the mobile app, and even provides a QR code with which to download said app. But let’s examine a few other things about this ordering station.

It’s in a Hospital—And That’s Good

Bad hospital food jokes aside, have you ever had to wait in a hospital while a loved one was in surgery? (We spent nine hours at the hospital the day of my grandmother’s surgery.) Or waiting to be seen in the ER? Or waiting in the ER to be admitted to a regular room? If you have kids or a chronically ill loved one, you may have spent hours and hours of your life in hospitals. I know I have. And after a while, you get hungry. And if you’re anything like me, when you get hungry, you also get grumpy. As if just being at the hospital weren’t enough to put you in a bad mood. It’s hard enough waiting, worrying about someone you love. It’s especially hard to do it on an empty stomach. Hospital cafeterias don’t stay open until all hours. So now, anyone spending their night waiting in BAMC can at least order pizza and not be completely miserable while they wait.

It’s Centralized

As I mentioned, SAMMC encompasses 2.1 million square feet. Having been in this building a few times now, I can tell you—it’s labyrinthine. If not for the multiple signs and maps on the walls, and the occasional interactive touch-screen directory, a person could get lost in this place. For days. So putting this ordering station in a lobby rather than in some random hallway was smart thinking. Not only that, but if you look closely again, you’ll see the sign on the front that says, “Orders placed here will be delivered to this kiosk.” I’m assuming geo-location data is sent along with your order, telling Domino’s exactly where to go. If you order pizza from this kiosk, you’re not going to have to try to explain to anyone how to find you, and that’s great because I have to tell you, even with all the maps and signs, we still had to ask for directions a few times. Not only that, the building has multiple entrances on all sides. Did I mention this place is huge? By the same token, the pizza delivery person isn’t going to have to go searching through the hospital to try to find which waiting room you’re in. They’re not going to have to spend more time than would be necessary were they delivering a pizza to your home. It’s right by the door—they can get in, deliver, get paid, and get out, on to their next delivery. It’s efficient.

It Doesn’t Rely on Mobile

Ah, here we are! The main point of my post and the reason you’re reading about all this on the Authority Labs blog. It’s taken a little while to get here, but everything you’ve read up to now is necessary to understand why this ordering kiosk is a brilliant marketing move on the part of Domino’s. Lately, you’ve been hearing that if you’re not considering mobile in your business and marketing, you’re doing it wrong. And you are. Mobile responsive sites, mobile apps, mobile-accessible information—it’s more important than ever, and will only become more so in the future. But—and this may shock you—not everyone has a smartphone. In fact, while 90% of American adults have a cell phone, just 58% of American adults have a smartphone. Let me repeat that: Only 58% of American adults have a smartphone. Now, out of that 58%:
  • How many are military?
  • How many are military retirees?
  • How many live in San Antonio?
  • How many are military retirees who live in San Antonio?
  • How many are military retirees who live in San Antonio and go to BAMC?
Do you see where I’m going with this? The reason that pizza ordering kiosk is brilliant is because Domino’s knows the audience they’re appealing to there.

Additional Considerations

Let’s think this through a bit further. Say you end up at the hospital because a family member was injured, and had to be taken in by ambulance.
  • Did you remember to grab your mobile phone before you ran out of the house or office?
  • Was your battery fully charged, or has it run out over the numerous hours you’ve been waiting at the hospital, calling loved ones to keep them informed?
  • Did you remember to bring a charger?
  • Do you have an unlimited data plan, or are you already at your limit for the month, and even downloading or even using one simple app will cost you another $15 in overage fees?
But here’s the thing—none of these statistics or possible scenarios matter. That kiosk is brilliant for another reason.

True customer service is about offering options.

If Domino’s had discounted the idea out of hand, saying, “Big deal. Everyone with the app can order pizza with their smartphone!” they would have missed out on some business. Possibly a lot of business. How long do you think it took before that kiosk paid for itself through the orders placed on it? What do you think the potential ROI for Dominio’s was by installing it? I’d love to see that data. But more than data, it’s also about brand perception. My first reaction when I saw that ordering station was, “What a great idea!” How many others feel that way? What has putting an ordering kiosk in a hospital done for Domino’s image in that community? This one simple gesture shows Domino’s cares about the military. They care about people who have to be in the hospital for any length of time. And so far, I’ve only discussed this from the perspective of having a family member in that hospital. What about all the people who work there? How many military members, civilian employees, and volunteers do you think populate those 2.1 million square feet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week? How tired do you think they get of eating at the hospital cafeterias? Mobile is important, yes. It’s going to become even more important. But it’s not everything. Not yet. Do you really think it’s a good idea to turn a blind eye to 42% of the population? It isn’t just about accessibility, smart marketing, or 21st century sensibilities. Mobile is about knowing your audience, where to find them, and how to get their attention. Optimize for mobile. Make your marketing work on mobile. Make your business, information, and products accessible via mobile. But more importantly, know your audience.
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