Why going online alone isn’t enough
As the online arena for restaurants expands, and as more consumers turn to their mobile devices to place food delivery orders, there is little doubt that things have become rather crowded within the space.
A decade ago, the concept of operating an online strategy for a restaurant delivery business was somewhat alien in terms of a core tool to drive revenues, however since then it has become an essential approach for any fast casual/QSR operation seeking to compete in an increasingly busy marketplace.
Given technology improvements, it has become increasingly easy to take a restaurant business online, but with a huge variety of solutions to accomplish this, it can be extremely confusing when attempting to choose the correct mix of products and strategies to ensure that you place your brand front and center when it comes to online.
But where to start?
How does a busy restaurateur make sense of new product offerings and emerging technologies? What do customers really want? Which solutions have staying power, and which are a flash in the pan? More important, can an online presence streamline your operations, lower your costs and increase your revenue?
This paper will help you understand the benefits that online commerce can offer and how you can intelligently leverage this mega-trend to grow your business. It’s important to understand that every restaurant is different and will have its own unique requirements. Whether you’re a fullservice, quickservice or fast-casual operation will shape your decisions about your online strategy. Your customer demographics will play a large role in the solutions you choose, too.
2. The Online Ordering Market for Restaurants
Virtually every restaurant now has an online presence of some description, ranging from the small operator with a basic website to the larger players like Dominos Pizza, who at last count were processing more than 80% of their orders through a proprietary online ordering system. If everyone is online, then how is it possible to cut through the noise and get noticed in this important space?
The key to this lies in an effective online strategy. Around 25% of consumers now consider a brand’s technology options an important feature when making buying decisions (up from 20% the previous year), so it is essential that a realistic budget is put in place to ensure that efficient, market-standard options are available to customers. It is no longer cost-prohibitive for even a small restaurant operator to adopt these technologies, and with new tech options coming on stream by the month, platform providers are also vying for business behind the scenes.
In the period shortly after they revamped their online strategy, Ireland’s Diep Group saw online revenues account for almost 30% of overall revenue, up from around 8% before the exercise was undertaken. That’s not to say that revenues simply shifted online however, an overall increase in sales of 12.2% was observed in the 12 months following a complete overhaul of their website and other online activities. An effective online strategy can expose a restaurant brand to markets that were previously a lot harder to reach using traditional marketing techniques, and with younger generations of consumers becoming active all the time, technology is quickly becoming an expectation when choosing a brand to buy from.
Lastly, improvements in technology have provided even small operators with an opportunity to showcase their brands in a way that was previously only the preserve of large players with extensive resources. Partnering with a creative/tech agency that offers solutions specific to the restaurant industry will go a very long way towards ensuring that a brand has industry-standard graphic design and brand ID, and this can be proliferated across all online platforms, ensuring a seamless experience for customers while also strengthening image and online presence.
Third-party food delivery portals are now a phenomenon that delivery restaurant operators simply cannot ignore. Unless a brand has a market presence and maturity significant enough for it to be an online destination in its own right, it is important to consider how portals can be used to increase incremental revenue. This can be done however with a view to migrating loyal customers over to a brand’s own dedicated channels, with a gradual cost saving being observed in doing so. Consider this: Just Eat currently charge a commission in the range of 12-14%*, with additional fees attached for card processing fees. A white-labelled solution employed by a brand can run as little as half this amount, and this is coupled with improved after-sale marketing opportunities afforded by retaining ownership of customer data.
A solid migration strategy can effectively use portals as a powerful customer acquisition tool. Traditionally, portals like Just Eat employ online marketing techniques that use branded keywords belonging to their partners to drive traffic through their own channel, collecting an inflated commission in return for delivering customers to the restaurant. Bidding on keywords is a standard approach for aggregator portals like Just Eat and Deliveroo-it forms a core part of their business model. If incentivised correctly however, customers will migrate from use of these platforms over to using a restaurant’s own platform. This can be achieved by offering a discount against future orders via the restaurant’s own website, or offering free items, etc.
Larger brands often face a dilemma over whether to include themselves on portals, given their ability to attract customers by virtue of their own market presence. A white labeled solution is an essential tool for operators of this scale, and if they have ambition to extricate themselves from the portal environment and attempt to grow an indigenous following, they must offer their customers a viable alternative.
4. Marketing your restaurant online and the use of technology
Building an effective website for your restaurant is the foundation on which to foster an effective online strategy. If your website is clunky and difficult to navigate, without prominent call to action throughout, then it is likely that customers will get frustrated and either head to the competition or order from you through a portal-costing you more.
A mobile-first approach to your restaurant website is absolutely essential-statistics show that 40% of customers will go to a competitor after a bad mobile experience, with an alarming 84% experiencing difficulty at least once during a mobile transaction. Furthermore, 62% of smartphone users have made purchases online in the last 6 months, and some 80% have used mobile devices to learn more about products or services in advance of making a purchasing decision. 70% of global e-Commerce transactions are expected to take place via mobile by the end of 2017.
Your website should primarily be focused on strong call to action, so that customers can easily locate the section that they need, and place an order with a minimum of clicks. A website should also be used to tell the story of the brand, with concise, informative content that readily provides the user with the information that they are looking for. Choosing the correct digital agency is crucial, as you will need to pay close attention to design aspects like flow and UX.
With an efficient, mobile responsive website in situ, the correct marketing mix must be considered. Correct SEO (search engine optimisation) procedures will ensure that your website is friendly to search engines and a solid, carefully targeted PPC (pay per click) campaign will position your brand ahead of your competition. Consider partnering with an agency who can conduct a full audit and tailor a suitable approach for the business. There is nothing more frustrating than losing money on ineffective paid advertising campaigns, and this is nothing more than a drain on resources.
Building a database is essential to the ongoing success of your digital marketing efforts. The more data you gather on your audience, the more likely you are to foster repeat business and loyalty. SMS campaigns, direct email marketing and other targeted initiatives will provide consistent awareness and allow you to continually engage with your audience, incentivising and rewarding them for their loyalty. Using a quality POS system will provide you with the analytical tools required to identify lapsed customers, high worth customers and other groups that need marketing campaigns tailored for them specifically.
Figuring out which social media channels to attack is also important. Some brands have found amazing success through channels like Snapchat, reaching audiences in innovative ways that break the mould of traditional online/social marketing. Building a strong social media following allows for direct marketing to an engaged audience, and it presents an ongoing opportunity to build brand loyalty which ultimately results in increased order revenues. Use traditional social media like Facebook and Instagram to engage followers with stimulating, relevant content with attached CTA to drive conversion.
Lastly, paid social media advertising campaigns should be run in conjunction with other online drives, maximising exposure and allowing each channel to provide effective ROI.
5. In conclusion
Choosing the right mix of technology and online marketing techniques can equip a restaurant with a competitive edge over competition, allowing it to be visible when necessary and more importantly providing customers with an efficient way to order directly from your website. There are many online players only too willing to exploit a lack of knowledge when it comes to how to market your business online. People are searching for your restaurant, so it is important not to allow third parties harness your web traffic only to sell it back to you by way of high commissions and charges.