Commentary

Restaurants Should Increase Their Appetite For Digital Marketing

The concept of the TV commercial as the best channel for restaurants to reach customers is quickly falling away. Consider this: over 1 billion restaurant visits by consumers are influenced by online marketing, according to Monetate.

As challenger brands like Sweetgreen attract investment dollars because of “technology as a base ingredient,” (per a Wired story),  and third-party delivery services like DoorDash make headlines for its reported $6 billion valuation (likely in part due to the customer data it collects), the value of fostering digitally enabled, direct relationships has never been clearer.

The beauty of digital done the right way is its ability to provide access to greater customer data and insights. However, many restaurant marketers aren’t equipped to use that data to its full capacity. To methodically build data and technology capabilities and see people clearly across devices and channels, restaurant marketers should focus on these three areas:

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1. Make the most of first-party data.  Instead of giving away crucial first-party data to delivery services like Doordash, restaurants must hold direct connections to their customers in order to gather valuable insights and build digitally enabled relationships. 

Connecting a customer’s online and offline activity ensures it’s a real, verified individual, not just a cookie or device ID. Then, restaurant marketers can understand who they are actually interacting with across devices and platforms to initiate the most relevant interactions before, during and after a restaurant visit.

For example, knowing that a customer typically orders take-out for dinner during the workweek and is a dog owner, a restaurant marketer could trigger a personalized digital ad, shown during the workday, for a free dog treat at food pick-up,   

2. Create an always-on dialogue.   Restaurant marketers often focus on promoting seasonal products, one-time offers and steep discounts. This is not a sustainable way to drive growth. 

For example, Burger King recently offered one-cent Whoppers to customers that downloaded the Burger King app within 600-feet of a McDonald’s. While a unique way to build relationships, arguably what’s more important is how Burger King plans to maintain an always-on dialogue with these newly acquired customers.  

Restaurant marketers can use the initial customer interaction as an entry point to driving greater value through personalized omnichannel marketing efforts. An always-on digital strategy means reaching customers across their preferred websites, apps and devices throughout the purchase journey. Whether it’s reminding loyal customers to order ahead for lunch via a personalized display ad or offering a mobile app discount on breakfast to customers that typically only transact in the evening.

3. Understand the impact online has on offline. Reports indicate that restaurants  could face more headwinds due to rising food costs and an increasingly competitive field. Emerging competitors and increasing pressure on margins are requiring restaurant marketers to drive customer engagement through a more measured approach.

Accurate measurement starts with defining clear KPIs, like driving brand awareness from a social media campaign or increasing website traffic through digital media promotions. Restaurant marketers can achieve a clear line of sight into an individual’s interactions on their path-to-purchase. Then they can measure the performance of their campaigns, ultimately knowing what drives register rings  -- not just clicks.

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