The restaurant industry has undergone a massive upheaval as a result of the pandemic. As consumer options and demand shifted, businesses were forced to adapt and prioritize new technologies and alternate ordering experiences that would allow them to deliver on customer expectations. Adopting a digital-first environment quickly became a priority and mobile technology is playing an integral role.
The most successful brands seeing the most growth and customer loyalty are those that have implemented omnichannel strategies blending the digital channels with offline channels. Enhancements in off-premise services for pickup and curbside continue to remain on the front burner and location technology is a main ingredient when it comes to successful implementation and measurement around these efforts.
How can restaurants bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds and measure the impact?
Feeding Consumer APPetites
Having a mobile app is arguably one of the most important ingredients to any restaurant’s mobile strategy. While many brands will continue to work with third-party delivery services – out of necessity but also awareness – more and more are investing in their O&O apps. This allows for brands to have a direct relationship with customers, and in turn, create more personalized, frictionless engagements.
One of the key functionalities within many QSR and fast casual mobile apps these days is the ability to order ahead and select curbside pickup. This puts the customer in the driver’s seat and removes the reliance and uncertainties on timeliness of delivery offered by third parties. This is precisely where the value of location data comes into play. By understanding when a customer places an order, when they’ve left to pick it up, and when they arrive onsite, restaurants can deliver that hot, fresh, and ready experience that customers have come to expect.
Slicing and Dicing: Segmenting Customers Based on Real-World Behaviors
In the past, brands had to cater to different customer types with little knowledge about their ordering preferences. Now, they are able to separate out customers based on how they order, where they order, what they order, their loyalty status, and more.
They can even break it down into off-premise preferences such as delivery, curbside, walk-up windows, drive-thru, or mobile order ahead. On the surface, this may not mean much, but when you consider the impact that personalization can have, catering to different personas could be a make or break when it comes to customer loyalty.
Say for instance you’re testing out a new breakfast item in a specific region available only for curbside or mobile app orders. Geotargeting is a great tactic to drive awareness, mobile app usage, and curbside pickup traffic. You can begin to answer questions such as:
- Has there been an uptick in store traffic during the morning hours?
- Is this bringing in customers that tend to order from the dinner or lunch menu?
- How far are customers driving for this new menu item?
- Has there been a decrease in the share of visits to competitor locations?
All of this can be measured via geofencing and geo-conquesting technology. Brands can then take this information and retarget subsets of customers based on their behaviors and with different messaging. They can even gather information about the customer experience via location-triggered exit surveys.
Another possibility is segmenting customers into app users and non-app users for geo-targeted campaigns to drive app installs. This all equates to less wasted ad spend and a more loyal user base. What’s more, this type of location technology can be used to power omnichannel strategies such as email, SMS, and location-based push messaging.
By bringing together CRM data as well as location data, marketers can begin to piece together a more well-rounded picture of their customers and their preferences. And as restaurants pull more sales through their digital menus they benefit from additional first-party data, stronger customer relationships, and margin expansion.
Upgrading the Off-Premise Experience
According to research from the National Restaurant Association, off-premise traffic made up 70 percent of restaurant traffic industry wide in July 2020, and increased to 80% in July 2021.
Curbside remains as one of the most highly adopted off-premise services and will likely be a mainstay due to its convenience. However, not all curbside experiences are the same and the difference can have a large impact on customer satisfaction. Consider these stats:
- Four out of 10 people said wait times longer than four minutes for curbside pickup is too long
- The average time per order at fast food restaurants in 2020 was 6 minutes – nearly 30 seconds slower than 2019
- The share of consumers who are unwilling to wait longer than 10 minutes for food ordered via a mobile app is 90 percent
These slowdowns cost QSRs an average of $32,000 per store per year. Compound that for chains with larger footprints and we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
What’s clear? Speed of service is more important than ever. But how are restaurant’s solving for this and how are they measuring their efforts in reducing wait times? Sprinkle location insights into the mix and you have your answer.
Adding Location Insights to the Menu
Evaluating changes between pre- and post-pandemic visitation (such as frequency, day of week, time of day, dwell time, where they came from, and where they go after) can assist brands in segmentation and messaging strategies, but they are more than just a marketing tool, they are a value add to every aspect of the business.
Using real-world insights, brands can analyze how effective their strategies are in increasing restaurant visitation – whether that’s for dine-in or various off-premise services. This can even help with decisioning on shrinking down square footage and/or opening up locations used only for pickup (no dining rooms).
Updating restaurant layout and design has also been a huge undertaking during the pandemic. QSR and fast casual chains such as Taco Bell, Chipotle, Del Taco and others are building a variety of drive-thru lanes based on how customers are ordering and the methods they are choosing to pick up their order. Analyzing dwell time metrics by placing beacons in these lanes is a great way to evaluate how effective they are in speeding up service.
The question for brands expands from “did my location-based marketing efforts work?” to “how are my efforts impacting my store operations?” There is great value to be drawn from location-derived strategies when viewed outside of just a marketing angle. With location services, brands can bring all the data together to measure how their cross channel efforts are impacting the entire business.
Creating the Ultimate Value
Consumers will continue down the path of least resistance with their mobile phones acting as a remote control for the physical world, offering up unique data insights for restaurants to take advantage of now and well into the future.
As market conditions remain in flux, optimizing marketing efforts and analyzing what’s working via real-time, contextual data will allow brands to improve service and create a more frictionless experience for their customers.
It ultimately comes down to piecing together all the different data points – like ingredients that make up a course – every ingredient, i.e., data touchpoint, is integral to delivering an experience that delights.