By Kerri Adams, Digital Media Manager
It is difficult to imagine a world where restaurant diners are not anxiously checking their phones or snapping photos of their meals. And although some establishments frown upon excessive cell phone usage, (yes, there are restaurants that have strict no mobile devices out at the table policies) brands that embrace smartphone usage and use this consumer addiction to their advantage are the most successful.
But it actually took the restaurant industry as a whole quite a while to catch up in the technology space. When consumers started to live in their digital obsessed world, businesses -- specifically restaurants -- lost control. This digital world was in favor of the customer. Not only were restaurateurs and marketers having difficulty trying to adapt, but consumers were the ones gaining power over the purchasing process. That was until these marketers harnessed the power of big data.
The Power of MPOS
Point of sale systems are so much more than a modern cash register. This is where customers spoon feed their demographics and preferences to the business in a form of a credit card. But now the POS is not always in-store -- it is in the customer’s pocket. The customer can be at home or 30 minutes away from the restaurant when they order. In today’s fast-moving market, it has become an expectation from the consumer for a restaurant to have mobile ordering. The success of mobile ordering has shown that customers don’t mind giving their information in exchange for convenience. Most mobile-ordering platforms (and loyalty programs) require users to set up - profiles where the business can collect their name, address, phone number and their menu preferences.
The No. 1 restaurant of Q1 2015 according to consumer social data from Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) was the fast casual Panera bread. This brand has seamlessly integrated technology to offer a more convenient dining experience -- in fact, 20% of sales come from mobile, online and kiosk ordering. With the launch of Panera 2.0, the brand has already rolled out rapid pick up to all stores, but soon it will be rolling out the kiosks. An expected 20% is bound to increase.
Consumers may love these programs because they are convenient, but Panera loves them because they can track customer behavior better than ever. The brand uses customer data to determine the best rewards for each individual loyalty program customer. If a customer regularly orders items off their “Pick Two” menu, most likely they will be receiving a $2 off reward in the near future.
Targeting your Customer Everywhere
The social sphere still offers various challenges to brands. It is an uncontrolled environment where consumers have the freedom to voice their opinions however they wish. Until recently, the social space was seen as the Wild West to marketers. Again, that has also changed. DigitalCoCo’s RSMI is the most comprehensive index for the restaurant & foodservice industry. We are tracking 15,256 brands in more than 430K locations, with more than 188,699 total restaurant industry terms. Anyone can collect data -- but what will set successful businesses apart is is how they make sense of that data. We use a large dictionary of sentiment-bearing phrases then both assign and interpret their relative scores. By creating this extensive database of terms, we are able to determine a brand’s consumer sentiment score through an intricate analysis of what their customers are saying on social media platforms.
Let’s face it – customers are going to be less gated about their opinions on social. We are able to track these honest consumer interactions and determine how consumers really feel about the brand: How is their service? How do they feel about a new menu item? In-store feedback is no longer the only place for brands to measure their performance. Customers are more accessible through this social sphere.