How Big Data Changed the Game for Restaurant Brands

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.


There is a way to take tracking your social customers a step further. How do you know if your social audience is driving sales? Previously, it was not easy to measure if your social audience was translating into business. That was before VenueBeacon. These beacons are placed closed to the POS and they pull data from the mobile devices from as little as 2 inches to as far as 200 feet away. This allows for brands to track Location-based actions like never before. Brands can measure sidewalk traffic, time in-store by zones and competitive habits of these consumers. Learn more about this technology here

Although marketers still have yet to invent a crystal ball that predicts a customer’s future behavior, collecting data from the technologies above has given the power back to the marketer. Ultimately, the brands that track their customers’ movements the closest will be the ones to rise to the top.

Social Media Hacks from the Pros

There's more to winning at social media than just "posting good content". Strategies need to be implemented that involve research, testing, data, and creativity. So here are some tips from the pros that will get you more followers, and increase engagement and ultimately boost revenue.  

-Following up is essential. When trying to contact someone with a busy schedule, chances are they'll say something like "Now's a busy time but try me again in 2 weeks". To ensure that this important contact doesn't slip through the cracks, use Boomerang. It's a gmail plugin that allows you to write a message and schedule it to send at a later time.

-Instagram is increasing in popularity as a favorite social media channel. With a little planning and tagging, you can create visuals on various profiles that give your company visibility and will encourage your follows to engage. More engagement means more impressions which means more followers. 

- Buffer is a helpful tool that you should consider using.  This feature allows the user to spend more time engaging and less time scheduling posts. You can write multiple posts, decide which platforms they get scheduled to, and Buffer will spread them out over a day or week so you don't have to be sitting at your computer to have a social media presence. It provides analytics and will suggest content that your audience may be interested in.  Read More 

3 Things You Need to Know About Twitter's Project Lightning

1. Up until now, it was up to the user to sift through hashtags and trending topics. It is now an editorial team at Twitter that will highlight Tweets using data and algorithms. Ultimately it will be up to the decision of a core group of humans, but they will be guided by computer generated data. With this new editorial route, Twitter is trying to solidify itself as the new age newspaper of the internet. 

2. Twitter aims to create a visual experience with photo and video content. Vine and Periscope videos will play immediately the moment you swipe them. When you use the mobile app, each Tweet will fill the entire screen. The spotlight is on imagery and conveying compelling visuals for the user.

- One of the most talked about new features that is generating excitement is the ability to follow events as opposed to people. The user no longer has to search out people with Tweets linked to an event. Twitter will now filter out unrelated Tweets, but relevant updates will continue to show up even after the event. What do you think about the strategy behind Project Lightning? Read More  

Barbie Gets a Digital Makeover

Screenshot of "Who is Barbie?" video | Mattel

Screenshot of "Who is Barbie?" video | Mattel

Even the most timeless and classic brands could benefit from a makeover every now and then. To stay relevant, brands need to evolve and this means the way they are market must evolve as well. Even the famous doll brand, Barbie, isn't exempt. 

After being knocked from the top spot during last year's holiday season (thanks to Frozen), a new strategy is being implemented. The new Fashionistas line will feature 23 different dolls with varying skin tones, facial structures, eye and hair colors and personal fashion. With the new focus on cultural diversity and individuality, Mattel is revamping its marketing approach by exploring digital and social platforms. Barbie has accumulated a solid following on social with 815,000 fans following the Barbie Style profile. Having historically relied on traditional TV commercials for advertising, Mattel is mixing it up by using a mix of TV, digital, social to promote the brand. They are working with YouTube influencers to reach girls and connect to them in the fashion space. Barbie was brought to life in a new stop-motion video released last week.  Watch here                    

3 Fun Digital Marketing Stats From Last Week

- Being "catfished" may no longer be a thing. There is now a timed photo verification feature on the online dating site, Zoosk. This allows users to upload a time-stamped photo, to ensure you aren't seeing someone's pictures from 10 years ago. Currently 3.8 million photos have been verified with this feature.

-"Food Porn" is more popular than ever on social media. Instagram posts using "food porn" have continued to increase- 371% according to statistics. KBS+, a global advertising agency in NYC, reviewed over 8 million food posts in the last 18 months. 

-For brands marketing to mothers, listen up! The majority of moms go on YouTube every 2 days and watch an average of 5 videos per visit. According to research from Millward Brown Digital, 83% of all mothers visit YouTube at least once a month. If you do the math, this means there's 70 different opportunities per month for marketers to reach their target audience. Read More   

Instagram Gets a Makeover- Makes Room For More Ads

For those of you who thought Instagram was only a mobile app- Surprise! It has a webpage! Where there was once a Twitter-esque banner along the top and a 5 column grid, there is no banner image. The images are now larger and in a column grid of 3 instead of 5. These updates align more closely with the layout of the app.

While these modifications are visually pleasing to users, some suspect that the reason they made the images bigger is for one purpose alone: ads. Until now the social media mogul only worked with a small chosen few advertisers since it started having ads in November 2013. But, Instagram is now opening up its advertising services to all marketers. This is a necessary shift, inevitable to any major social platforms. So far the ads on Instagram have been very selective and artistic, not causing complaints from users. But, is this about to change? Read More     

Twitter Revamps its Format for Easier Navigation

Until now, conversations on twitter have been somewhat unorganized and not very easy to follow. Following a thread can be confusing due to multiple strangers replying and conversing with each other. With that in mind, the popular social media platform has recently announced that it is changing the way it groups replies.  

Conversations will now be grouped together and the more interesting exchanges will be highlighted. There will be an option to expand the conversation similar to how you can currently expand a conversation on your home timeline. This change could have been inspired by Facebook's similar restructuring back in 2013 when they started having threaded conversations. This move will surely make the platform easier to navigate for its current 302 million users and may possibly inspire newcomers to start tweeting as well. User-friendliness is key to the success of any social media platform, mobile app, or any type of technology.  Read More   

Recap: The Week in Digital Marketing News

-President Obama previously held the record for the quickest to gain 1 million Twitter followers. This record was broken by Caitlyn Jenner, after she revealed her gender transformation on the cover of Vanity Fair. She currently has 2.3 million followers, nearly as much as President Obama who created his account back in May. Jenner also helped Vanity Fair break a record for largest website traffic day ever with more than 9 million viewers. 

-How many customers do not get responses from customer service inquiries via social media?  According to a survey conducted by The Northridge Group, 33 percent do not get their questions answered.

-Listen up Father's Day marketers!  n a recent research report, data shows that fathers use shopping apps 4 percent more than moms. The report also shows they share photos more and access maps more often as well.

-Remember AOL? This company has unveiled a new website to keep up with the times.  The new site is supposed to be more social media and mobile-friendly. These site upgrades were based on data showing that video views grew 94% and 90% of articles have a video attached.  Read More   

The Final Puzzle Piece in Smartphone Navigation

A new app called VoicePark is aspiring to be the final puzzle piece in Smartphone Navigation!  Long gone are the days of big fold out paper road maps, and printing out directions from Map Quest is a distant memory.  GPS navigation has spoiled drivers and most of us cannot imagine going back to the days before this kind of technology.  But once we get to our destination, we still circle around, wasting gas and time trying to find parking spots.  VoicePark would require cities to adopt an infrastructure requiring the installation of thousands of parking sensors. Currently VoicePark is running trials on a small number of spots in San Francisco.  It's an ambitious project and getting cities to adopt the technology is certainly risky.  Even if a city approves and funds the project, there's no telling how long until the technology itself becomes outdated.  Who's to say in a couple years, cars themselves will be able to find open spots? (Ford has already begun to experiment with this idea).  Read More     

Brands Demand View-Ability Stats for their Advertising

For brands purchasing online video advertising, how do they know that their ads are actually being seen? This is a question that is not so accurately correct. In December 2014, Google stated that 56% of its banner ads were never seen. Because of statistics like this, many brands are only making purchases of online ads with a 100% guarantee that it will be seen. But is a guarantee of 100% view-ability feasible?

Many companies, such as Kellogg, are boycotting YouTube because Google does not allow measurement by a third party. Recently, Google stated that videos running on YouTube have a 91% chance of being seen, which is substantially better than the 46% of ads that run outside of YouTube that have never had a chance to be seen. But really how accurate are these statistics? Is CPM still all that matters? What about traceable actions from clicks, follows, location-based and venue beacon data? Read More 

The Rise of Technology Brings the Decline of Privacy

In this digital age, the issue of privacy seems to come up again and again. Cameras are everywhere- from security cameras in stores to the cellphones we carry. With apps like Periscope, it is now easier than ever to live stream and almost impossible to hide. The CEO of periscope didn't anticipate the app to bring any controversy, but the live element does add a twist. People are bound to post something they wish they hadn't, and no longer have that editorial pause to rethink it.  

While this issue will undoubtably occur for adults, questions are raised about it being appropriate in the hands of teenagers. Currently Periscope bans users 13 and under from using the app and pornography is prohibited, but anything can slip through the cracks since it is live. Recordings of the stream can stay up for up to 24 hours. Do you think users are responsible enough to use live streaming apps? Read More     

The Most Interesting Digital Marketing Stats From the Past Week

-Email and direct mail are far from dead. Social media and mobile media may be getting more attention these days, but response rates for email are between 50% and 60% which can be attributed to better data and target marketing.

-The marketing team at Universal Pictures deserves some applause. Pitch Perfect 2 was released in theaters on Friday and had 300,000 followers on Snapchat. Chances are a big number of their millennial followers bought tickets. 

-Food festivals are getting on the social media bandwagon. Food trucks got on a while ago and now festivals are catching up. New York's Harlem EatUp has successfully grown its social presence in the past 6 months.  

- To celebrate 80 years of the beloved KitKat bar, Google and Nestle teamed up and released 600,000 limited edition packs in the UK with the name "YouTube Break" on the label. This surprisingly isn't the first campaign from this unlikely partnership.  Read More

Fast Food Paper Tray Gets An Upgrade with Advertising Campaign

The KFC Tray Typer |

The KFC Tray Typer |

KFC in Germany has launched a new advertising campaign featuring some cutting edge technology. It is a common occurance for consumers eating fried chicken to become frustrated using their iPhones with greasy fingers– so those clever Germans hatched a solution.

The KFC Tray Typer is a thin, bluetooth keyboard that arrives with your tray and allows you to text without messing up your phone screen. This new device is meant to get wiped down and reused, although after they launched they were all taken home by the first batch of customers who received them. There has been similar technology to the tray typer produced in the U.K. A company called CSR makes a blue tooth keyboard claimed to be just as sleek in design as the Tray Typer. Even if the product is just part of an advertising campaign, it serves a purpose and is a better idea than say, a keyboard or mouse in the shape of fried chicken (actually a thing thanks to KFC in Japan).  Read More 

Do You Need to Outsource Your Digital Marketing?

The advantages of Digital Marketing are unparalleled to traditional marketing strategies. It gives companies access to metrics, the ability to understand target audiences, and utilize various delivery methods. With that in mind- how do you know when its time for your company to utilize outside digital marketing resources? Here are some tell tale signs that it's time to take your efforts to the next level and call for back up: 

-Your company has some digital marketing experience but not the time to devote to strategizing and executing campaigns. You may have already achieved some success but bringing in experts to bring in different tools and technology can take your digital marketing game to a new level.

-You've gotten positive feedback and results when testing a campaign on a small level. It's possibly you don't have the resources or staff to expand but outsourcing is a valuable option that can give your digital marketing a boost while you can focus on other operations.

- You're company is behind the curve and needs to play catch up in a short period of time. Digital Marketing is the way of the future and its time for your brand to get up to speed. You want to make sure you make the most of your online presence and don't miss any important steps. The right digital marketing strategy is going to be more effective than other other traditional marketing tactics.  Read More

How have Digital Natives Shaped the Retail Revolution?

Screenshot of an example of how Birchbox engages customers on Twitter | @birchbox 

Screenshot of an example of how Birchbox engages customers on Twitter | @birchbox 

Retailers and consumer goods companies are demonstrating that they recognize the importance of digital engagement with their millennial consumers. Brand loyalty and purchase decisions are more dependent on digital engagement as opposed to store product placement and TV advertising. Traditional brick-and-mortar retail spaces are being challenged by brand-retailer hybrids that appeal to digital natives.

Warby Parker and Birchbox are just a couple of the direct-to-consumer companies that are proving the most important consumer interactions occur in the digital space. Visual and tactile in-store experiences are no longer necessary to build a digital brand. Industry giants who were once untouchable due to advances in scale, distribution and infrastructure, now are focusing on reaching their millennial consumers on platforms that are much more personal and comfortable to them. To have the competitive advantage, companies now need to engage consumers across multiple digital channels and with user-generated content. How are you seeing major brands engage their target demographic? Read More     

What does the future hold for delivery?

The national pizza chain Pizza Hut is making moves to catch up with long time rival Domino's in the delivery game. Domino's has been viewed as having the edge on delivery by millennials who value transparency and instant information. So to up the ante, Pizza Hut is testing an Uber-esque delivery system where drivers are tracked on a map and the customer knows exactly where your pizza is on its journey to your door. 

In this digital age where information is so easily accessible, it's no surprise that consumers want access to the the location of their order. This technology is not just limited to food, industry experts predict that it could become second nature to monitor the delivery process on retail goods such as Amazon orders. Other brands currently testing this type of delivery include McDonald's and Starbucks. Read More

Brands are building loyalty with a new tactic: "Surprise and Delight"

Everyone loves surprises. Brands have caught on and are utilizing the tactic appropriately known as "Surprise & Delight" as a marketing strategy to keep consumer coming back for more. Businesses are finding this effective because it forms a deeper connection with their customers. A complimentary dessert or free beverage for no reason can go a long way to make customers happy and keep them as loyal to the brand for a long time. This tactic also spawns good press when the happy customers share their experience on social media. 

MasterCard has been known for years for its "Priceless" campaign, but most recently it launched a surprise and delight program called "Priceless Surprise." MasterCard uses social media to connect with members and as a way to surprise them with spontaneous gifts (including exclusive concerts and tickets to the Grammys.) The platform has recently expanded to its partners (such as Citibank and Staples) which are now also offering surprises to their customers. Read More

Uber Expands to Delivery Services

The latest buzz about the popular car service is its launching various delivery services. Making bold claims of being able to deliver food in 10 minutes in NYC, consumers can't stop talking about UberEats. 

And the company is taking it a step further, by quietly testing a same-day merchant delivery service for retail goods called UberRUSH. According to sources, high-end brands such as Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus are involved in this trial run. Originally the idea was for UberRUSH to mainly utilize large online retailers such as Amazon and Ebay, but testing proved it was too difficult to acquire accurate inventory for the warehouses. Spring, a mobile shopping app, is a fascinating testing ground as the inventory available is always listed on the platform. Having the inventory readily available to the driver and the consumers is just half the battle for making this program to work. It will be a huge advance for logistics if these verticals can be successfully combined. Ideally the goal is to have Uber drivers transporting food, merchandise and passengers simultaneously.  Read More     

How Digital Has Revolutionized Advertising

Advertising campaigns were once largely focused on television, but with the rise of social media and digital marketing, these days are ending. Many companies are investing more of their ad budgets toward digital. Customers are watching less TV and are instead checking their phones and various social media outlets throughout the day. Consumers can access everything on their mobile devices from Netflix to Facebook to Snapchat. Because of this, it is much easier for advertisers to target their audience to receive messages from the right channels at the right times. Doing this through television advertising was much more difficult.  

50 percent of the companies surveyed by research company Forrester are planning to increase their digital budgets in this coming year and 40 percent said they will spend more on data analytics. The rise of targeted advertising can provide advertisers with proof that their money is being spent wisely to reach their customer. With all of the data being gathered from credit card purchases, online profiles, and customer loyalty programs, advertisers can target their customers directly. Read More

Innovative Apps For the Restaurant Consumer

Grubhub and Seamless have paved the way for these new apps that are making the dining experience friendlier for even the most frustrated consumer. We are living in a technology driven world and diners want restaurant apps to make the experience easier. So who are the newcomers that can successfully benefit both the patron and the business?

1. Reserve is the new OpenTable. This app goes beyond just reserving a table- the consumer can get recommendations based on their personal dining preferences, reserve the table and also pre-pay for the meal. The dining experience is completely taken care of the moment the consumer walks in the door. They are greeted by name and there is no awkward fumbling for your wallet to pay at the end of the meal. Currently this is only app that combines restaurant recommendations, booking the table, and the payment process. 

2. Hello Vino is a wine selection app that takes the intimidation out of ordering from a lengthy wine menu. This app pairs foods with certain wines, stores the brands you have tried, and also has the capability to scan bottle labels for more information. Statistics show the usage is low for in restaurant visits and is currently used more for retail purchases, but its founder and CEO is confident there is room for growth. After all, 95% of wine consumption happens in restaurants. 

3. Caviar is a high-end model of Seamless or GrubHub, specifically partnering with pricer brands. This app facilitates delivery from some restaurants that do not even have in house delivery employees. In many cities, busy professionals can't always get out of the office for lunch, and Caviar targets this market. It's user-friendly and filters out lower end establishments. Read More