Because consumers are busier than ever, it is crucial for restaurateurs to respond to expectations for digital ordering options, including online and mobile ordering systems, in-store kiosks, and integrated carry-out and delivery services. While many restaurants are adopting ordering technologies, operators are often confused by how to get started. Digital ordering is a relatively new option for most companies, and the market is evolving rapidly. There are challenges involved with set-up, questions regarding cost and return on these programs, and company leaders are often unsure about how they can optimize digital delivery systems in order to ensure returns.
“A big challenge is finding the right partner to develop these services,” says Hope Neiman, chief marketing officer for Tillster. “Some operators are unsure of the first steps to getting started. Others have done a little bit with digital ordering, but they aren’t sure if they’re performing well enough based on what they’re reading in the press about what digital should be delivering for them. Some have fully implemented digital ordering, but maybe all the pieces don’t necessarily work well together. So it’s really important to find the tools that will work best for your business.”
Restaurants owners are finding the most success by embracing digital ordering options that answer consumers’ immediate needs in various situations. For example, Neiman says a customer may be ordering lunch from their office desktop, and maybe they want to split the check between the co-workers sitting near them. Or a customer could be ordering from a mobile device because they are out by themselves, but they’re in a hurry because they have to return to work or get to an appointment. Other consumers may have time to order in the restaurant, but choose a kiosk ordering station to avoid a queue. Each of these platforms provides an opportunity for restaurateurs to capitalize on guest expectations by delivering a desired service and also using those outlets for targeted messaging.
“You have to think about the guest’s mindset at the time they’re placing the order,” Neiman says. “Features and functionality should optimize their experience. When I’m placing an order, you shouldn’t ask me questions that are irrelevant, but by the same token, you have the opportunity to upsell in ways that feel much more organic than they might during an in-person exchange with the customer.”
By using sophisticated software and mobile applications that are tailored to their businesses, innovative restaurant operators can take advantage of data, such as past or recurring orders, and use that information to promote repeat sales—by providing one-click ordering options, for example. By using these kinds of strategies relative to digital ordering, innovative restaurants can see increased success with their digital ordering technologies.
In order to drive success when implementing digital ordering, Neiman recommends the following:
Determine goals: Operators should identify not only how they want to use different digital ordering technologies, but also the objective of each one, and the desired overall result. If the objective is increased sales or retention of customers, for example, a restaurateur might use digital ordering platforms to promote limited-time offers or incentivize patrons to re-order. If the goal is oriented toward functionality and speed of service, an operator may want to consider integrating kiosk ordering machines. If the business is aiming to add a customer acquisition channel, they might want to implement third-party delivery applications. It is also critical that businesses determine how they will measure the success of these goals over time.
Consider tools for testing: Periodically changing calls to action or re-arranging menu items can have an enormous impact on the performance of digital ordering platforms. In many cases, operators have the option to highlight certain offerings or promote seasonal inclusions, which can improve conversion rates. Testing different functionalities as part of a regular strategy is essential to maximizing what digital ordering options can do for a business.
Provide consistent marketing messages: It is important to maintain brand voice and image across all forms of digital ordering. If customers encounter something unexpected on a restaurant’s ordering platforms, they may be turned off or startled to inaction. In addition, operators should ensure that customer experience and capabilities are the same across all platforms. If certain menu items are unavailable online, for example, consumers who want those items specifically are more likely to order elsewhere. Similarly, if customers cannot use coupons as easily at a kiosk as they can at a register, they are less likely to engage with the technology and may be less likely to engage with your brand overall.
“What many operators don’t recognize,” Neiman says, “is that competition for restaurants is no longer limited to the other restaurants down the street. Those are your competition, but so are brands like Uber and Amazon and the gas station and anywhere else that customers transact digitally, because all of those things increase customer expectations for what a brand is supposed to deliver.”
As an increasing number of customer journeys include digital ordering and operating, restaurants are more frequently engaged in competition with the whole digital ecosystem. That is why it is necessary for operators to ensure they are working with the right digital ordering partners to optimize customer experience and generate the greatest returns.