Kick Assumptions to the Curb: Leverage Customer Data to Impact Customer Experience & Boost Online Orders

Rachel Boyschau
May 2, 2020
8
min read
Data & Insights
R

estaurants have demonstrated incredible agility and ingenuity as the industry continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19. The week of March 22nd as restaurant daily average revenue YoY appeared to be in a never-ending free fall (-68% or more) brands pivoted seemingly overnight. In the weeks following, new off-premise strategies and online ordering efforts that would have otherwise taken months or years to implement had losses creeping back up (still down -40% but, progress). Others took an even bigger leap across the literal aisle to offer pantry staples and grocery pick-up as a means of driving revenue.


As consumers settle into this ‘new normal,’ however temporary (or not) it might be, there are actionable insights available now that simply weren’t foreseeable at the onset of social-distancing turned lockdown. And while some brands can just wing it and see same-store-sales rise, others will need to dig-in to customer data to continue to deliver on customer experience to drive revenue.


So, what are the trending observations Wisely’s data shows that can help brands optimize their online ordering efforts? The common themes we’re seeing include:

  1. Calendars are king if you want to capitalize on ordering trends
  2. Comfort Food is most sought after
  3. Convenience wins, in the form of kits & combos 
  4. Customized Campaigns drive conversion


Calendars

Insight: Prior to COVID-19, weekdays vied for the top spot against weekends in terms of order volume. Wisely data shows a drastic spike in weekends now outpacing weekdays as people turn to take-out to add some fun to yet another Friday and Saturday at home. Increasingly, Sundays are creeping up the ranks as the third-highest order volume day. 



Takeaway: Leaning into the trend of weekends being favored by online orderers is likely to lead to some sales wins, yes. But, the bigger opportunity is to mine your guest data for insights that will help tailor campaigns and drive weekday interest. Consider the following:

  • Search for trending day of the week food hashtags and make them applicable to your brand. Examples include: 
  • Monday: #MeatlessMonday, #MondayMotivation 
  • Tuesday:  #TacoTuesday, #TastyTuesday, #TuesdayTreat
  • Wednesday: #WednesdayWine 


Reminder: Also, promoting holiday offerings (e.g. Mother’s/Father’s Day) well in advance throughout the weeks prior can help lock-in prepaid orders.



Comfort Food

Insight: With flour, yeast and similar pantry staples flying off the shelves across the globe, it’s clear that human instinct is to turn to food as a form of comfort during uncertain times. But as the novelty of baking projects wears off and the reality of potentially having to cook up to 84 meals a month settles in, consumers are turning to delivery and take-out for a break from their kitchens. The most popular items trending in Wisely’s take-out data include: 

  • Brisket
  • Buffalo Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Tacos
  • Burgers
  • Queso
  • Fish & Chips


Takeaway: Now is not the time for menu innovations and off-the-wall culinary creations. Market what makes your guests happy. Bring back former menu classics that were retired despite their cult following. Poll your guests via email or social media and ask them what they’re craving, then double-down on the offering. No matter the tactic or messaging—being the brand that brings some joy to a family’s day is bound to lead to boosted customer loyalty, long-term. 


Convenience

Insight: Demand for meal kits aimed at making home cooking possible even on busy weeknights hadn’t quite reached mainstream, consistent popularity before COVID-19. And while business is now booming for the likes of HelloFresh and Blue Apron, savvy restaurant brands are following suit (like Snooze, bartaco, Lazy Dog to name a few)—offering ‘build your own’ versions of their in-house frequently ordered items. Topping Wisely’s charts of the most popular take-out and pick-up purchases include: 

  • Taco/Fajita DIY
  • Cocktail Kits
  • Family Packs
  • Free Kids Items Add-Ons


Takeaway: While life feels anything but normal—mealtime can be an exception. Whether clinking virtual cocktails over a Zoom call or breaking bread taco shells with the fam after a long day of juggling work and/or homeschooling—brands have the opportunity to literally deliver a memorable experience now more than ever. 


Customized Campaigns

Insight: Even when they’re not strung together in a video montage, advertising across industries in the wake of COVID-19 is an ever-expanding sea of sameness. Restaurant brands can’t afford to run “set and forget” mass marketing campaigns. Targeted outreach, rooted in actual data about customer behavior and preferences, is what Wisely data is showing yields the largest return. 


Example

  • Targeted Emails: A popular full-service brand and long-time partner of Wisely has turned to more regular, targeted email communications in the wake of COVID-19. 
  • Prompt a Sales Boost: A campaign geared towards family-friendly ordering options had an open rate just shy of 20% but the correlating sales impact is undeniable—with a 46% increase in orders week-over-week following the campaign launch.



Takeaway: Segment your guests (by items ordered, spend, frequency, etc.) and personalize outreach to stand-out in their inbox, on social or in search. As brands are doing more with less, campaign effectiveness will be scrutinized more than ever. Mass outreach and discounting may work for the likes of Dominos but full service and lifestyle brands must work to rebuild consumer trust quickly and credibly—which takes a personal touch. 


Conclusion

At the front door of a restaurant—guests are greeted differently not with robotic, scripted messages. Campaigns should be treated similarly by using intel to fuel authentic, 1:1 marketing—proven to be more effective at driving results. 


But don’t be mistaken, a mass personalization strategy goes beyond using {{First Name}}s in an email template. Good quality data about an entire guest’s history is what unlocks the power to turn transactions into relationships—at scale.  


In the wake of COVID-19, those who move beyond crisis management to smart and creative strategies rooted in insights are poised to move the needle in terms of both sales and loyalty. And as the new normal of “doing more with less” becomes the reality for the slashed staff at each restaurant home office, the tech that makes it possible to drive new unit-level economics will no longer be aspirational but rather a means of brand survival.