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Digital Engagement & Loyalty Unseat Efficiency as Top IT Goal

Today’s consumers are demanding more from businesses that ultimately win their patronage. From retail to hotels to restaurants, operators are realizing the need to be hyper-focused on the guest experience, offering personalized, convenient service across all channels. Restaurants have been reluctant to embrace the term omni-channel, but increasingly companies are recognizing that the physical and digital worlds must be in lock-step in order to drive business and retain customers.

Technology will be a key component to making the appropriate customer-facing strategies. Findings from Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Restaurant Technology Study reveal that restaurants are ready to make this a top priority. For the first time in a decade efficiency was unseated as the top strategic goal for technology. It was replaced by improving digital customer engagement and loyalty, with 61% of restaurant operators placing it at the top of the list.
Coming in second is improving business and customer analytics, with 39%. This indicates the importance of data in order to provide guests with appropriate and contextual offers, rewards and interactions.

Despite this sea change, digital CRM remains woefully underfunded. In 2016, digital CRM only garnered 13% of IT budgets. However, restaurants regularly admit it’s an area in which they want to allot more IT dollars. This aligns with the fact that 43% of operators believe they lag competitors.

As the large majority of restaurants plan to focus on improving digital customer engagement and loyalty, it remains to be seen if they will actually put their money where their mouth is. Operators told HT that they plan to increase IT spending on CRM/loyalty, digital and mobility software by 3.6% in 2017. However, historically, restaurants plan to invest more but fall short. Actual spending on CRM software in 2015 was 17% and operators said they planned to increase spending by 5.3%, however in 2016 actual spending decreased to 13% of overall IT budgets.
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