How Restaurant Brands Can Leverage Data to Better Market Themselves During COVID-19

If brands aren't already getting data from their third-party online or delivery partners, they need to demand it.

Nearly all brands across the restaurant industry have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it has been an unprecedented time for businesses everywhere, now is the time for restaurant owners and operators to adapt their marketing for the “new normal” and return stronger than ever as the country emerges from this crisis.

One such opportunity comes from the ability to leverage increased traffic on digital platforms. With stay-at-home orders and communities self-quarantining over the past three months, internet usage in general has increased between 50% and 70%.

Brands need to capture and analyze data from all data sources, including POS, Google Analytics, social media and third-party delivery platforms. If brands aren’t already reviewing their Google Analytics data regularly, now is the time. There also needs to be cross-channel comparison. For example, when posting cravable images on Instagram, brands should be analyzing what images get the most engagement and clicks to websites, as well as upticks in POS or third party delivery sales. It is the same with promotions — did the BOGO appetizer on Facebook drive clicks to the website location page and coupon codes entered in the POS or online orders?

Taking a look at data across all channels helps brands develop a complete picture into what is driving traffic and when. Here are three ways restaurants can leverage data from their digital and e-commerce platforms to better market to consumers.

Understanding Website-Generated Data

Restaurants tend to have a “brochure website,” which includes its name, address, phone, menus and online ordering platforms. Data, however, is pointing to a large gap here.

The consumer has planted a stake in the ground — demanding more from the online experience.

Knowledge is power.

By analyzing the data collected by the website, whether it be through their own database, third-party data or Google Analytics, brands can understand how customers are engaging with their brand and develop new strategies for driving traffic, generating revenue and increasing customer satisfaction during and after COVID-19.

Using data to design promotions is important, but brands also need to remember to focus on the user experience first, rather than a restaurant-first perspective. For example, COVID-19 may have launched some restaurants quickly into online and curbside take-out as this is now a consumer imperative. New habits have become permanent habits. Brands need to put themselves in the customer's shoes and see what unmet needs are in the ordering process, using surveys and online data to inform their decisions.

Now more than ever, brands need to optimize the user experience online by shortening the customer journey to takeout or delivery. Customers know what they want and it needs to be clear, easy and frictionless or they'll move on to another restaurant. A small investment in website user experience and design improvements will pay for itself quickly with increased conversions and repeat customers.


Building Solutions Based Off Restaurant Delivery Data

If brands aren't already getting data from their third-party online or delivery partners, they need to demand it.

While third-party delivery aggregators like GrubHub or UberEats can offer strong consumer data, first-party delivery platforms can provide even more robust insights. In both cases, businesses can leverage this data to create personalized offers that cater to a customer's specific behavior and interests. With a first-party online ordering system, brands have access to advanced sales-driven functionality options such as location specifications, menu customization, up-selling, special offerings and more.

Creating an Ongoing and Flexible Digital Platform Strategy

For brands just starting to develop a digital strategy, it is important to experiment. Brands should pilot and test solutions rather than a big-bang approach — testing smaller changes in different markets and pivoting quickly.

The data from these tests will allow brands to uncover what their customers want, when and where they want it, and how to transfer that into better business whether it's onsite or through takeout. Analyzing data and making ongoing changes to ensure that the digital strategy is right is going to drive traffic, increase average check price and build loyalty.

Now that online consumer activity is abundant amid COVID-19, brands have the opportunity to use digital platform analytics to make more informed business decisions. Through the proper optimization of digital consumer data, restaurant owners are better positioned to generate sales and come out stronger as the country emerges from this pandemic.


About the Author

Ryan Nicholson is the President of Melon Technologies, a digital development and consulting company that specializes in the strategy, design and implementation of e-commerce experiences. With over 100 years of combined experience, Melon’s growing team has worked with clients and agencies of all sizes. Melon is committed to delivering quality work to its clients in a way that creates a true partnership and also believes in a customer-first mentality without the overhead and red tape that’s often found in its industry.

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