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MURTEC 2022: Mastering the Art of Business Intelligence

Restaurants are collecting more data than ever before. Kahala Brands’ interactive marketing leader shows us how to leverage that data for effective predictive analytics and more.
Courtney Maxedon of Kahala Brands
Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing at Kahala Brands, discusses data strategy and tactics with HT editor-in-chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello, at MURTEC 2022.

As we kicked off MURTEC 2022 on March 7, at the Paris, in Las Vegas, I sat down with Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing at Kahala Brands (and a Rising Star in HT’s 2022 Top Women in Restaurant Technology), for a 1:1 “firechat.” With the room packed with attendees eager to learn best practices and insider secrets to leveraging data, Maxedon presented “Mastering the Art of Business Intelligence.”

Maxedon has been at Kahala Brands since 2018 and currently leads the Interactive Department that serves all 29 unique restaurant concepts, including Cold Stone Creamery, Baja Fresh, Planet Smoothie, Pinkberry, Blimpie and more. She oversees all digital initiatives, including off-premise ordering, digital and social media, loyalty, SEO, digital design/development and more. She describes her primary role as “improving and expanding digital strategy and building upon and utilizing data throughout the digital landscape.”

Aligning Business Intelligence With Goals

Maxedon set the stage by addressing the most common — and essential — goals for business intelligence. She cited increasing customer data as the number-one goal, as the more customer data an organization can collect, the better equipped it will be to make meaningful decisions regarding customer habits, preferences, and spending patterns. She noted that there are nuances, that each touchpoint holds the potential for a variety of ways to support goals such as efficiency and effectiveness. Collecting more data can allow for better marketing and personalization, which, for Kahala, translates into an increase of more than 40 percent for repeat customers (which is, of course, more cost-effective than obtaining new customers). A partnership with the right customer data platform (CDP) can be a game changer, helping to identify, for example, non-loyalty guests and targeting them in an engaging and meaningful way — for instance, targeting advertising that features images of, say, a flavor of ice cream that a guest has ordered in the past. “Another example of using BI came from a pilot partnership with Sense360 for marketplace insights,” Maxedon said. “We learned that 87 percent of customers from one of our largest brands was only ordering from us through a marketplace site, a huge opportunity for a strategy shift towards native, which also means more data." Kahala was also able to learn that, within a vertical, customers aren’t necessarily choosing a competitor but a completely different restaurant — for example, a brand such as Baja Fresh is competing with McDonald’s, not Chipotle.

Tactics for Achieving Data Goals

Maxedon noted that targeted digital advertising is an effective tactic for fostering three types of customer relationships: winback (of guests who have not ordered in a significant period of time, such as 18 months), nurture (of guests who have not ordered recently, such as in the past six months), and prospect (garnered from POS and delivery data). Kahala has found that targeted digital advertising has increased advertising ROI by 200 percent. Maxedon also emphasized that becoming less reliant on third-party marketplace data, deepening integrations, and automating responses based on guest behavior can enhance a brand’s ability to build loyalty and target guests.

How AI, Voice, and Other Emerging Technologies Will Enhance BI

Kahala has optimized for voice search (around 50 percent of all searches in 2020 were voice-activated). In a survey of fast-casual guests, 80 percent report using voice devices to search for restaurants. Maxedon pointed out that long-tail keywords have helped shape Kahala’s SEO strategy (for example, “Is Cold Stone Creamery kosher?”), and that she is intrigued by social ordering. She’s also keeping an eye on Metaverse, and noted that Kahala is securing trademarks for top brands as we all learn more about how the virtual world will translate to real food delivery. “At the end of the day,” Maxedon said, “we’re focusing on program adoption and participation — those are the building blocks for any other marketing activities and messaging.”

“Mastering the Art of Business Intelligence” concluded with a lively Q&A, with dozens of attendees diving “into the weeds” of data strategy, best practices, effective tactics, and where BI is headed.

Additional MURTEC 22 coverage, including Jon Taffer's rousing keynote address, can be found here

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