It’s no secret the hospitality industry has been on a rollercoaster the past year. COVID-19 has taken restaurants for a particularly bumpy ride. Plenty of establishments haven’t been able to weather the pandemic’s ever-changing rules and directives. Now that vaccinations are rolling and the country is reopening, the restaurants that made it through are more eager than ever before to welcome diners back.
Opening up for business is one thing but getting guests back in the door is another. The reality is the pandemic has served up a lot more questions and uncertainties for diners beyond what to order off the menu. Restaurants can’t just revert to the same marketing tactics they employed before 2020 – too much has changed. Restaurants need help if they want to meet consumers where they are, engage and act on their interactions, and ultimately, welcome them as guests into their establishments.
Google: The Common Intersection Point
Savvy business leaders know the modern customer experience battle is mostly fought online, when it’s not fought in-person. Yet too many of them don’t understand that battle is fought on channels they can’t fully control, such as company listings, online reviews and ratings. Consumer interactions on these channels are incredibly important as they determine how restaurants are found online and how they can engage with potential diners and guests. This means restaurants need to harness these consumer interactions and recognize this is where the modern customer journey often begins and ends.
Advertising has gone from all about “me,” in the era of billboards and television, to all about “you,” with discoverable online content, to now being all about “us,” where shared experiences and the ability to promote them determines success. This is Experience Marketing.
If harnessing customer interactions sounds complicated or overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be with the right technology. For starters, the majority of online consumer interactions today have a common intersection point and that’s Google. The website holds 92% of the total search engine market share currently. If that wasn’t enough, Google searches for location-based businesses in 2020 were up over 100% from the year prior and 86% of people used Google Maps when looking up a business location.
Effectively harnessing consumer interactions first requires a comprehensive Google strategy and then a solution that can deliver it.
Google: The Three-Part Strategy
Restaurants interested in harnessing their online consumer interactions should look for an Experience Marketing platform that can optimize Google presence in three key ways:
- Be found on Google with listings-driven SEO: The first step of a restaurant’s comprehensive Google strategy is to optimize its Google My Business (GMB) listing. The establishment needs to claim and create its listing if it hasn't done so already. Details are important for search engine optimization (SEO), so make sure information is accurate, helpful to the consumer and kept up to date. Restaurants can establish valuable authenticity and trust with potential diners and guests through these listings. Listings-driven SEO is paramount because it determines how potential diners will find and interact with an establishment online.
- Be chosen with Google reviews: Since 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020 and 67% of customer reviews are now posted on Google, restaurants today must have a solution equipped for Google reviews. A true Experience Marketing platform will ensure fresh reviews of the establishment, automatic responses to reviews, the display of reviews in Google’s Knowledge Panel, a showcasing of review highlights and star ratings, and crosspostings across social media and other relevant websites. Google reviews are an essential part of a comprehensive strategy because they help potential diners pick restaurants and help establishments rank higher in search engines.
- Be the best with Google messaging: Since75% of consumers prefer to engage with brands through private messages, restaurants need a strategy that covers Google messaging. After all, today’s consumers are empowered and they want what they want, when they want it. This means establishments need to be able to respond to any and all messages, at any time. Restaurants should look for a solution that offers Google messaging from a unified inbox, so they get alerted to messages when they arrive and they can engage with potential diners at the moment they’re interested.
COVID doesn’t have a playbook, which means the hospitality industry may be in for more ups and downs. This also means restaurants should follow the lead of their consumers and empower themselves to control what they can. Restaurants know potential diners are searching on Google. There couldn’t be a better time to meet them with the right technology, win their business and welcome them as guests through your doors.