By Brandon Hull, Foodable Industry Expert
If you think online ordering is all about letting customers order from your website, let's broaden those horizons today, shall we?
Of all the strategic programs you could launch to attract new customers to your restaurant in 2015, I'd put online ordering at the top of the list. There, I said it.
Now, the keyword in that last sentence is “programs,” as I firmly encourage restaurants big and small to craft a data strategy first and foremost. But if you're dead-set on jumping to launch a tangible program for customers and your restaurant executives to see, online ordering is where it’s at.
That means I've vaulted the value of online ordering over deploying a mobile app, launching a loyalty program, or accepting Apple Pay. Heresy in some circles, I realize.
First, let’s look at some numbers
The National Restaurant Association reports that 24% of 18- to 34-year-olds say they consider a restaurant’s technology options when selecting where to go.
31% of fast-casual customers EXPECT a fast-casual to offer online ordering.
Reportedly, 40% or more of Domino’s sales in the U.S. are placed through digital channels.
And those numbers are rising.
Next, let’s look at the customer insights
The detailed demographic, psychographic, and behavioral insights you gain on customers are more reasons to deploy online ordering. And this isn’t limited to the big brands. Regional chains, even local restaurant groups and independents, can tap into this data when you embrace online ordering.
It’s one thing to know that your target market is between age A and B and has a household income of $C. It’s quite another to see, definitively, who is ordering from you via your website, app, or right within Facebook, when they’re ordering (and when they’re not ordering), and what they’re ordering, and how frequently they’re returning.
It’s not online ordering, it’s omni ordering
Just recently I argued that your current POS mindset should evolve to more of a mobile POS mindset and I gave you five reasons why that is. Two of the reasons are swallowed up with online ordering: lines and mobile payments.
Online ordering is really a misnomer, as this surge in customer preferences isn’t just about the desire to order from your website. I suppose we could call it “digital ordering.”
But online ordering in 2015 is really more about omni-ordering -- the ability to order and pay from anywhere. Paul Barron recently spoke with two leaders powering this notion of order anywhere.
Picture, if you will, allowing customers to order from your website, from your Facebook page, from your mobile app and/or an aggregated app (where they can also make reservations) like OpenTable or Cover or Reserve, and enjoying the right degree of POS integration (or lack of it, if you prefer) for your restaurant operations.
And if you partner with most online ordering partners, you can actually have them deploy your own mobile app as well, if you’re determined to do that. Kill two birds with one stone.
The one program to launch in 2015
Online ordering has been around for a good seven to eight years. If you’ve been hemming and hawwing about launching it for your concept -- wondering if it’s a better fit for those QSR guys, despite your desire to build your takeout sales, now’s the time to put it at the heart of your marketing strategy.
Launch it, then gain valuable insights, and THEN start crafting your loyalty program.
But look beyond your website -- look at how you can offer omni ordering to capture the rising trend in customers ordering at their convenience, while earning tremendous insights on those customers. Insights that will power your 2016 and beyond.