Restaurants use online and email marketing to provide consumers the personalized offers they prefer, according to new research by the National Restaurant Association released earlier this week. The research found that electronic marketing channels complement traditional and offline channels as part of a successful marketing mix.

Funded by an unrestricted research grant by LivingSocial, the study analyzed current marketing practices employed by restaurant operators and consumer perceptions of a range of marketing tools.

"Finding the right marketing mix is crucial to success in the restaurant industry," said James Balda, chief marketing and communications officer of the NRA. "Our new research outlines the challenges and opportunities of both offline and online marketing to help restaurant operators find the 'sweet spot' for promotions by identifying what consumers respond to and how various messaging vehicles are perceived."

Key findings of the research include:

Online marketing can elevate a restaurant's brand and attract new customers.

  • Restaurants that use online marketing (emails from restaurants, emails from a daily deal provider and websites) tend to be viewed by consumers as modern (67 percent emails, 59 percent daily deals, 65 percent websites) and popular (63 percent, 59 percent, 63 percent).
  • Restaurant operators perceive websites (90 percent), TV ads (87 percent), social media (84 percent), restaurant emails (82 percent), and daily deals (77 percent) as effective in bringing in new customers.

Customized marketing messages that address a consumer's preferences result in more sales.

  • Consumers and operators agree on the importance of savings in customized messaging: 87 percent of consumers would go to or order from a restaurant if provided with a savings offer; and 95 percent of operators perceive savings offers to be an effective marketing tool.
  • Consumers would go to or order from a restaurant if they received customized marketing messages that referenced past restaurant patronage (68 percent), allowed them to make reservations (66 percent), and identified them by name (64 percent).

Restaurants understand what marketing tools work; they just need to implement them.

  • 84 percent of restaurant operators consider restaurant-specific marketing emails to be effective in increasing revenue for their restaurants, and 78 percent of consumers said an email from a restaurant would motivate them to go to that restaurant. In addition, 63 percent of restaurant operators say they plan to use such emails in the next year.
  • 78 percent of restaurant operators consider daily deals to be effective in increasing revenue for their restaurants, and 69 percent of consumers said an email from a daily deal provider would motivate them to go to the restaurant featured in the daily deal. In addition, 40 percent of operators say they plan to work with a daily deal provider in the next year.

Consumers are very sensitive to social media and Internet advertising.

  • Consumers perceive the least effective efforts to entice them to go to a restaurant include online advertisements (58 percent), social media (56 percent), and radio ads (56 percent).

"Many restaurant owners feel overwhelmed by the wide range of marketing options available to them," said Mandy Cole, SVP of Sales, LivingSocial. "We partnered with the National Restaurant Association to conduct this study to see which tools are most effective at increasing revenue and improving business for restaurants. Working together with our thousands of restaurant partners, we look forward to turning these findings into actionable steps to help restaurants improve their marketing efforts."

The results were released Monday at the 2012 NRA Show in Chicago, in a session titled "Myths vs. Facts: How Online Marketing Can Benefit Your Restaurant's Bottom Line."

Read more about online/social media marketing.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Amit Nanda
    Very useful data. Bit surprised not to find mobile marketing data but over time I am sure we will find more statistics on this too.

    Also one idea to consider beyond pushing messages to consumers about deals, offers, coupons is to also let them easily pull this information on their mobiles as and when they desire. This also requires that the restaurant be able to easily set the information up for mobile consumption and to then let the user get access to this info with ease. Keyword auto-responders can work very well in this case whereby users can text in to pull information they need. For example they could get the latest coupon by texting in COUPON or the latest deal by texting in DEAL and so on. We have developed an app that makes this real easy to do and the specific idea described above can be seen at this link:

    Hope this is useful.
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