Solving the 'ROI problem' of digital marketing

Solving the 'ROI problem' of digital marketing

By Justin Mink, Scorpion

This is a special time for fast casual marketing executives, who are increasingly tasked with ushering their brands into the digital age. Trends in online consumer behavior are aligning with emerging technologies in ways that are finally fulfilling the promise of the internet for restaurant brands. The internet now represents a game-changing opportunity for fast casual brands to more efficiently acquire new customers, turn existing customers into brand loyalists and to re-engage customers in highly personalized ways.

Before we take a peek into our online marketing crystal ball, let's examine why an almost $200 billion industry has been slow to embrace digital as a means of driving revenue.  One particular reason stands out like a sore thumb — the ROI problem.  The fast casual industry faces a unique set of challenges relative to service-based businesses, an industry where lead generation via phone calls and online forms help "close the loop" between online engagement and offline customer acquisition.  Conversely, when a prospective customer finds one of your restaurants online and then chooses to dine with you, they (historically) simply walk through the restaurant doors. For emerging brands that can't provide national brand "air coverage" and for franchisees who want to see $4 coming in for every local marketing $1 going out, the ROI problem has rendered digital marketing all but useless as a tool for anything other than engaging existing customers.  As a result, fast casual brands have focused their digital efforts almost exclusively on social media, loyalty programs and apps.  

But the times, they are a-changing — the rise in online ordering, accompanied by evolving consumer expectations for brands to provide a seamless digital experience at every touchpoint, is forever solving the ROI problem.
Before we talk about HOW to solve the ROI problem, it's important to note that the majority of today's fast casual executives are still leveraging online ordering strictly as a means of creating operational efficiencies.  This reminds me of how many brands perceived websites a decade or so ago as an IT and ops solution.  Over the past decade, websites have transitioned from being considered a part of an organization's IT infrastructure to being commonly accepted as a marketing tool.  In the same vein, progressive restaurant execs are realizing that the operational benefits derived from online ordering is just the tip of a very big iceberg.  

So now on to the exciting part!  

The evolution of digital marketing for fast casual brands entails the integration of websites and marketing campaigns with online ordering platforms, POS systems and walk-in traffic via beacon technology.  Not only do these integrations power reporting on actual transactions at the enterprise AND the store level, they also enable the tracking of transactions back to marketing campaigns and referring channels that perform best at driving this revenue.  Last but not least, full marketing attribution provides the ability to capture customer data that can be repurposed for marketing campaigns.  Ultimately, an understanding and measurement of the entire customer journey allow you to optimize digital campaigns and strategies against what is demonstrably working best to drive revenue. 

Imagine being able to tell your franchisees, in plain English, that an investment in $X drove Y number of transactions and $Z in incremental revenue.  Would you and your franchisees find this information valuable? Then imagine that you could also tell them that all the customer info captured allows you to "automagically" send messages to customers that are tailored to their own, individual purchasing habits and behavior.  All without the franchisee having to lift a finger.  Win-win!

Capturing a customer, gaining an understanding of what drove that customer to you, quantifying revenue and leveraging customer data to segment audiences in order to personalize social media campaigns provides a massive online advantage over slower-moving competitors. It's never been a more exciting time to a part of what is now a rapidly evolving fast casual industry!

Mink will be at the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit, April 9-11, in Louisville. Register here.

Cover photo: iStock


Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion

Companies: Scorpion Internet Marketing

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