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Capitalizing on Customer Engagement: Takeaways from RC Show 2019

This past February, the Eagle Eye team was pleased to take part in the “Marketing Beyond Your Walls” panel at RC Show 2019. The panel discussed how F&B professionals can leverage digital technology to reach new customers, beyond their brick and mortar location, to grow their topline. It stressed the importance for F&B operators to understand their customers, and to infer intent from their buying decisions both off and on premise.

When it came to questions from the audience, most were about basic digital engagement strategies and techniques, like website improvements and search optimization. The questions suggested that Canadian F&B operators have not yet started to really capture and connect data to target and serve their customers better. This is in spite of the fact that having this level of insight is a critical component for attracting customers before they visit an outlet, and then increasing their spend during a visit.

From these interactions, we identified three key takeaways:

  • There is a significant opportunity for F&B operators to gain deeper insights into their customers and their behaviors
  • Operators are beginning to realize that digital and mobile engagement is the key to those insights
  • There is an appetite for the technology solutions necessary to capture and connect that data

Takeaway #1: F&B operators recognize the opportunity to better understand their customers

Capitalizing on Customer Engagement: Takeaways from RC Show 2019

Everyone agrees that having more customer insight is crucial to successfully running and marketing their business, but not everyone has a strategy—or the technology—in place to collect the customer data they need to generate those insights. This represents a huge strategic opportunity.

Other conversations we had at the RC Show back this up, as does our own research: very few F&B operators use technology, data and insights to identify their customers through promo codes, card payments or loyalty memberships—only 30%, according to our recent report on the Canadian food and beverage landscape. Mobile apps are one of many channels through which to engage the customer and gain insights, and it’s telling that only around half (51%) of restaurateurs have a consumer-facing app in place.

F&B operators have to understand their customers and recognize what motivates them in order to stay top-of-mind and relevant. Understanding their customers gives them insight into what they find valuable, allowing them to tailor offers to maximize the likelihood of engagement and conversion.

But customers’ inboxes and social media feeds are awash in communications and offers that are overly generalized and provide minimal value. To cut through the noise, F&B operators need to construct relevant, timely and targeted marketing and promotions, and the only way to do that is with insight into their customers’ behavior and preferences.

Takeaway #2: Data plays a key role in unlocking customer insights

Capitalizing on Customer Engagement: Takeaways from RC Show 2019

But how can they access that insight? It’s not with basic website improvements, SEO strategies, or one-off social media initiatives. Instead, it’s derived from the data that customers generate and share about themselves, through the various consumer touchpoints F&B operators can use to engage, such point of sale, a loyalty or promotional program and mobile apps.

Canadians aren’t necessarily wary of sharing their data with the restaurants and other F&B outlets they frequent, either through loyalty programs or proprietary apps and other digital channels. But they do have expectations of what should happen if they do:

  • 36% of consumers expect to receive personalized offers in return for sharing their personal information
  • Only 35% of F&B operators who have a loyalty program are planning to implement these kinds of offers.

When F&B operators give their customers what they want, they get in exchange the customer data they need to drive insight that can be used to market more effectively outside their walls. However,  our research indicates that too few operators are positioning their offer and promotional strategies to generate data in this way, and our experience at the RC Show indicates that even fewer are equipped with the technology necessary to capture that data effectively.

Takeaway #3: Technology that can capture and connect data is already available

Capitalizing on Customer Engagement: Takeaways from RC Show 2019

Data collection through digital engagement and loyalty is only part of the story. F&B operators need to connect their customer data across touchpoints to inform insight on their behavior and preferences. The more effective and meaningful customer insight an F&B operator has, the more effectively they can engage with their customers.

In fact, the more ways of consistently connecting to a customer that an operator has to drive insight, the better they can run their business to serve them and attract new ones. The number one  response from consumers in our report was that they have had no engagement from a restaurant in the past three months. That needs to change: offering a wide variety of relevant and timely promotions, discounts or rewards was the most influential factor for 64% of Canadian consumers we surveyed.

Fortunately, there are tech solutions available for F&B operators to help them connect and leverage their data to create more positive customer engagement. There was a busy dedicated section of the expo floor at the RC Show full of technology partners ready to provide F&B operators with exactly these solutions. Nearly all of the companies participating in the Marketing Beyond Your Walls panel – including Eagle Eye – offer technologies that can give F&B operators insights into their customers that allow them to boost footfall and sales.

Overall, our biggest takeaway from the RC Show and the Marketing Beyond your Walls panel is that F&B operators recognize that they can be doing more in terms of gaining customer insights, gathering customer data and connecting that data across touchpoints to derive business improvement insight—they just need to be able to find the technology solutions that can help them do that. These Canadian F&B operators are looking for every advantage in a competitive market – and to deliver the best possible experience to their customers—and the technologies they need are closer than they think.

About the author:

Anthony Stevenson is the International New Business Director at Eagle Eye, a leading SaaS technology company that enables businesses to create real-time connections with their customers through digital and mobile promotion solutions. With over 10 years’ experience within the retail, grocery, food & beverage, convenience and hospitality industries, Anthony works closely with brands to create more effective marketing strategies: merging physical and digital programs to connect customer data across channels, personalize communications for deeper loyalty, and create more successful promotions to drive revenue growth.

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