How to Ditch Discounts
  • Victoria Searl

How to Ditch Discounts

Discounts have been the scourge of our sector for almost a decade.

Starting as an obvious way to coax diners out, amid one of the worst financial downturns of recent times, our investor’s obsession with ‘like for likes’, and customer’s increasing expectation has turned them into a necessary evil for many brands.

But while our industry faces its toughest months ahead, shining on the horizon is the opportunity to reset – and cut our dependence on discounts once and for all.

So, what do discounts do?

1. They increase reach, getting your brand in front of new audiences

2. They increase conversion by pushing the undecided or unconvinced over the line, and influencing the way people spend once in your venue

3. They increase frequency - bringing those customers back, hopefully more often than they would have without them

If not discounts, what?

It’s often said ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, but it’s actually a mix of both.

By using the data within your businesses, we can locate the people most likely to love us, give them compelling reasons to try us - and use what we know about their behaviour to get them back again and again.

And luckily, because as an industry we’ve so under-played the incredible technology we have available to us, we’ve got plenty more marketing in the tank.

Here are 4 places you should be investing your discount money.

1. Programmatic

Think of a lovely big funnel. Your discounts help direct x amount of people into the top of your funnel. Of these, a percentage of people will drip through the funnel and into your venues. So it stands to reason that the more people we pour into the funnel, the more will drip through to enjoy one of your seasonal specials.

To get on one of the big volume discount sites we have to offer an equally big discount. So how do we maintain or increase that volume without discounting – Programmatic.

Programmatic is a form of data-led automated advertising. I’m hugely simplifying the process but - we feed in our ideal customer (say those who visit coffee shops at least 3 times a week and have been in the SE1 postcode within the last 2 weeks), and Programmatic helps us locate people who fit our criteria and serves them an ad; which could be on an app, a website they visit or even on a screen outside a petrol station.

So if you think of Facebook advertising as advertising to people who fit your criteria who are on FB or Insta, Programmatic is able to reach people wherever they are and whatever they are doing. It’s the smartest, data-led way of dropping more people in your funnel.

While it’s almost unheard of in casual dining, the big QSR brands and other sectors who also rely on physical footfall such as furniture retailers, are seeing impressive ROIs. Home furnishings retailer ScS used Programmatic to achieve a 57% increase in store footfall during March and June 2019 compared with the same period the previous year.

2. So we’ve run ads via Programmatic and people are starting to become interested in what we do. How do we convert that interest into action? According to co-founder & CEO of SideDish media, Andrew Nicholas, Google Ads is one of the most powerful tools you can use to get someone to your site and ultimately through your doors. “You’re catching customers at the point they are searching Google for a place to eat meaning they’re already a much warmer target. That, coupled with the fact they have already seen your logo and food imagery on an ad, increases the likelihood of a successful booking exponentially. Every penny spent is tracked and measured so you know exactly how much it costs you per booking.”

3. But what if we didn’t grab them at Programmatic or Google ad stage? Well, now we unveil the classic two-pronged attack; if we haven’t compelled them to action from seeing our logo, delicious looking photo of a pizza or witty copy lines, we need to be ready for when they start to search for the thing they ARE interested in. For example when people are wanting to book somewhere they can take the kids, or get something vegan within a few minutes walk of their office. Matt Goodfield, co-founder & joint CEO of SideDish media argues; “Local SEO tools like Google My Business (GMB) are key. Brandify found that 77% of respondents use Google Maps to find ‘restaurants near me’. Imagine the importance of being top of Google maps when there’s 24.9 million searches of ‘restaurants near me’ taking place every month. GMB allows you to catch potential customers who are in your area, whether looking there and then or browsing your area on maps for a later date. And it’s not enough to just have a GMB profile. Setting one up is one thing but optimising it correctly to get you to the top is another.”

4. So now we’ve lured our prospects to our website or social pages. They’re clearly interested in what we’re about, but may or may not have taken action and booked or ordered anything yet. We can use our Facebook Pixel to re-target them and remind them why they had a look at us in the first place. Just like when you look at shoes online, and they curiously appear on a web advert a little later, we can use our knowledge of their particular interest in our brand (whether that’s a visit to the menu page or time spent on our locations list), to re-target these toastie warm leads with the most relevant messaging. And we can do that as many times as it takes to turn interest into action.

What’s the catch?

1. It will mean proper analysis, rather than a glance at the previous days covers every morning. Heinz know there’s a 3.5% sales impact for every 1 degree of temperature fluctuation (Yes, I’ve been watching ‘Inside the Factory’). And the gaming industry, meticulously review web visits and conversion daily, giving them clarity on the days focus ahead.

2. We’ll need a digital/data mindset within our marketing teams. So if you have a team of 1, they’ll likely need support. Let the data and technology drive the marketing agenda in response to your commercial challenges, and then allow the creatives in your team to bring it to life.

3. It will mean we have to spend time getting our data in order and sowing the seeds of our commercial objectives now to reap the rewards when restrictions start to lift. There’s no silver bullet. So start working on your digital strategy now to see the benefits in the coming months.

But it will also mean, we take huge strides forward in how we do business, and narrow the gap between hospitality and other industries.

And investing even a fraction of what discounts were costing your business, can generate significant, measurable returns.

Technology and data can be daunting, but the tools available to us now, powered by the data we’re generating everyday within our businesses, are designed to not only deliver results, but to help you thrive. And that’s surely something we’ve never been more in need of now.



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