All of your guest "touch points" need to work together

When it comes to restaurant marketing, there are certainly an abundance of buzzwords: “sustainability,” “farm-to-fork,” “guest experience.” But the term “fully integrated” is more than just a marketing trend; it’s an essential tool to help gauge and target what your guests want.

So what exactly does “fully integrated” mean, and how does it work? You don’t have to be a disciple of Steve Jobs to figure it out. It’s simple. Let’s break it down:

Potential guests might…

  • Perform a Google search on your restaurant

  • Visit your website

  • Sign up for email blasts

  • Make online reservations

  • Obtain directions to your restaurant online

As these once-“potential” guests walk through your door, they can now…

  • Check in on social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare)

  • “Like” or follow your restaurant brand on social media

  • Join your loyalty club on-site

  • Post raves or rants about your brand on social media (Let’s hope for raves and high ratings!)

Next, the transactions for your guest are…

  • Easily funneled through your point of sale (POS)

  • Tracked via your loyalty database

  • Summarized in aggregate reports

Finally, these former potential customers who are now bona fide guests are then re-marketed through…

  • Social media

  • Paid search advertisements

  • Email marketing

And so it goes, until the guest returns to your restaurant and walks through the door to continue the cycle. This is a fully integrated information system.

Each of these guest “touch points” represents a remarkable opportunity to gauge the effectiveness of every facet of the guest-interaction experience. However, restaurants often miss these cues by silo-ing off their data into disparate systems, building barriers rather than opportunities. Your website exists alone while dutifully providing Google Analytics with more data to chew on. Email marketing efforts examine someone’s favorite store location from back when they signed up. Loyalty program data is all “spend in, points out” while feeding and nourishing the email list/database. Social media is general-purpose, mass-consumption marketing—sometimes targeted locally, sometimes not.

Imagine if all these touch points communicated with one another in a way similar to the workings of the human body. You can’t pump blood without a heart, right? Information systems work much the same way—and better—when fully integrated. How beneficial would it be if you could run a single report to see what business growth was directly related to a paid search campaign? When all your systems are “in communique”—fully integrated—your marketing runs like a well-oiled machine.

Technology leaders tend to build their products from the ground up to give their customers access to this level of insight. Jargon terms—such as “APIs,” “web services,” “JSON,” “RESTful”—can get you through the door of remarkable insight, but they don't take you completely there. When evaluating technological vendors at any stage of the guest experience, it’s always a smart idea to ask what options exist to tie data from their system into your larger plan—ideally in real-time. Larger restaurant brands tend to come armed with analysis teams dedicated to poring over data, but smaller restaurant companies can also benefit from well-architected and well-engineered systems that can sweat the small stuff (the details) and present you with useable insight.

Approaching the guest experience workflow from this standpoint can open tremendous opportunities for restaurateurs, whether they’re the head of a national brand or an individual storefront. There have been many companies from various industries—restaurants included—that have launched advertising and marketing campaigns basing effectiveness on a “gut feeling” because of the sales results. A fully integrated information system that engages the guest experience at all levels and replaces that “gut feeling” with hard, traceable data allows the restaurant marketer to better target advertising resources by taking out the guesswork. How simple is that?

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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