The restaurant industry is notoriously competitive, with razor-thin profit margins. Adapting to new technology is imperative for businesses to succeed and cater to a generation that’s grown up online, and this technology must be implemented across many different departments, from operations to marketing. Today, restaurants are enabling customers to reserve tables via phone, or in some cases, pay the bill via Venmo. On the advertising side, mobile marketing is on the upswing for quick-service restaurants—some restaurants are battling over in-app offers and even trolling one another through geolocation stunts.

Social media platforms have also proven successful in raising awareness and building deeper consumer engagement and loyalty online, as brands like Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and KFC have proven. However, there’s an important technological whitespace being overlooked that could be a major boon to getting customers through the door: messaging.

Messaging is an underutilized yet uniquely impactful way for brands to meet consumers authentically, securely, and when they are most relevant—leading to increased brand awareness and bringing additional foot traffic through the door. Restaurant marketers must prioritize messaging as a powerful new channel for raising awareness and reinforcing brand-consumer relationships—pushing the boundaries of what we once thought of simply as chat beyond promotional offers and customer service. It’s one of the most exciting new ways for brands to engage the customer with branded content in an innovative way, for three reasons:

Messaging is everywhere

Texting is the single most used feature on a smartphone—and 97 percent of smartphone users have texted within the last week. Messaging is our primary vehicle for digital communication no matter the demographic. We use it to talk with coworkers, a potential date, our friends—even our grandparents. But despite messaging’s global adoption across social media, gaming, productivity, and dating apps, it’s the one place brands have yet to engage consumers on a deeper level.

Whereas most people don’t respond to marketing calls and are overwhelmed by the amount of email newsletters and promotions in their inboxes, texts are read within 5 seconds on average. For marketers, this is the holy grail—to be right where your customers are, on a platform where they are instinctively engaged and responsive.

Quick-service brands are uniquely positioned to leverage messaging

Food has always been the great convener—breaking bread brings people together. Eighty-one percent of consumers search for restaurants on their mobile devices—it’s already where people are looking for the next great place to eat. And think about how many times a day we talk about foods: what to eat tonight, where to go to dinner, where to set up a coffee meeting, what you’re really craving, even asking someone out for lunch or drinks. In addition to talking all the time on our messaging apps, we are also often talking about the very things that quick-service restaurant marketers want us to be talking about—but without their knowledge of it.

So, while many different types of brands should be considering the merits of messaging as a valuable marketing option, restaurant marketers have an advantage—it makes sense in our day-to-day conversations about food to already be talking about the brands we know and love. There’s a real opportunity for quick-service restaurant brands to be top of mind. For example, when people are talking about a burger, they can actually have a Burger King burger piece of content to share in that conversation. 

A study on social sharing habits showed that 63 percent of people preferred to share content and recommendations via “dark social” – private messaging apps. Previously, brands haven’t been able to access those channels – they’re limited to blasting out promotional codes or putting ads at the top of a user’s inbox. But the most effective—and overlooked—channel for content marketing is directly in user conversations. By investing in messaging marketing, quick-service restaurant brands can take advantage of being in the right place, sharing brand content right where loyal consumers are talking about them.

Today, messaging is also intelligent

Which leads us to being in the right place at the right time.

With new technological advances in AI, marketers can reach consumers with branded content recommendations at the exact moment that they’re texting about lunch or picking a spot for dinner. Advances in contextual AI have enabled brands to pop up within a conversation in a manner that isn’t intrusive – it’s authentic and well-timed.

The combination of these three areas: having the right amount of scale, being in the right place, and pinpointing the right time, means that messaging will be the go-to marketing investment of the future. Done correctly, it is a highly effective way to cut through the noise of an always-on digital world that is constantly pushing for the next big innovation.

What’s so exciting about quick-service restaurants in particular is that they have a unique opportunity in that customers are already talking about them. Being a part of that conversation means that they can truly build a connection with brand advocates and become a regular part of their customers’ lives. They just need to be hungry for the opportunity.

An entrepreneur at his core, Travis Montaque was listed in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2018 Most Daring Entrepreneur’s list for his work in branding consumer conversations. In 2016, at just 23 years old, he was included in Forbes 30 Under 30 for discovering a data-driven marketing method that provides greater emotional expression in today’s digital conversations. A regular speaker at tech and marketing events, Travis has most recently taken to the stage at Cannes Lions, CES, Social Media Week, Advertising Week, SXSW and Harvard Business School. Both Travis and Holler have been featured in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, TechCrunch and The New Yorker. He is an inaugural member of the University of Miami Marketing Advisory Board.

Customer Experience, Ordering, Outside Insights, Story, Technology