There was a time when many restaurants didn’t have to worry about online ordering. Take-out and delivery weren’t part of their business models, so they focused on in-store orders and service. But, things have changed.

Online ordering, take-out, and delivery is no longer a tactic just for pizza and Chinese restaurants. Online ordering is increasing in use and demand, and things aren’t likely to change anytime soon. 

In the age of COVID-19, customers have gotten used to placing orders from their phone and picking up food at to-go kiosks or having items delivered to their homes. Fast-casual and quick-service restaurants shouldn’t shy away from this change in consumer behavior. Instead, they should lean into it.

Increasing the frequency of online ordering helps both customers and restaurants. Customers love the convenience and safety, and restaurants get a variety of benefits from online ordering. 

Gather customer contact information. When customers order online, they usually provide their email address and/or phone number. This creates a natural opportunity to add them to your customer database, something that doesn’t happen as easily during in-person ordering. 

Learn about customer habits and preferences. Online ordering also provides data about what customers like and how they act. You can collect data about order frequency and preferences, which helps you identify the best times to promote your restaurant, which products to promote, and who to promote to. 

Increase the lifetime value of customers. When you have a connection to customers (through their phone number or email address) and information about their ordering habits and history, you can create automated marketing programs that consistently drive sales and increase the lifetime value of customers.  

Decrease stress on in-store staff. When customers place orders online, they don’t have to wait in lines in the store. Customer-facing staff will have less pressure to serve a long line of waiting guests.

Online ordering is good for restaurants, and it’s good for customers. It’s time to start implementing strategies to increase the frequency of online orders. If your restaurant is still doing the bare minimum with your online ordering strategy or has not implemented any plans to increase this part of your business, here are four simple ways to get started.

1. Collect customer data, and personalize promotions.

The key to increasing the frequency of online orders lies in data. A system that collects customer contact information and details about ordering history will be instrumental in driving more online orders.

Invest in software that allows you to create customer profiles and track consumer behavior. Use what you learn about customers to craft personalized promotions. For example, if a customer made an online order during your “$5 Burger Monday,” send them a message Monday morning to remind them of your deal and include a link to quickly and easily order.

2. Use text marketing to drive repeat online orders.

Most businesses already know the value of email marketing. They use it to stay connected with their customers. But the reliance on email marketing often causes restaurants to overlook the possibilities of text marketing.

Emails have an average open rate of around 20 percent. Text messages have an average open rate of around 90 percent. Text messages get opened more often and more quickly than emails, and they can produce an extremely high return on investment. It’s a relatively inexpensive marketing tactic that can produce a 500 percent ROI.

Consider how text marketing can be more effective in sending promotions that lead to quick conversions. Send time-sensitive coupons with a link to redeem so customers have an easy way to access a deal and place an order from their mobile device.

3. Use geofencing ads to drive online orders from nearby customers.

Some of the most valuable customers are right around your restaurant. They are physically shopping in stores near your business or staying in a hotel around the corner. Use geofencing ads to target these customers.

Geofencing ads display ads to customers based on their physical location. You can send an ad promoting online ordering with a time-sensitive coupon to people within walking distance of your business or staying in a hotel nearby.

4. Highlight online ordering on your website.

If online ordering hasn’t been a part of your business model, it’s likely that your website is not optimized to drive online orders. Now is a good time to revisit your website and see if it still aligns with what is best for your business.

Add a primary call-to-action button to drive visitors to place an order. Also, create a desirable opt-in that drives on-site visitors to join your marketing list. For example, give 10% off their first online order when they create an account.

More and more customers want online ordering. Make driving more online orders part of your upcoming marketing strategy, and use these tips to make it easy for customers to place pick-up and delivery orders from your restaurant.

Consumer behavior and wants have changed. Adjust your strategy to keep up. Start focusing on increasing the frequency of online orders to give customers what they want while increasing sales and customer lifetime value. 

Alan Roberts believes that building communities is essential for brands to stay connected to local consumers. As the Market Development Manager for MyArea Network, a tech-media company specializing in local marketing, he focuses on helping companies, from small independent businesses to multi-location brands, find the best methods to build brand awareness, increase sales, and generate leads. Follow him on LinkedIn for more tips on attracting and engaging local customers near your brick-and-mortar business.

Ordering, Outside Insights, Story, Technology