Marketing moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it—especially as the restaurant industry continues to stabilize as we move farther away from the pandemic-induced ‘years of uncertainty.’ Industry innovators are now accelerating research and development, leading to industry growth and technological innovation across the board.
When we look at this through a digital lens, all of the platform updates, algorithm changes and new technology will impact the success of your marketing programs. Below are some of the most recent and notable digital marketing changes your team might wish to consider as you continue to evaluate and execute your strategies in 2023.
Google is Killing Universal Analytics a.k.a. the GA4 Scramble is on
Early last year, Google announced it will be retiring Universal Analytics (UA) in July of 2023, prompting many businesses to start their Google Analytics 4 (GA4) migration. As marketers, we’re excited for the switch, which will make even more data available for businesses, providing new opportunities for campaigns and more. That said, there are plenty of businesses that don’t have this migration on their radar. Restaurants who don’t migrate in time will lose access to critical data and tracking capabilities.
A website’s analytics contains critical information that helps restaurants track consumer behavior (how long were they on the page before they clicked away?), page performance (what page is the most visited on our site?), lead conversion (did this customer end up making a reservation or placing a carry out order? Why or why not?) and more. This data is essential for making better business decisions and understanding what’s working (and what’s not) when it comes to marketing. Once you’ve started your migration, continue to keep a pulse on GA4 updates as well.
The Prioritization of Video
Algorithms are shifting to accommodate consumer behavior. And, what do consumers want right now? Short-form vertical (portrait) videos. This is something your team must take into consideration when making content decisions and tracking performance. But don’t hire a videographer just yet.
High quality production has a tendency to feel like an advertisement. Instead, start by filming the ambience, capturing real moments with people, food and everyday happenings in your restaurant without worrying too much about production quality. As long as the lighting is good, the camera is stable (not shaky) and the lens is focused, you’re already on your way to creating the real, authentic content consumers want to see. Here’s an example of a simple, yet highly effective video.
Consumers still occasionally use social media to check in with loved ones, but are mostly using apps in pursuit of finding new restaurants, venues, people, experiences. Social media platforms, and even Google, have taken notice and adjusted their algorithms accordingly to prioritize this type of content. The end result is a generated feed that prioritizes what the social media platform thinks users will engage with. As you evaluate your 2023 marketing plan, look for ways to incorporate short-form video content to ensure your restaurant remains relevant and in front of your audience.
User Generated Content Replacing Traditional Influencers
User generated content (UGC) is a marketing tactic that turns everyday consumers into brand ambassadors—without having to spend big on influencers. The shift comes as research has shown that consumers prefer (and trust) UGC compared to traditional influencer endorsements. It’s vital for restaurants to evaluate their influencer partnerships and identify opportunities to roll out campaigns that will promote UGC.
Restaurants should be looking for opportunities to enhance the customer experience in a way where consumers feel compelled to share it with others via social media. Some examples include creating in-restaurant photo-opps for customers, updating takeout packaging to make the carry-out experience worthy of a photo or developing exclusive campaigns or launches to draw interest (share a photo of your meal on social for a chance to win XX). While you’re at it, this is a great opportunity to commit to a review platform, such as Google and/or Apple Maps and encourage engaging reviews (menu details, pictures, etc.), which will help boost local search authority (local SEO) as well.
Marketing strategies aren’t plans that you can ‘set and forget.’ In addition to tracking your brand’s marketing efforts and adjusting accordingly, it’s important to remember your brand is operating in an industry that is changing by the day. Platform algorithms, advanced analytics and preferred consumer content are all external factors that directly impact the success of your marketing initiatives. Stay up to date in order to stay on top.
Steve Krull is the CEO and co-founder of Be Found Online, a digital marketing agency where he and his teams have been helping businesses with online visibility for more than 10 years. Throughout his career, he’s worked with dozens of quick-service brands, including Firehouse Subs, Friendly's, White Castle, Logan's Roadhouse and Boston Market to drive business and web traffic through specialized digital marketing tactics. When he’s not working, Steve can be found reading spy novels, rooting for the Chicago Cubs and riding his bicycle.