IoT strategy for restaurants - Q&A

Following on from our recent webinar, we answer your questions on IoT strategy for restaurant marketers - a few we had time for during the presentation and some that came in afterwards. Here's what Plexure Strategy Director Christopher Dawson and Microsoft's CMO Lead, Worldwide Enterprise Marketing Jeff Marcoux have to say about building a connected restaurant strategy.  
 

Do you need to have a mobile app to start an IoT strategy?

Christopher Dawson

The mobile app is what connects you back to the individual consumer. Being able to tie an app into a series of devices is really what opens up the potential of the IoT – far more so than, for example, a loyalty swipe card that connects back to a PoS system and for which you can send out emails. That doesn’t really take advantage of the live marketing capability that you get from including external data sources and beacons. This all connects back to the consumer's mobile phone, and the app is something that gives us the ability to uniquely identify that device and link it to a specific person – across all of the systems within a single organization – giving us that single customer view.

Jeff Marcoux

I think the short answer to that question is: you don’t have to have a mobile app to start an IoT strategy (depending what your IoT strategy is) but the mobile app is where the real value comes in. It’s how you’re able to have that effective communication that stands apart from what the people who come into your store are used to. I would put it at the top of my list, but again, IoT strategy can range from 1:1 customer strategy to all of the machines in the back, so your answer would depend how you define it. Definitely mobile is key to that personal level of interaction.

Christopher Dawson

I think it’s important to differentiate between that consumer IoT strategy and the proliferation of IoT technology in areas like manufacturing. Certainly from a consumer point of view, the thing that’s creating that enhanced experience is mobile. As we saw from some of the stats, a large proportion of customers are on mobile and already using other people’s mobile apps, so that is an area we do encourage our customers to be involved in.
 

Do you have stats you can share with us on the effectiveness of personalized content?

Christopher Dawson

We do have a lot of experience, not just with QSRs but with other retail verticals. Normally when we work with them they already have some sort of offers or content strategy in place, and when we start working with them to personalize that content we usually have control groups in place – people who only receive the generic content. It’s quite useful to compare the uplift in sales among customers who are seeing personalized content versus people who are just seeing generic content. Our statistics show a 700% uplift in the redemption rates of that content when it’s personalized to somebody based on information that we have on them.
 

When it comes to the real-time nature of location-based marketing, how quickly can you make adjustments based on location?

Christopher Dawson

It’s an essential part of retail; in QSRs weather is a huge driver. It's the difference between people wanting to go out to Pizza Hut or wanting to stay in and order Dominos – it’s a lot harder to get people out of the house and into a restaurant when it’s pouring with rain. But we can use real-time data from a weather service linked to someone’s location to encourage behavior.

For a QSR chain that depends on foot traffic coming in and sees a big drop-off in adverse weather, it might be in their interests to use that data to promote particular specials at that time. They may reduce the price to encourage footfall because there’s been heavy rain or other weather that’s preventing people from coming out. We can use real-time location at the speed of travel, so we can tell when somebody’s driving or walking past and send them different messages accordingly.

Usually this all happens in real time, but we can also set up triggers around historic weather or events – if it’s been snowing in the last 24 hours but it’s sunny today, it might be a good time to take your car into the car wash. We also use the outcome of NFL games to determine the message that gets sent to particular fans in particular locations based on whether the home team’s won or not to encourage them into restaurants after the match.

Jeff Marcoux

I think that’s the secret sauce - when you start taking a look what's happening and what’s going to happen, and applying machine learning to these data inputs to reach out to customers in real time based on what's going on. Is it going to rain in 20 minutes, or is it going to snow? It’s incredibly important and that’s the part that makes this strategy, makes mobile, makes real-time personalized content stand apart from just a banner ad or just an email or SMS offer. That is where that magic happens; real-time activations.
 

Can you elaborate on connecting mobile with in-store displays?

Christopher Dawson

There’s a lot of intelligence that can be added to in-store displays using the IoT, which can extend to things like traffic counters so you can tell how many people walk in front of the display. We can see how many people are reaching out and interacting with it, and using technology like Microsoft Kinect cameras we can identify the type of people in front of the display – are they older? Shopping as a couple?

Using the mobile device and beacon technology we can actually identify the specific customer. We can use previous purchase data – if somebody has purchased a couch from a furniture store, then next time they're in store we could display complimentary products like cushions or the coffee table that match. Showing that kind of relevance tends to increase the productivity and conversion rate of that particular screen. And because we can use things like counters, we can start to compare the productivity of those personalized screens - the number of people that go past versus the number of products that are sold – versus a non-personalized display to measure the uplift.
 

How can we be sure we're building an IoT that will last?

Christopher Dawson

You want to be sure that you’ll be able to use your particular brand of IoT well into the future, so you need to choose technology and components that can easily be built out further and that contribute to the longevity of the system. You don’t want to end up in the situation where you have, say, a legacy PoS system that you can’t get transaction data from, or you can only get it in a form you can’t reconcile with the rest of your data. So ideally, if you have outdated technology, you’d look to replace it as soon as possible so you can future-proof the foundation of your IoT. However, if you’re smart about how you work, adding a new platform into the mix before upgrading your POS can give you a solid starting point and buy you a bit of time to upgrade other legacy systems.