The restaurant industry is facing a real-time shift where C-suite executives need to embrace the culture of data and actionable intel. Harnessing data and using it to the advantage of the company, as cost effectively and quickly as possible, has become an issue of paramount concern for Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Executive Officers alike. Chief Chats, a media channel focusing on challenges and opportunities facing C-Suite executives, met with leading Marketing Automation and Analytics Platform executive, Dev Ganesan, Chairman and CEO of Fishbowl, for an update on the state of the industry.
Chief Chats: You work with nearly 70,000 restaurant locations around the world. Why is Marketing Automation not viable as a standalone product anymore?
Dev: There is a fundamental shift taking place in the industry where Marketing Automation solutions are not enough. Simply put, communication en masse, at a time when consumers are deluged with marketing messages, is no longer a viable strategy. Consumers expect – and respond better to – contextually relevant, personalized communications. Those using Marketing Automation systems need a strategic partner that enables them to use data to uncover key insights about their business, which informs when, where and how to communicate with guests. End-to-end intelligence, in conjunction with marketing automation, is the key to staying competitive and driving success. Deep insights about customer experiences, preferences and actual buying behavior are all critical factors in intelligent decision-making when it comes to marketing, menu, site selection, etc. Restaurants need comprehensive solutions that change the way data is leveraged, perceived, and acted on.
Chief Chats: Where did this constant need for big data come from? Why do some think of it as the be-all and end-all of industry success?
Dev: Everybody is constantly talking about big data, me included. Coming from a software industry background, technology runs through my blood. It is the foundation for companies and what propels them to grow. Add intelligence to that and you have a very powerful combination. In the past decade, there has been an explosion in the types, amounts, and variety of insights we can now gain about consumers. People are sharing more information about themselves than ever before, and the companies benefiting most from this scenario are those that know how to break down the data silos and draw actionable intelligence and take action. Using data can transform the entire way companies do business. It’s hard to ignore how companies that have truly become data-driven have managed to surpass their competition and flourish. That’s the biggest testament of all.
Chief Chats: How fast does “actionable” need to be today? Can you provide an example of a brand doing it right?
Dev: Well, it needs to be immediate in order to stay ahead of the curve. If you find out in the summer months what your biggest seller was last November, it is meaningless. Having had this insight back in November, action could have been taken to help promote the item while it was relevant. Having data immediately empowers you to “fail fast” and “fail small” and, because of that, allows you to be more confident and innovative. You can test a marketing campaign and almost immediately see if it’s working or not. You don’t end up wasting precious resources on campaigns that aren’t working and can reallocate funds to ones that are effective. If you really want to talk “fast,” I think one of the most fascinating parts of data analytics is predictive analytics. Nothing is faster than being able to predict future guest behavior and take action accordingly.
Not Your Average Joe’s, a Massachusetts-based chain, is a great example of a brand that has really embraced data-driven decision making. They have identified segments based on preference and demographics so they can take action not only on behavior but guest profile as well. “Elite nesters” are going to have a different motivation than “young families.” You should not offer an “elite nester” the latest value on a large family meal. Using data to understand guest archetypes, as well as behavior, enables them to very intelligently engage guests.
Chief Chats: You talk about the importance of data, but note that tools to produce results from the data are critical to success. So how do restaurants make the necessary move from accumulating data to leveraging it?
Dev: A critical first step is to really come to an understanding internally about what you’re trying to achieve with your data, so that you can let that end goal drive the process. This needs to be part of an enterprise strategy with executive support and buy-in. We’ve all seen tons of dashboards and charts with percentages rising and falling, but, as you said, what are people supposed to do with this data?
Restaurants should look for a solution that enables them to easily glean insights from their data, to make better decisions about how to drive growth and to feel confident taking action on those decisions in an end-to-end, integrated platform. A comprehensive view of data from a variety of sources can offer rich insights and enable operators to engage their guests in new ways resulting in greater sales and traffic. This cannot be accomplished with Marketing Automation alone, as questions like how to optimize an offer, how to maximize media spend, and how to best engage Millennials cannot be answered.
Expertise, whether internal or external, to help guide the decision making process for both operations and marketing is also key to success. Without a strategic plan driven by people who understand how to leverage data, companies will be left back where the started- looking at heaps of data with no knowledge of what to do with it.
It’s also worth noting that your requirements and demands will evolve, which is why a flexible approach – one that can scale as your business scales – is essential.
Finally, and probably most important, is to ensure that you’re developing a data-driven culture within your organization – that everyone in the business, from top to bottom, truly understands the value of data-driven decision making and knows how it applies to the work they do every day. You can have an amazing tool that delivers business-changing insights, but if no one is using the tool and no one believes in the power of insights, than it’s all for nothing.
A solution to gain insights and put them to use in a relevant timeframe is a reality for restaurants today. Taking a data-driven approach to intelligently engaging guests is an absolutely must to stay ahead of competition.