As 2012 draws to a close, 2013 dawns with renewed hope and optimism. It’s projected to be a year of “recovery” for the Canadian restaurant industry with consumers expected to increase visits and spending at restaurants across Canada, according to the NPD Group’s “Future of Foodservice” report. To capitalize on growth, operators can take advantage of a simple and effective method of creating awareness to ramp up businesses and improve visibility — it’s called online marketing.
Typically delivered via a website or smartphone applications, online marketing fuels 33 per cent of first-time restaurant visits in Canada. According to NPD’s CREST research, this triples the number of new visits resulting from other forms of marketing by 10 per cent. Complementing this is the country’s collective reliance on word-of-mouth promotion, which becomes progressively habitual as the world of social media evolves. Across restaurant segments, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) benefit from online marketing the most, driving 60 per cent of the segment’s business.
As online marketers develop applications to target prospective and existing clientele, those who zero in on specific strategies are more likely to reap the rewards. CREST research shows Canadians are most influenced by applications that feature a deal or special offer (33 per cent), a recommendation or review (30 per cent) or a loyalty program (19 per cent).
Restaurant locator applications, including the McDonald’s Canada Restaurant Finder and Timmy Me, resonate with consumers and influence the dining choices of 17 per cent of Canadians. Appropriately, this is reflected in the decision of many Canadian telecommunication service providers to pre-load their phones with location-based applications that have segments dedicated entirely to restaurants in the user’s surrounding area.
Though online marketing is an effective approach for Canadian establishments hoping to attract new customers, only three per cent of overall visits and four per cent of spend are influenced by it. That doesn’t mean the stats won’t improve with time. In the U.S., for example, these statistics double to six per cent and eight per cent, respectively.
Canadian restaurateurs have an opportunity to grow their businesses with online marketing, an affordable method of promotion. Since smartphone applications are becoming a fundamental tool for consumers, and the web remains a leading resource, marketing efforts in these spaces that will stimulate more than an initial trial should be a point of focus.
Despite low percentages in overall visits and spend in Canada, the influence of online marketing on restaurant demand is expected to increase. As the existing array of social-media platforms becomes increasingly sophisticated and new ones are introduced to the market, online marketing will need to be a central element in an overarching strategy for businesses to be successful in this industry.