This year’s marketing trends are vast. We’ve scoured dozens and dozens of 2021 marketing trend predictions to give you a look at what’s hot and what’s relevant to pizzerias.
In the world of independent pizzerias, budgets for marketing are often tight or focused on the tried-and-trued initiatives that operators have used for years. It may be time to introduce new marketing strategies to reach your target customers.
What’s hot this year aren’t necessarily new marketing initiatives, but they are surging marketing ideas that are resonating and building steam, especially after such a volatile year for restaurants.
An overarching trend with no signs of slowing is a focus on digital marketing, whether that’s social and websites or e-mail and search engines.
Lou Malnati’s continues to grow its digital marketing spend. “We continue to invest in digital marketing as it grows and want to engage customers in their preferred channels,” says Natalie Levy, marketing manager at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. “Also, we lean into social media and embrace influencer marketing to build relationships and increase engagement. We value content marketing as it remains relevant to connect with our customers and focus on video marketing which is vital for storytelling.”
Clayton Krueger, Director of Marketing and Communications at Tacoma, Washington-based Farrelli’s Pizza, was an early adaptor of social media and social continues to be an area of concentration. He sees new marketing trends as opportunities. “You have to keep your eyes open to new opportunities that align with your brand, that align with where you are at with your resources and make sure you are going after the target market that you want to get,” he says.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the hottest marketing trends right now and how you can use them:
• Short-form video. From TikTok and Instagram to YouTube and Facebook, these 15- to 30-second videos are content marketing gold. Instagram Reels and TikTok specifically are all the rage because a user can cut in several small snippets of videos into their short video. The possibilities are endless for pizzerias. You can highlight a pizza special in unique ways, do a vlog style culture video, show the pizza-making or delivery process start to finish or go for the drool factor with some slow-mo finishing drizzle toppings or cheese pull. Don’t forget the metadata (that’s the titles, descriptions and tags). Without the metadata, you could go viral with your video without hitting your target market.
• Voice Search. If you have said, “Hey, Sir”, “Hey Alexa” or “Hey Google”, you have done a voice search. The reality is that smartphone uses are already using voice search to find local restaurants. A 2018 BrightLocal study found that restaurants were the top industry for voice search. So how can you capitalize on voice search? It begins with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Understanding relationship between your website, order apps and local search keywords, like “near me” and “best pizza nearby”.
“We don’t pay for any services like AdWords or Google Search rankings,” Krueger says. “We just do everything we can to keep our website up-to-date and accurate. We manage our Google business pages. When you just take the time to do those things, your search results automatically improve, and you see your SEO high. When your SEO is high, if someone asks Siri or Google or Alexa a question, you just have a better chance of it being you already. So, step one is just make sure you have the tools that you can control dialed in. And beyond that, now there are other companies out there trying to help you be the top result.”
For more on SEO and website traffic, go to How to drive more traffic to your restaurant’s website.
• Partnerships. Some call it co-branding. But, let’s broaden the term for its use in pizzeria marketing. Collaboration is nothing new to pizzerias. Krueger views third-party delivery partnerships as a marketing line item. “We think of third-party delivery as a form of advertisement,” he says. “You are going to pay upwards of 20+ percent to have your products delivered by them. We think of that 20+ percent as a marketing fee. What it is is a new customer acquisition strategy.” The challenge is that pizzerias are not capturing data on third-party customers. It’s an issue that Krueger says Farrelli’s has been working diligently to convert those customers to use the pizzeria’s internal platforms through branding and experience-based marketing. “How can we take third party and use it to our advantage to cast this net out there, bring the people into the pizzeria and convert them to our online ordering platform, our data aggregator?,” he asks. “How can we bring them into our system and how do we retarget them? It doesn’t have to be slick and polished; it just has to work.”
• E-commerce. Providing a vehicle for customers to order from your pizzeria digitally, whether that is online, on social or on mobile has become essential in a time without much face-to-face ordering. This trend is poised to continue as many are now accustomed to digital ordering. “E-commerce endures as the preference of choice for brands and consumers with significant growth and investment opportunities in the future,” Levy says, adding that e-commerce remains the most effective marketing channel at Lou Malnati’s.
• Live Streaming. We saw the capabilities with live streaming thrive during the pandemic. Pizzerias around the country went live to interact with guests that they missed engaging with when dining areas closed. These opportunities will only grow as more people are now accustomed to and enjoy live streaming. You can host a virtual pizza-making class, do a food and wine/beer pairing event or vlog what’s happening at the pizzeria or share your pizzeria’s story.
• Personalization. In the era of COVID-19, people are seeking personal connections and hyper-personalization marketing will meet that customer demand. Your POS and loyalty programs give you the power to get personal with your customers. Use it. It’s time to leverage that data in e-mail, text, direct mail, in store and on delivery/carryout communications. “Current resident,” “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Customer Number X” fall flat when you are trying to build a relationship with your guests.
• Push Notifications outpaces SMS. Though these are very different concepts, they both allow pizzerias to deliver messages directly to customers’ devices. Push notification drive the customer to instantly engage, while SMS is a direct 160-character text message delivered and opened in seconds. Krueger says Farrelli’s relies on SMS for more specific annual birthday and anniversary messages. “We’re going to rely more on the push notifications feature of the app,” he says. “For us, we like the push notification more and essentially it accomplishes the same thing. And for us, it’s built into the cost of the loyalty program.”
• Cause Marketing. Community outreach and fundraising is at the fabric of pizzerias. It’s an area that pizzerias received a return during COVID-19. Communities supported their local pizzerias as they have supported their communities in the past. Cause marketing will continue to thrive. “The pivot to virtual events and fundraisers, due to accessibility, has created new opportunities for our fundraising program to support local communities,” Levy says.
• Marketing Tech on the Horizon. There are a number of hot technologies to watch this year. Augmented reality (AR) and chatbots are here. AR has caught fire with the retail market with the ability to “try on” anything while shopping online. In restaurants, menus are being reimagined as 3D views.
Chatbots are being deployed on restaurant websites, apps and social accounts right now. Chatbots are facilitating online ordering.
When it comes to advancing marketing technology, Krueger advises evaluating them through your brand filter. “The bigger question is how do you utilize that to enhance your experience to be relevant in some way to your brand? You just really need to know who you are as a brand. If these things fit, that is where the opportunity is.”
These marketing trends are only a drop in the bucket of what’s available to help you market your restaurant. It can seem cumbersome to review everything available.
Krueger offers some tips for looking at marketing trends. “The reality is the opportunities are endless, whether it be social media, new social media things popping up, new technologies popping up,” he says. “You just have to be able to have that filter to say there are going to be new things coming out all of the time, that does not mean we should do them. We should only do those if they fit with our brand.”