To capture the benefit of digital ordering through a Web site or mobile app, pizzerias must nail the basics
Kevin Myers sees it clear as day.
The chief marketing and information officer at Ohio-based Donatos, Myers says the pizza delivery business has always been about meeting customers where they are. The rise of e-commerce, namely online ordering and mobile apps, merely accelerated this notion, unlocking new possibilities capable of driving traffic and sales.
To Myers’ eyes, digital ordering benefits everyone. Customers enjoy improved order accuracy and the convenience of ordering when and how they want; staff are freed from phone lines to focus on customer service and contributing to a more efficient restaurant; and operators gain access to a vehicle often celebrated for propelling revenue and repeat business. At Donatos, for instance, the average digital transaction tends to be $4 higher than phone orders, while online customers return nearly twice as often, according to Myers.
In today’s digitally charged age, then, it’s no wonder pizzerias of all shapes and sizes continue pushing for potent digital ordering solutions.
While well-heeled national chains such as Pizza Hut and Dominos grab headlines with newfangled ways to secure a pizza — from pizza lockers to ordering by way of Twitter or Alexa — many other operations prioritize the basics, confident that a strong and professional digital ordering platform helps to drive relevancy, happy customers and smooth operations.
Digital Ordering Necessity #1: Secure and responsive
If a pizzeria’s Web site consistently crashes or its mobile app prompts security concerns, then trust and credibility with the consumer wanes. Hope Neiman, chief marketing officer of Tillster, a Los Angeles-based digital ordering solutions provider, calls secure digital platforms an “absolute necessity.” Yet more, the ordering platforms must be dynamic, robust and flexible enough to accommodate substantial streams of traffic, especially on those prime occasions — the Super Bowl, the Final Four and amid inclement weather — when orders can soar.
“Unless you scale operations to handle simultaneous users, you will have people timing out, incomplete orders and customers not knowing if their order went through,” Neiman says.
Digital Ordering Necessity #2: Frictionless
Cris Jucan, CEO of Tacit, an Ontario, Canada-based company that develops branded digital ordering solutions for foodservice brands, calls a no-hassle customer experience a non-negotiable.
“Customers will try an app once,” Jucan says. “If they have any issues with the app, they won’t use it again.”
Ordering on a digital platform must be quick, easy and intuitive. There should be a clear and direct path to purchase with technology — both in design and functionality — that guides the customer through the process in an orderly and timely manner.
While a frictionless experience is table stakes today, pizzerias might consider adding a “reorder” tab given how pizzeria guests tend to favor the same purchases. Such functionality, which is commonplace at many major e-commerce players, accelerates the ordering process and provides a touch of personalization, says Kriti Lodha, senior product marketing manager for digital ordering and consumer at Toast, a leading restaurant technology provider.
Digital Ordering Necessity #3: Full menu availability
When ordering through a digital platform, customers don’t want to be shortchanged or minimized, Jucan says. They want the full menu available and at the same prices present in the store. With pizza, in particular, this also means the ability to customize an order, such as splitting the toppings on a pizza or requesting a well-done pie. Sans the ability to customize their order the same as they would in store — albeit in a clear, streamlined way that doesn’t confuse or overwhelm — customers are prone to become disenchanted.
“Be intentional about setting up your digital menu,” Lodha directs.
Digital Ordering Necessity #4: Point-of-sale (POS) integration
Digital ordering is certainly about appeasing the customer, but it can also bring valuable efficiencies to operations. That’s why POS systems and digital ordering platforms should be tied together. Having POS integration reduces the opportunity for human error, eases end-of-day reconciliation and streamlines staff responsibilities.
“With POS integration, you’re not dealing with multiple tablets or manually writing orders where there is an investment of time and room for error,” Lodha says. “Speed is one of the most critical drivers of customer satisfaction and POS integration plays a huge role in that.”
Digital Ordering Necessity #5: Accurate, up-to-date information
Restaurants are living, evolving beasts. On any given night, a pizzeria might run out of a menu item. Delivery zones, meanwhile, might shift based on the time of day while operators might alter store hours given external conditions such as weather or a power outage. As such, Neiman says it’s important operators can control and modify information on their digital platforms.
“This way, if you run out of pepperoni, you can go in and take it off as an option so you’re not disappointing customers,” Neiman says. “There are things the store itself has to manage and you should be able to alter those accordingly.”
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.