Incorporating E-Commerce Into Your Restaurant Business

For growing restaurants, you mustn't get too comfortable too quickly. Instead, you need to maintain your focus on expansion and innovation if you want to succeed. Since the restaurant industry is so competitive, this means refining your menu and looking for new communication channels. On top of this, you need to ensure that you're offering enough convenience to your customers. Without a robust online presence, that's much harder. 

Restaurants need to use e-commerce to their advantage. Whether you're including an online ordering system for easier delivery orders or you're expanding your Facebook page and your other social media platforms, it's important to increase your focus on e-commerce to stand out from the competition. 

Start with your restaurant's website. 

While word-of-mouth referrals are still important for online orders for delivery, you also need to ensure that your website provides a quality experience. After all, your website can collect customer data, encourage pickup and delivery requests, and positively impact your bottom line. On the other hand, a poor website or point of sale experience can have a negative effect. Since your website is likely the customer's first contact point, you need to ensure a quality ordering experience and a streamlined site layout. 

To start, you should audit your own website. Ask a few key questions. Is it easy to place online orders?

Can a customer sign up for your loyalty program for discounts and promotions? Do you link to your restaurant partners? It's also key to post pertinent information, such as your schedule, to your restaurant website. Otherwise, it's harder to attract online sales. If your restaurant has a mobile app, you should also have links that direct customers to a download page. A smart auditing process can give you a closer look as to what's working for your website and what needs to be reconsidered over time. 

When you increase website functionality, it's easier to boost online sales and phone orders. Since COVID-19

 necessitates limited physical interaction, websites and social media pages are your new communication channels. As a result, you need to prioritize these experiences to develop a greater degree of brand loyalty. With a few key features like email marketing campaigns, POS integration, and mobile device functionality, restaurants of all sizes can begin to entice new customers, improve monthly sales, secure partnerships, and build their digital presence. 

Streamline online ordering. 

Take a look at your online ordering page. Even if you're a small restaurant, you need to provide a smart online order system. The entire process should ideally take customers a few clicks. If this isn't the case, you may want to invest in online ordering software to make the process smoother, especially for users on smartphones and mobile apps. For mobile apps, in particular, it's good to have click-to-call features for phone orders. 

Your online order system should also be able to differentiate between a delivery order and a curbside pickup order. Often, curbside pickup means a lower transaction fee for the diner. When the online order is sent to your point of sale (POS), you need to be able to print a kitchen ticket that says whether the meal is takeout or delivery. This can also give you valuable customer data that tells you which order types are the most popular. You can then tailor your POS system data to develop upserve offers and new specials to fit. It's a smarter way to increase your profits. 

Finally, you need to invest in a few key features. It should be easy for a customer to pay with a gift card or redeem coupons on your online ordering platform of choice. These also need to be noted in the POS system as they can impact commission schedules. If a customer orders through your social media, such as your Facebook page, the order data should still go to your POS. It's also a plus to invest in enhanced security that can protect credit card information.

Consider a mobile app. 

Compared to a strong website and an online order platform, a mobile app isn't necessarily a must-have for e-commerce. However, it is beneficial. Google search metrics show that many customers depend on their smartphones when they're doing online searches. If a customer has easy access to your restaurant through a mobile app, they may be more likely to place repeat orders. You can also develop smartphone-specific offers that entice further mobile usage. These can include discounts for orders placed within the app, such as free delivery or a discounted entree. 

Of course, a small restaurant might not benefit quite as much from a mobile app. However, larger brands and expanding restaurants with multiple locations can use a mobile app to develop a stronger on-the-go experience. A mobile app can empower the customer to schedule their order at a specific location. Since you likely won't develop any mobile platforms in-house, you need to find a developer who can execute your brand's vision smartly. 

Focus on convenience.

Customers and diners often want things that are easy and unfussy. Ultimately, it's a matter of convenience. If you spot an e-commerce effort that can provide an added level of convenience to the customer, it might be a worthy investment. Especially as a result of COVID-19, many customers have limited resources. Likewise, the competition for these resources has increased. Even if you have the best menu in town, a customer might turn to a different takeout option if your website is messy or your mobile app doesn't work well. 

When you focus on convenience, you're prioritizing the customer's needs. It also helps you develop a better e-commerce experience. Make sure webpages are loading properly. Make it easy for the customer to place an order. Encourage mobile app use. This can positively impact your bottom line and help you secure repeat business. 

E-commerce can take time, resources, and effort. However, it's absolutely critical that your restaurant includes a strong digital presence. With increased competition and limited dining options, every restaurant needs to consider different ways to maintain a positive cash flow. 


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