Restaurant digital marketing trends to watch in 2019

For most businesses, if not all, digital marketing is something that needs to constantly be at the top of your priority list. We’re sure everyone will agree that digital marketing, when carried out effectively, is immeasurably powerful.

However, times are continually changing, and while you still need digital marketing, where you should focus your efforts has changed—a lot. And this is especially the case when you’re dealing with bricks-and-mortar businesses and physical storefronts instead of just online.

But if you want to connect with people, you need to be where they are—online. Yet you need to entice these customers into your eatery, too.

So how can you do this and what are the top digital marketing trends for 2019? We take a look at this below.

Content marketing

For the majority of businesses, content marketing is key. It’s the way to inform, engage with, and develop relationships with your customers. It’s also the perfect way to nurture any existing relationships.

The top four trends to watch out for are:

1. The value of customer data

According to a recent report on the casual dining sector by Marketing Week, keeping up with changing demands is heavily reliant on understanding what customers want.

However, as the former regional managing director of Nando’s and former brand director of Five Guys, Marcel Khan, explains that this shouldn’t be a case of “thinking about being clever.” He suggests that too many brands try to be various things for various people and should instead focus on what’s different about their offerings.

And this innovation is key to gaining customers’ attention, particularly with the rise of food trends which are spurred by social media and internet usage. From the ingredients and diets to flavors and accompaniments, restaurants need to make sure they are catering for their customers’ wants and needs.

For example, Nando’s vegetarian options have undoubtedly helped their outreach efforts.

Nando catering to customer needs example
Image Source: Pinterest

2. Email and marketing automation

Even though personalization is still a hugely relevant trend for 2019, it will also be about integrating content marketing with email marketing to create a standout customer journey. This includes using customer data to make sure you’re getting in front of customers at the right time and with the right message, also known as segmentation.

Personalization works wonders in increasing the effectiveness of your email campaigns. But this is also the case across all of the channels you’re using.

Therefore, to start improving your emails, begin using them as a customer engagement and lead-nurturing tool. Use it to encourage the behaviors of those dedicated customers you see on a regular basis.

You can also utilize this alongside marketing automation, something else that’s been growing in popularity for the past few years.

It offers a number of benefits, including:

  • It saves time: You don’t have to manually copy all of the information across to your leads, which means you’re saving yourself lots of time—and, therefore, money.

  • It increases impact: You may forget to send an email to someone or to copy another customer on the email. Automation allows you to stay on track with your communications so you don’t miss an opportunity to put yourself in front of your customers.

For example, you may decide to automate welcome emails, i.e. when a customer signs up to your loyalty program. Or you could send an email to customers offering them a discount at your restaurant a week before their birthday.

HutLovers automated welcome email example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

3. Voice search

Thanks to the likes of Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, more and more of us are starting to interact with our devices verbally.

However, as a restauranteur, this presents its own challenges. How someone searches for something with their voice differs dramatically from how they’d search for it by typing. Equally, a text-based search offers up a page of results at a time, whereas a voice search will give you several choices or even just one.

That’s why preparing your brand for voice searches is imperative. For example, you’ll need to ensure all the key information about your restaurant (e.g. opening times) is readily available and is easy to read for search engines’ spiders. You’ll also want to ensure your website is answering any questions your customers may have, so you guarantee yourself as the top search result for a query.

For example, you may want to add key questions and answers, e.g. “What specials does [RESTAURANT NAME] offer?” Or perhaps even “Which restaurant has the best curry in [LOCATION]?”

4. User-generated content

When it comes to marketing the food your restaurant offers, one of the best ways is to show your potential customers how current diners are enjoying it.

This gives you two main advantages.

First, it helps convince these prospective customers that this is the right choice for them. You’re just using your existing customers to market your business for you, rather like traditional word-of-mouth.

According to recent statistics, user-generated content has a huge impact on a buyer’s decision, with 70% of baby boomers and 84% of millennials being influenced by it.

Second, this is a free marketing method. But one that still continues to build trust with your customers.

Social media

As well as reaching out to customers with your content, you’ll also want to continue the conversation on social media. However, where you’re having these conversations and the type of content you’re posting is key.

Here are the trends to take note of:

5. Instagram over Facebook

While Facebook is still the United States’ number one social media channel, it’s facing ongoing issues with its recent data breach and it is dropping in popularity with younger users. Experts believe that the public’s perception of Facebook is changing.

That’s why, as a restaurant marketer, it’s important you take a look at where your target audience is hanging out. For example, if you are trying to appeal to a younger demographic, this may not be the platform for you at all.

While you won’t want to dismiss Facebook completely, you may want to focus your biggest efforts and your paid efforts elsewhere.

For instance, Instagram is proving hugely popular with younger audiences and is such a great place to whet customers’ appetites with drool-inducing photographs.

Advertising on Instagram may also become a preference (if you know this is where your target demographic is). As statistics show, in the second quarter of 2018, ad spending on Facebook grew by 40% but by 177% on Instagram.

6. Video

With 74% of people in the US engaging with YouTube, this is a lot of people who aren’t just watching videos but are watching videos that have been created as part of a digital marketing campaign.

So while you’ll want to put any videos you make on YouTube, you’ll also want to use these across your social platforms, emails, and website.

From creating videos of your latest recipe for Instagram to introducing your team on your website, videos are a hugely effective tool. They give you the chance to provide your customers with lots of information while capturing your brand’s unique personality in the process—and all without having to get customers to read loads of text.

Blue Apron gif example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

And don’t forget about live video.

If you can encourage a hugely influential food blogger to do a live stream of them visiting your restaurant, this could really draw in the crowds.

Other digital marketing trends

As well as developing stellar content and engaging with customers on social media, there are some other key developments to bear in mind.

From the latest technology to developments that are changing the restaurant industry, you’ll want to be ready for:

7. Virtual reality

Just imagine how powerful your marketing will be if you can showcase to your customers exactly what they can expect from your restaurant before visiting. You can eliminate a lot of risks that potential customers take when they’re deciding whether or not to book a table at your eatery.

Using virtual reality to show your restaurant’s environment, for example, shows customers why they should choose you and that you’re on top of your game.

Plus, virtual reality is really growing, with the entire market projected to grow to around $33 billion by 2022.

8. Online food delivery services

No list of the top marketing trends for restaurants in 2019 would be complete without mentioning the massive growth in delivery services.

As a restauranteur, it’s often difficult to let go of the experience you want your customers to have. Of course, they’re going to have a better dining experience if they’re sat at one of your tables and the food isn’t packed into a container and driven through a city for 15 minutes.

Yet, an increasing number of diners are choosing to dine at home. More and more customers are ordering food straight from an app, e.g. Postmates or Uber Eats.

In fact, according to the latest figures, there has been a 10% increase in the number of deliveries and a 20% rise in revenue for deliveries over the past 5 years.

Catering to customers who want great food but in the comfort of their own home will be at the forefront for many restaurants (especially city-based ones) in the coming year. Some may even create special menus available only for delivery.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

While some of the top digital marketing trends in 2019 won’t be as influential for restauranteurs as some others, all of the above are key ones to watch out for.

Taking the right steps to ensure you’re ready for these changes (some more dramatic than others) will help ensure your restaurant business won’t just survive these changes but will boost its business through them, too.

For even more great advice on what to expect in 2019, read our blog - Emma’s email resolutions for 2019.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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