Digitalisation of the customer journey is accelerating as the sector gets set for indoor reopening

Our brand new report released this week in partnership with Zonal focuses on the post-pandemic customer journey and examines the customer decision process from deciding whether to go out and researching a venue, through to ordering, paying, reviewing and choosing whether to return.

Ahead of the indoor reopening of venues next week, feedback from 1,000 hospitality customers confirmed that the hospitality decision-making process is increasingly digitally driven, at virtually every customer touchpoint.

You can download the free research report or watch it presented by the KAM team (30mins.)

The research identified increased competition from ‘in-home entertainment’ with a 167% increase in consumer spending on TV subscription services, such as Disney+ and a 143% increase in spending on video gaming meaning that hospitality must work even harder to ensure every interaction with their customers, at every stage in the customer journey is right.

“The hospitality decision-making process is increasingly digitally driven, at virtually every customer touchpoint.”

Digitally researching venues

Customers now search digitally when deciding which venue to visit, with most people doing a ‘general internet search’ (38%) followed by Google’s ‘Near Me’ search tool (25%) and then using hospitality review websites/apps eg TripAdvisor (22%.) This represents a huge opportunity for operators to either influence potential customers or risk losing them during the critical ‘research’ stage.

Social media obviously plays a considerable role here too, but not surprisingly with huge generational swings. Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, are heavily reliant on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for ideas and inspiration on which venues to visit. Brands and operators need to ensure they are targeting the right channels which fit with their strategy and target customer base, and not using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Customers demand a seamless reservation process

The research also highlights the growing need for a seamless reservation process. 1-in-6 customers say they are more likely to book when visiting pubs, bars and restaurants now compared to pre-pandemic times. Furthermore, 1-in-3 said ‘difficulty making a reservation was one of the key reasons they might decide to stay at home.

“Having accepted the need for technology over the past 12 months, consumers now have a greater understanding of how it improves their experience and helps remove some of their typical frustrations when eating and drinking out. From an operators’ perspective this can only be positive, as maximising the power of tech helps free up staff to concentrate on those elements that help enhance the overall guest experience.”  Alison Vasey, Group Product Director at Zonal

Digital continues to enhance the ordering process

The role of digital when ordering has obviously grown too, with 42% saying a venue that offers mobile phone ordering and payment become more important to them over the last 12 months (65% for Millennials.) Yet almost half (47%) get frustrated when they are ‘forced’ to order via an order and pay app. The key is to give customers the choice.

Whether customers use digital ordering options will depend on the occasion, how much time they have and who they are with. It’s not a case of one or the other, otherwise, we risk alienating them. In some instances, it could be the same customer from one day to the next. The research showed, for example, that those dining with kids were more likely to want to option of ordering digitally. It offers them a quick, hassle-free option.

The research identifies a strong desire for digital menus to complement traditional physical menus – almost a quarter (23%) of customers prefer digital menus over any other type of menu. This rises to 36% for those dining with kids.

“The use of digital order and payment solutions now has much longer-term appeal to both consumers and operators alike. What is clear is that customers are now looking for new features and more personalised approach. The full potential of digital payment solutions to create a frictionless guest experience is far from realised and it will only play an increasingly important role in the future.” Alison Vasey, Group Product Director at Zonal

How does digital influence pub and restaurant reviews 

The prevalence of smartphone usage and savviness also has a significant impact on whether a customer leaves a review. One third of customers are more likely to leave a review if they can do it on their smartphone, when it suits them. This is as high as 44% for those in the 25-34-year-old age bracket.

You can download the free research report or watch it presented by the KAM team (30mins.)