Jane McPherson: What consumer trends data are you seeing right now, and which are you using in your marketing?
This year has brought on consumer behavior shifts that have had a major impact on the restaurant business. While consumers cut back on spending, we recognized many would still be looking to break up the monotony of being stuck at home, working long hours to keep essential businesses running, or just didn’t want to give up the foods they love. To thrive during this period, we took the approach of doubling down on marketing around our shops to make sure anyone making a restaurant purchase would have Capriotti’s top of mind.
Pre-pandemic, we had been seeing consumers shift from cable TV subscriptions to consuming media over the Internet through connected devices. During the pandemic, media consumption skyrocketed as consumers binged on their favorite shows and tried to stay up to date on Covid-related news through their connected devices. This created an opportunity to reach consumers at scale in the geographic areas around our shops.
Content watched over the Internet and through connected devices features digital advertising. What may look and sound like traditional advertising is actually OTT (over the top) video advertising with all of the targeting benefits of digital advertising. As a franchise, we learned quickly that OTT video advertising is an effective way to reach our core customers in the specific trade areas around our shops. What used to be considered a fringe tactic just a few years ago, has become a complete game-changer for consumer marketing—especially for franchisors.
Why? Traditional TV ad buys require a significant budget to reach an entire market, which is incredibly effective in markets where Capriotti’s has critical mass, such as Las Vegas and Delaware. But like us, most franchises have many markets without critical mass. Digital advertising can be tailored to reach an audience in a specific radius, which we’ve found to be an effective and affordable way to drive traffic to shops. Since the start of the year, we’ve increased our OTT spend by at least 50%, at first splitting this cost with our franchise partners. Today, a good number of our franchisees continue to buy OTT ads on their own because they’ve been so effective.
Early on, we worked to create OTT video advertising to let consumers know we were open, following new safety standards, and available for contactless delivery and curbside pickup. Throughout the pandemic, OTT video advertising provided an amazing platform that allowed us to keep Capriotti’s top of mind with consumers, prompting them to place online orders or pick up a sub.
On top of ads, influencer marketing became another focus as a result of consumers’ increased social media consumption. Last year showed us that the “influence” influencers have is growing tremendously, making it an effective way to build awareness and credibility from a third-party source. In 2020, we leveraged influencer partnerships for new product rollouts. We also deployed influencers to tell the story of our products as we opened shops in new markets, helping the new shops thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic.
Collectively, our marketing, advertising, and PR efforts have been heavily influenced by our consumers’ needs, and we pride ourselves in how we’ve been able to listen, adapt, shift, and thrive. The results tell it all: we closed out our last two quarters with double-digit same-store sales increases.
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