This is the season to eat healthy and stay active, burning off the treats consumed over the holidays and numerous lockdowns. It is the time when we need to recognize customer engagement is the key to success for on-demand food services.

Life in lockdown is complicated. Although going vegan hit record numbers this year, a recent consumer survey found that almost a third of Brits admit their eating habits have become worse during lockdown 3.0,  despite 81 percent pledging to eat more healthily this year.

With these fast-evolving and often contradictory trends in mind it’s important for on-demand delivery services like Deliveroo and Just Eat to keep pace. On-demand food delivery services can’t afford to sit back and assume that the current demand from customers – who are unable to dine out during lockdown – will mean their business model will continue to be successful. In fact, Braze’s 2021 Global Customer Engagement Review shows that only a third (32 percent) of delivery platforms achieved their revenue goal in 2020.

In order to succeed, they must tap into valuable data to understand each customer and communicate with them in personalised and engaging ways. By making the most of real-time data and with agile technology, on-demand services can act quickly and effectively to serve up the right messages, and the right dish, at the right time. In the following article, I explain why customer engagement is key to success and highlight the best practices to achieve it.

Using data to decipher customer’s taste buds

First-party data, such as location, which customers share with brands while using their app or website, is vital for brands to stay in the know and on-trend with their customers likes and dislikes. In a world where the only touchpoints with customers are digital, brands – with the right tools – are sitting on a wealth of data that can fuel campaigns, drive engagement and impact their bottom line. First-party data is also important for engagement and loyalty boosting, so one-time customers come back for more. Sending specific offers aligned with a customer’s preferences, or rewards based on ordering history is a great example of how to use first-party data to bolster customer loyalty – a business priority for delivery platforms who, according to Braze research, continue in majority to invest in customer acquisition, and push retention to the side.

But with a lot of touchpoints comes a lot of data – and building a comprehensible, holistic picture of a customer is important to be able to interact with them in meaningful ways. Agile customer engagement platforms are needed to help brands make sense of the data they obtain and also to capitalise on it effectively across multiple channels.

Being able to take action on data is all very well, but if it isn’t done in near-real-time (i.e. in a matter of seconds) then brands’ efforts will be wasted. Deliveroo understands the importance of being able to collect and use first-party data, incorporating it into messaging strategies in real-time. The brand worked with Braze at the start of the lockdown to automate the sharing of first-party data between the Deliveroo database and the Braze platform in real-time. This enabled Deliveroo to be more flexible with the types of food recommendations is sent to customers based on their orders and preferences, while first-party data collected in real-time proved especially useful to update customers, given restaurants’ changing opening hours and capabilities throughout Covid. This enabled customers to know exactly what to order, and where to order it from, thanks to personalised, real-time recommendations sent from Deliveroo.

Reaching people at the right time

If the past year has taught businesses anything, it’s that nothing stays the same – whether that’s restrictions, legislation, or customer preferences. To stay ahead of the game on-demand food services need technology that can keep pace and scale with this change. Only then will they be able to dial up or down campaigns on different channels to stay relevant and front of mind for customers. With agile tools, brands can be confident they have the ability to communicate with customers with accurate, on point and timely messages that drive engagement – whatever the scenario.

With a wealth of new and ever-changing data, from new customers to changing eating habits, and switching restaurant opening times in line with restrictions, Deliveroo too faced the challenge of connecting with customers in personalised, up-to-date ways. Working with Braze, Deliveroo was able to automate the collection and use of real-time data, personalise at scale, and adapt communications for multiple channels – driving engagement.

Being human, always

There’s a reason why customer engagement is the key to success. Being authentically human is what differentiates brands in a mobile-first era. Three consecutive lockdowns have been hard on consumers. On-demand services that acknowledge this and are able to emphasise and deliver messages with kindness are those that will build lasting emotional relationships with their customers. It’s as simple as speaking to customers as a real person would, in an authentic and natural way. By doing so, consumers will feel like they are understood and cared for, and that brands really know them and what they want.

Engaging customers requires strong strategies based on real-time data and the technology to execute the tactics. Only then will on-demand services be able to serve up a hot dish of authentic, human, and relevant communications to their customers. Beyond staying relevant, it’s about staying ahead of the competition and continuing to drive revenue, during the pandemic and beyond.

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