Restaurants: How to digitize your team and attract more customers

Learn what conversational commerce is and how it can help your business adapt to our changing reality.

It’s the era of conversational marketing, which requires businesses to digitize their sales and support teams. Here’s how to attract more customers to your company’s digital display.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on restaurants, cafes, and bars.

In China, where the illness originated, these types of businesses were closed to the public. Supermarkets shelves were empty. Businesses that were absolutely solid before suffered nearly irreparable losses.

Every sector of the economy suffered…

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus among employees and customers in China, McDonalds and Starbucks were among the first companies to announce temporary closures in January.

The rest of the industry was devastated shortly after. S&P Global projected that the sector would suffer an up to 55% drop in sales compared to the same period last year. Soon after, the same situation was repeated in Italy, with empty shelves in grocery stores and up to 75% declines in fast  food sales.

And although you may think some industries experienced a boom, it was limited. The coronavirus restricted the number of visitors allowed in hospitals, causing a reduction in sales for cafeterias in those locations. Schools closed, so school cafeterias cut supply orders.

But every crisis brings opportunity as well…

I’ll let Albert Einstein say it better than I can: “Crisis brings progress. Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born form the dark night. It’s in crisis that inventiveness is born, as well as discoveries made and big strategies.”

The electronics industry is one of the few industries that prospered through the antivirus measures that closed factories, restaurants, movie theaters, offices, and stores around the world.

For example, (the Chinese equivalent of Amazon or Mercado Libre) reported that in February  2020 their drivers delivered 71,500 tons of grain, 20 times more than the same period in 2019.

Are we seeing the magnitude?

On the other side of the world, in San Francisco, we find Sightglass, a small restaurant that opened in March. From the beginning they were consumed with anxiety. The owner, Jerad Morrison, wondered, “what will people want to eat now that they’re stuck at home?” because of the coronavirus.

And so, one day after his grand opening, he transformed his business into a delivery restaurant. This is just one example of what has happened around the world.

The year of conversational commerce

The truth is that the Coronavirus, as you’re likely aware, pushed industries toward conversational commerce.

And to explain how that works, I want to tell you about an experience I had a few months ago. In the beginning it was frustrating, but it turned out to be the inspiration for writing this note about conversational commerce in restaurants.

One day I found a recipe online for a spectacular breakfast: apple-caramel pancakes. I have to admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the pictures, so I started to read through the ingredients and gather them on a table until…

I saw that the recipe called for Greek yogurt, and the truth is that: A) I didn’t know how to make it and B) I didn’t know where I could buy some.

After doing a little research, I found a business that made it in-house and I decided to buy some. That’s when I realized that their website didn’t have a WhatsApp button and, even worse, the contact page gave me a 404 error.

In the end I had to place my order via a web form and they took 24 hours to respond to my request. After all that time, it was 48 hours more before my order was delivered to a place about ten blocks from where I live.

In the year 2020 I wasn’t used to a purchase process that took 72 hours. The experience was a little tedious and took a lot of time and effort.

The fact is that most businesses in the food industry will hit one snag or another when it comes to creating an online sales process that is simple, personalized, and automatic.

For example, I remember one day I had an issue with an order I made through a home delivery app. To make a long story short, it wasn’t what I ordered. I contacted the customer service department, where I waited for more than 30 minutes to get a response. After I made my complaint, they gave me a generic response and only refunded 30% of  the value of the product.

But now is not the time for frustration or despair. The solution to  this problem is conversational commerce.

Let’s talk about conversational commerce

Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and WeChat have already outpaced social media. They have hundreds of millions of active users per month.

According to Facebook, in the countries most impacted by the virus, WhatsApp use increased by 50% in March. In Italy specifically, the increase was 70%, and Spain hit 76%.

Businesses use these channels to provide customer support, answer questions, or make sales. All without leaving the chat app.

This was so common that chatbots have been developed that are so good it’s hard to tell them apart from humans. Companies use them to send order confirmations, shipping and delivery notifications, and resolve customer service issues 24 hours a day.

In other words, they were able to digitize their sales and support teams, and some were even able to digitize their branch offices.

So, what is conversational commerce?

The rule for survival for any business is to be where their clients are. At first, obviously this involved being on social media.

And now it means being on the messaging apps they use most…

As a user, social media is for sharing personal stories and connecting with others, but on messaging apps we make plans or decisions.

The doorway to conversational commerce

Image this scenario.

One day, Clara gets an invitation to a party. She goes to the website for her favorite local sushi place and writes in the chat: “I’d like to have salmon sushi for lunch.”

In just seconds, she gets a response on her phone: “Here’s our menu with the salmon options highlighted.”

This is called omni-channel retail. This way, you can even have your store or restaurant staff working from home. While we’re at it, your customer service team can work from home too.

It gets better. A user sees a product, put it in their cart, then abandons the purchase. What happens? Imagine that you have the ability to chat with the person and resolve the person before they leave your business permanently.

Are you starting to see the advantages of conversational commerce?

  • Shorter, more efficient sales processes
  • Automated processes
  • Ultra-personalized sales experience
  • More interaction with your customers = more sales
  • Increase your ROI organically

So how can this be applied to restaurants?

I’ll sum it up in one word: WhatsApp.

In February of 2020, WhatsApp finally broke all the records: they hit more than 2 billion users worldwide.

Yes, this means they have unseated all competitors, including traditional text messaging.

WhatsApp Business reports an open rate of 70% for their messages, according to Hootsuite, mobile users generate a conversion rate almost double that of emails. And let’s not even talk about phone calls.

And this isn’t regional.

The marketing firm Baum digital reported that 80% of Asians, Europeans, and Latin Americans are assiduous WhatsApp Users.

So what can you do with WhatsApp Business?

  • Interact with businesses
  • Create welcome messages
  • Create away messages
  • Compose rapid response messages (using pre-approved WhatsApp templates)
  • Create personalized tags
  • Make a product catalog

But…WhatsApp Business  for restaurants?

How does this apply to my business?

It’s a common question. The truth is that there are tons of subcategories that depend on an individual’s vision.

In the beginning, even the businesses that we’re seeing grow now, like delivery, weren’t doing very well because customers were afraid that the contact with the drivers would put them at risk of infection.

But at the beginning I told you that McDonalds and Starbucks were pioneers in closing their doors.

A release from the business itself explained how they worked. Customers ordered via apps. In the stores, employees sealed the food in disinfected bags and dropped them off in special locations where they could be picked up without any human contact. The drivers carried identification cards that showed their body temperature had been scanned to prove they did not have a fever.

When Starbucks was able to open, customers had their temperatures taken at the door, just like had been done with the people making deliveries.

All this was an opportunity for Yum China Holdings, who launched no-contact deliveries on January 30th, because the outbreak redefined food delivery.

A case expplained by Allison Malmsten, a stategic marketing analyst from Daxue Consulting in Shanghai, exemplifies the situation. “A customer asked the delivery person to put the package in the elevator and press the button for the appropriate floor.”

And to a lesser degree, in Latin America we already have some examples of how businesses are beginning to adapt to this reality…

Sacro, a gourmet vegan restaurant in Buenos Aires, hoping to be able to retain their employees, began to offer 50% off vouchers that can be used when the business is able to open again.

If these companies have anything in common, it’s that they managed to convert a large portion of their team to working remotely.

An example with WhatsApp

On the other side of the world, Fishappy, an Indian company offering home fish delivery, had an idea: to apply WhatsApp Business to their company. How did they do it?

They used videos. Customers could watch them, select what they wanted, and place their orders. The advertising? Mouth to mouth, a website, and newspaper ads.

And now 97% of Fishappy’s sales happen through WhatsApp.

What about a grocery store?

Think about it. How simple would it be for customers to be able to make a shopping list on WhatsApp, coordinate shipping, and choose a payment method?

Problem solved.

But adding WhatsApp Business as a communication channel would generate a huge number of recurrent questions all day that will take up your agents’ time, right?

Well, the  WhatsApp Business API has a way to make things easier: pre-approved WhatsApp templates.

These can be used to send notifications to clients, personalize messages, and look at all the issues I thought of that they can resolved:

  • Return or reimbursement requests
  • Order updates
  • Product availability
  • Orders and billing

And if we’re talking about a boom in delivery, add that to an app that’s being used by millions of people, where do you think your business should be?

The uses are almost infinite, although there are also a couple of things that you may have already thought of that you should avoid…

I say it for the good of your business.

What you shouldn’t do with WhatsApp Business

Do you remember getting hundreds of emails about fantastical inheritances, people who need your help, or contests you’ve won that you don’t remember having entered?

When email was the main mode of communication, it was also the main channel for spam…

And from day 1, WhatsApp devoted themselves to eliminating spam from the way their tool is used.

According to WhatsApp, they eliminate millions of accounts every month to reduce amount of false information propagated by the app.

We even wrote a long article about it.

The short version is this: one day, a person found WhatsApp Business and said to himself: “this is for me.”

So he started to send mass messages like, “Good morning! This week we have a special discount on…”

So far so good.

But he got carried away. He was getting good responses. No complaints. So he continued this modus operandi over and over again, each time getting fewer responses. He started to get messages saying, “please remove my number.”

And WhatsApp detects this, tags his account as “suspicious” and after a review, deletes it. He basically loses access to his clients.

So what can you do without breaking the rules?

Here are a few ideas we’ve seen implemented successfully.

  • Multimedia content (audio, video, photos) about new products or testimonials from other clients.
  • Use WhatsApp Business tags. This will allow you to categorize each of your potential customers according to their stage on the buyer journey.
  • Respect business hours. I assure you that sending something at 10 PM will not be as effective as waiting until the next day.
  • Use persuasive language. Phrases like “for a limited time” and “final steps” are effective in digital marketing.

At the beginning of 2020, we launched “Zenvia Conversion Buttons,” a free tool that allows you to install a WhatsApp button on your web page.

This will allow you to eliminate tedious order forms on your website and provide customer service from your commercial phone number. Plus, you can continue the conversation even after the potential costumer has left your page.

So far so good, but you’ll have realized that even Facebook tools have their flaws. As the Spanish say, you can see the stitches.

And we have a sewing machine…

Order support service via WhatsApp

Maybe your business has expanded to the point that the connections are becoming increasingly complex, which complicates the interaction with your clients who need a response or quick, simple access to your products or services.

Throughout this piece, I’ve tried to emphasize that your business needs to shift toward conversational commerce, toward the digital world, because it is going to be part of our day to day. The way we do things is going to change and your business needs to be ready.

And having a tool that puts administrative workers, salespeople, waiters, etc. all under one roof can often solve the problem.

At Zenvia Conversion, we’re known for order support service via WhatsApp, ideal for digitizing your sales team, your support team, and even your branch offices so that all business can sell using WhatsApp.

So if you manage your business by yourself, WhatsApp Business will work well, but what happens if you have a whole team?

How many phone numbers will your need? Will you be able to trace how each of your employees interacts with potential customers? How to measure performance? And how many “official channels” will your business need on WhatsApp? Isn’t it odd to say, “contact us on these x numbers to talk with our agents?” How can you evenly distribute inquiries?

Zenvia Conversion eliminates all these questions from the equation, plus much more. Zenvia Conversion, thanks to their fusion with Zenvia, is one of only a few authorized WhatsApp partners, so you can have the security of using a service that is perfectly adapted to the messaging app.

For example, Zenvia Conversion allows you to add notes (that only your employees can see), add reminders, schedule visits, and set smart rules for agent assignment.

Each one of these functionalities is like a rocket for optimizing your team’s sales.

Don’t wait any longer. Your business can successfully implement WhatsApp Business and transform your retail business into an ecommerce business.

Escrito por

Nahuel Gomez