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The impact the pandemic had on the restaurant industry has been (and is still being) felt across the country, yet new data shows that pizzerias fared 2020 much better than most. For instance, while the restaurant industry as a whole finished the year $240 billion below pre-pandemic sales estimates, pizza restaurant sales only saw a slight change from $46.34B in 2019 to $46.24B in 2020. Moreover, despite the decline, sales were still higher in 2020 than they were each year between 2012 and 2018.

So here we are, five months into 2021, and there are signs that the tide is starting to change. According to Zenreach data, customer visits to pizza and Italian restaurants and bars increased by nearly 49% from January to June. And while this data reflects a growing sense of consumer optimism, what will it mean to categories like pizza that were able to maintain their customer base throughout the pandemic? 

Two words: increased competition.

As more restaurants open and consumers have significantly more choices for their next meal, it’s likely going to be challenging for pizzerias to maintain the business they’ve seen over the past year. So what’s the solution?

As we move into summer, it will be even more crucial for pizza and Italian establishments to tailor their marketing strategies to account for the changing landscape. To get you started, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 considerations every pizza marketer needs to know for their 2021 marketing plan:

  1. First-party data is king. Due to recent announcements from companies like Apple and Google, marketers’ ability to reach consumers is changing dramatically in the very near future. Gone are the days that you will be able to target based on browsing behavior or third-party data, meaning that the only way to run campaigns moving forward will be based on first-party data. This makes your first-party data collection strategy critical to your future success, and as a brick-and-mortar business, that strategy needs to start with your in-store customers. Consider where it makes the most sense to offer up opportunities for a customer data value exchange: Is it collecting email for a digital receipt at checkout? Email capture to sign on to the guest WiFi network? An incentive for joining your email list? Finding places to integrate data collection opportunities should feel organic and seamless to your guest experience.

  2. Get to know your customers—like, really well. Collecting customer data shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. Using the data to segment your customers by new vs. return visitors, visit frequency, demographics, etc. will be the key to developing targeted marketing efforts. And while this may sound like a big undertaking, there are plenty of tools on the market that make this easy, Zenreach being one of them. The platform even allows you to create labels for specific audiences based on when they visited your restaurant. Consider the personalization opportunities for a midweek lunch guest vs. happy hour guest vs. the weekend dinner crowd.

  3. Personalize your messaging. Once you understand the nuances in your customer base, employing specific messaging and campaigns to reach them should result in significantly higher performance. In fact, 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. For example, targeting your happy hour crowd with a new weekly special or even your millennial customers with a unique signature pizza special should lead to stronger engagement and ROI.

  4. Measure what matters. As a business with a physical location, it’s more important than ever to assign the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to your marketing efforts vs. typical vanity metrics. Understanding the open rate on your latest email send is important, but how does that translate into actual revenue? Employing technologies that enable the measurement of Walk-Throughs™ to your restaurant or tracking the full conversion cycle online will give you much better visibility into what’s working.

  5. Expand your reach. While leveraging your owned channels (email, social media, website, etc.) typically provides the most conservative approach to managing your marketing budget, keep in mind that paid amplification can do a lot to support your broader marketing mix. For example, a study conducted by Zenreach showed that pizza restaurants which employed paid advertising (either on social or display) saw significantly higher performance metrics across non-paid advertising channels, including a 53% lift in email CTR and an almost 180% increase in store Walk-Throughs™ from email campaigns. This is indicative of an overall marketing plan working together to create a “halo effect” of lift across all channels.

For more resources related to Pizza/Italian restaurants, visit our blog round up here.

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Marketing Restaurants