In addition to social media issues, there are continuing data privacy concerns.
March 2020 and COVID have triggered changes for the restaurant industry that have ushered in a new era. Restaurants have been forced to close or pivot to delivery and transportation. Some have returned to outdoor dining, but things are still far from the previous norm. According to Statista, diners seated in US restaurants are down 47% year over year. In addition to a pandemic that is changing eating habits, there have been extraordinary social dilemmas and civil unrest.
Over the summer, a movement to remove advertising dollars from social media platforms, especially Facebook, was born. Well-known brands like Denny’s, Starbucks and Dunkin’ joined what became known as the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. Many companies have joined this movement in an attempt to wake up social media companies to hate speech. This movement reflects a change in consumer behavior. A Forrester report said nearly 40% of online adults in the United States believe social media does more harm than good and less than 15% believe the information they read on social media is worthy of trust.
It’s not just social media that is viewed differently, consumers expect more from brands. They want brands to speak out on issues. COVID has added new layers to this. DoSomething.org surveyed GenZers to gauge their pandemic concerns. Three-quarters said they want to see brands take action to keep employees and consumers safe.
In addition to social media issues, there are continuing data privacy concerns. This year, we saw California’s data privacy law become enforceable, and federal laws were again teased. Nearly 80% of consumers worry about how their data is used.
Many restaurants are trying to survive this year. But to emerge from it and truly thrive, they must adapt to the future of restaurant marketing: the economy of trust. The idea of trust economics is centered on the belief that trust is the most powerful economic power there is. Restaurant marketers need to build trust with customers around meal safety, while earning their trust around issues of social responsibility and the handling of personal data.
Here are some of the implications of the economics of trust that are shaping restaurant marketing for the future.
Data requires an exchange of value
Gone are the days when third-party data was a viable tool. As consumers increasingly protect their own data, restaurants need to have the right policies in place to manage data liability. This is all the more imperative as online ordering is the norm. A consumer must trust the restaurant they order food from – not only with regard to health issues, but also their data. In the trust economy, restaurants must offer something in exchange for data. This is called draw data. Industry research by SevenRooms found that half of customers are willing to share their data with a restaurant in exchange for discounted offers or promotions. Data is still a necessary tool for restaurant marketers, but with fewer customers coming in person and increased concerns about privacy, they need to get more creative with how they collect data.
Restaurants must align with consumer values
Today’s consumer prefers to buy from a brand that matches their values. They want to know that their money is well spent. This means for restaurants that they need to develop and define their purpose. If a restaurant doesn’t find ways to contribute meaningfully to society, it risks losing customers. Whether it’s partnering with a local nonprofit or delivering food to essential workers, restaurants must find ways to do good. This will create an emotional connection with their customers that will retain them for a long time.
The use of social media will change
Restaurants need to rely heavily on social media, especially local restaurants, as it is a major way to communicate with customers. But in a world where social media habits are changing and national protests against the platforms are commonplace, restaurant marketers need to consider different channels. As Forrester said earlier this year, there’s nothing wrong with breaking away from social media. Now is the time to step back and listen to customers and buy into what they want. There are better ways to reach customers than social media. Email continues to be a much more successful channel for reaching consumers.
COVID has changed consumer lifestyles and habits. It propelled the marketing world into the trust economy in a powerful way. Restaurants looking to thrive in this new era must strive to build direct relationships with their customers, built on trust. Loyal customers will emerge naturally as trust is built.