As the year draws to a close it's time to start thinking about what investments you want to be making in 2020.
Unfortunately, and if you're like most business owners who run a bar or restaurant, you've got too many things you need to do and limited resources to get it all done. Technology is, of course, one of these considerations. There are many, many ways for you to spend on tech next year. Your job is to make the right decisions so that you can maximize your return on investment. So, where to start?
Of the many clients and friends I have in the bar and restaurant industry, here are four technologies that are drawing their attention...and their dollars next year.
The numbers don't lie: while Facebook continues to struggle to maintain and grow their user base in the wake of all the controversy that the company has experienced over the past few years, another Facebook property—Instagram—is crushing it.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal column, Instagram has been the "star” of the latest Facebook earnings reports with data suggesting spending on Instagram ads is up 42 percent over the past year, which is 10 percentage points higher than social media advertising in general. Instagram is where your customers are and there are many reasons why the social media service is a hot marketing tech for bar owners in 2020. The demographics are strong with those in their 20s and 30s (and even oldsters in their 50s, like me) and the platform is perfect for inviting, edgy and humorous content that can be targeted to a very hyper-local audience. The social service provides many tools that can enable bar owners to not only create engaging stories but offer coupons, contests and other inexpensive yet alluring marketing campaigns to attract potential customers.
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Just be careful. To be successful on Instagram you need to create top quality videos. You’ll need to target the right audience and then engage with them. And your success with this technology won’t happen overnight. Like all good things, it will take effort…and people to help you.
Search is everything online and of course, like any business owner, you want people be able to find your bar. You can spend thousands with consultants and online advertising to accomplish that and you should be considering investments there. But the best technology to optimize your online presence is a free one: GoogleMyBusiness.
I recommend you invest in a good person to get your business set up on GoogleMyBusiness because Google will then provide more info to potential customers when you take the time to do this. Like Instagram, GoogleMyBusiness is hyper-local. It will direct people within a few miles looking for you to your page, and it will reward you when you add photos, blogs and get lots and lots of online reviews. GoogleMyBusiness integrates with Google Maps too.
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Get set up on GoogleMyBusiness. It's the most cost-effective search engine optimization tool out there.
But it’s not just search. It’s seeking new audiences, and radio advertising can be powerful. Radio and streaming audio stations provided by nationally recognized services such as Pandora and iHeartRadio are how people consume their music, podcasts, etc. The problem in the past was that this kind of advertising was prohibitively expensive for most small businesses, and difficult to track results. New audio advertising technology products like AudioGo are fixing this problem.
With AudioGo, a small business owner can easily create an ad via a simple online process and then, using the same online portal, target the ad to a specific audience based on location, demographic information, and even music or spoken word genres. These are then run many times over the course of a specified date range, and because the ads are run on digital radio they can easily track how many people listened to them. Plus, no ad budget is too small, so the technology is perfect for small companies. We're telling our clients in the bar and restaurant industry to take a hard look at this technology in 2020 as a potentially powerful way to market.
Convergence of POS, CRM & Loyalty
There used to be point of sale. And customer relationship management. And loyalty. Those days are gone—it’s all coming together.
Gone also are the days of ringing up a drink order or taking a credit card from a customer and then forgetting that they were ever in your bar. Today’s technology is helping to ensure that those same customers keep coming back. It’s a world of big data, and smart bar owners are collecting data wherever they can. That's why many are upgrading their internal systems and implementing technologies that incorporate not only POS, but CRM and loyalty as well. They’re doing this by collecting data from their server's smartphone or—more and more—having the customers do it themselves via a tablet or other similar self-service kiosks.
As customers complete their orders, this new generation of POS/CRM/loyalty systems are equipped with capabilities that make it easy to not only collect this customer data but then store that data for future marketing via email or social campaigns. And the data can be quite specific.
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A customer is partial to sangria? A fan of nachos? Wings? Customized messages can be created to reach back out to those customers based on the choices they've made and entice them to return. Smart bar owners are making investments in marketing people —even part time—to help them create surveys and automated campaigns offering coupons and special deals to customers who visited before in an effort to draw them back for more business. It’s CRM. It’s POS. It’s loyalty. It’s all together.
These are just a few hot techs my smartest, bar-owning clients are considering and investing in for 2020. What about you?
Updated 4:25 PM EST on November 12, 2019.