Are Digital Menu Boards the Most Powerful Tool for Driving Customer Experience?

Consumers now routinely expect dynamic digital content, which they receive through smartphones, televisions, and computers. Going out to eat is no different. People want to be wowed. Some may need a little persuasion to spring for that dessert or try a new premium item. Digital menu boards get that message across and encourage guests to make further purchases.

“Coming into a restaurant with a static menu experience can be a bit of a letdown, and out of sync with customer’s expectations,” says Tim Butler, president of WAND, a leading provider of digital menu technology. “Digital menus are a relatively new technology and there’s a misconception these are merely a replacement for some of the more traditional media. We see it not as a replacement but an enhancement and a way to transform the customer experience.”

Installing digital menu boards can enhance the customer’s understanding of a brand, he says. This helps the customer develop a deeper appreciation of what the restaurant is all about and further engage with it. The goal is not just to convey the restaurant’s message, but to do it in a way that drives customer loyalty and increased sales.

“Saying ‘We’re Organic’ on a static sign or menu may not be enough to make an impression,” Butler says, “but showing customers the process of farm-to-table in a video can highlight the brand’s values in a more impactful way. Plus, restaurants are already competing with smartphones for eyeballs. Digital menu displays create a similar sensory experience as a smartphone and engage customers with interesting visuals and movement.”

“A paper menu is not going to win a customer’s attention over a smartphone,” Butler says. “You don’t stand a chance unless you combat the potential distraction of one medium with a similar medium. The engaging nature of digital menus can shape customer demand in real time.”

Content on a display is only limited by imagination, Butler says. If a restaurant is trying to sell more desserts or promote a special, digital menus are all about show and tell. They’re also consistent. A digital menu never forgets to tell customers about the restaurant’s offerings. And when it’s time to look at ROI, comparative testing can be as easy as a couple of clicks, using software tools that work with digital displays to evaluate how well campaigns are working.

“You can do an A/B test in two or three markets in a matter of hours, not days,” he says. “At WAND, we’re seeing a three-to-five times increase in loyalty programs in a matter of days just by highlighting these programs on the digital menu board. At the corporate marketing level, we’ve heard our clients say that they have reduced marketing costs by 70 percent while increasing same-store sales.”

Because customer response can be measured so quickly with a digital campaign, sales data and digital messaging can be correlated, evaluated and tested constantly and in near real-time. This presents an opportunity to tweak the franchise business model and understand what engages customers to drive both sales upside and reduce costs.

Additionally, digital menu boards allow brands to respond to issues or make desired menu changes quickly. “Digital gives you the ability to iterate,” Butler says. “It’s easy to tweak. You can schedule what you want to display. With a print campaign, changes can be expensive and take a long time, so testing or making quick pricing or product changes isn’t really a viable option in a lot of cases.”

Building a brand through visuals and movement is the magic behind WAND, which is focused on enterprise digital menu display technology for quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. Drawing on WAND’s industry experience, Butler knows the common mistakes restaurateurs should avoid with digital menus displays. For best results, think in terms of motion, eye-catching visuals and what the message should accomplish.

“The single most common mistake is deploying existing static content into a digital format,” he says. “You want to take advantage of the medium. You also need to know the desired business objectives. Simply hanging menu boards is going to help a bit, but not as much until you really know what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Butler says once restaurants understand their goals, they should look at the creative capabilities of a partner before choosing. “Digital boards are a medium, not the solution in and of itself,” Butler explains. “Whether you have two stores or 20,000 sites, you have to have a consistent and engaging brand experience across all of your locations. The right creative content that is designed with the goals of the brand and the customer experience in mind can really provide a boost to a business.”

“This can have an incredible effect as you upsell or cross-sell,” he says. “Present a message to buy a soda with this or add a cookie with that. You can influence your customer’s behavior to drive sales of featured items or increase ticket size with add-on items. Well-designed digital menus do more than add a modern look and feel to your restaurants. They soon become the most powerful component of your in-store marketing strategy.”

By Steve Evans:

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