How data insights are helping to grow the food sector

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Matthew Shanahan, Senior Business Development Manager, Retail Team, discusses the use of data within the fast food sector

Having worked with data solutions for many years, the digitisation and datafication of industries is always an interesting topic to explore. These initiatives drive next-level changes which can determine the future successes and also completely change the existing status quo, causing leading industry powerhouses to fall. This may seem like hyperbole but look at how a market leader like Blockbuster failed to grasp changing consumer behaviour and the way data and technology was changing the market it was operating in.

A time of change and revolution that can be seen at the moment is in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) or convenience food space. You may not know them as QSRs but you will be a user of coffee shops, takeaways and smaller restaurants that provide quick food. If you want to grow in this space you need to get this right. Get it wrong and you will be left behind.

QSRs are increasingly embracing the potential of data and digital channels to serve their customers and it is having positive impact.

The value of data

The value of data is significant. It helps unlock your understanding of customers; who they are; if they are who they say they are; what they like; what they say they like; and what they actually like. Businesses that recognise and harness this opportunity use it to build relationships, engagement plans, plot product development roadmaps, inform above the line creative and create layers of protection; for the customer from themselves, from other people and for the business.

Mail order companies have known this for years – the clever ones have become powerful, data-lead e-commerce businesses – and arguably responsible for the data industry that we see around us today. These changes and opportunities have been missed by many in the retail space and is part of the reason for the current evolution in the high street.

This is now also understood by quick service restaurants like Greggs, Costa and Caffè Nero. All of these businesses have digital mobile apps and are building out a wealth of valuable customer data. From my mobile device, I can now review, order, collect loyalty points and even pay for everything from vividly pink doughnuts to vegan sausage rolls.

A great recipe for success: when the opportunity and the risks are balanced

Finding the right approach to data has multiple benefits such as:

  • Gathering of really valuable data in real time
  • An engagement channel directly into the pocket of hungry and thirsty customers
  • Great and easy customer journeys
  • Generally easy access to pastry

These serve to enhance the relationship between organisation and consumer and are now being embraced by this sector too.

But there are costs that need to be factored in to such an approach including:

  • What about the added risks of account takeover? Surely this isn’t something that hasn’t had to be considered for a latte before?
  • What about data security? Takeaway snacks are great when combined with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, but takeaway credit card numbers and account passwords really aren’t
  • What about payment regulations? Do you want milk, sugar and PSD2 with that?

The big data cook off

Data has always been a powerful ingredient for business growth but what is unique about the usage were are now seeing is that the data is being sourced directly from consumers in real-time. This comes with huge potential considerations for businesses that could have a significant impact on operations and approach.

The value of data should be seen as being bigger than the cost to put all these new apps on my phone. The benefits can be clearly seen from those who are getting it right, like Greggs who have data and technology informed marketing, product development and smart engagement at the heart of their business strategy and are starting to see the rewards.  This highlights that the opportunities in this approach are best when embraced fully and proper consideration is given to the customer journey and how the consumer can get value from this way of doing business.

It is exciting to see data and digitisation being developed in the QSR space and that data is proving to be a universal ingredient in business success. From my experience, working in the data industry is definitely a good place to be – with a coffee and Danish in hand!

Find out more on how we support retailers with their data needs 

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