How to Create a Streamlined Online Ordering System

Digital experts share ways to streamline customers’ ordering from behind the scenes—including targeting them with smart upsells and special offers.

  • Any online ordering system worth its salt should create a customer profile, which can be done without even knowing a customer name or email, one industry expert says.
  • Customers are more likely to try new menu items and earn you an upsell if you pay attention to what they like.

Related: How Venezia’s New York Style Pizzeria uses online ordering to boost check averages

By Tracy Morin

Digital ordering has proven a key facet in the success of pizzerias for many years, and COVID-19 took those already impressive ordering stats to new heights. However, when it comes to working digitally, convenience is the name of the game. Today’s customers expect an online experience that doesn’t just meet their needs—it intuits them. Luckily, your ordering system can work to ensure easier and more personalized sales in a number of ways.

We asked experts from across the marketing and technology worlds to answer some fundamental questions: How can pizzeria owners set up a system that “remembers” users to streamline their ordering experience? And how can that information be used to target them with the best special offers and upsells that align with their previous purchasing behavior? Read on for their top tips.

“Any ordering system worth its salt should create a customer profile. That can be done without even knowing a customer name or email—and then every order for that profile should be logged into a database.”

— Russell Parrott, Russell Parrott & Associates

Customer Profiling

Russell Parrott, Owner
Russell Parrott & Associates, New York, NY

Any ordering system worth its salt should create a customer profile. That can be done without even knowing a customer name or email—and then every order for that profile should be logged into a database. The easy part for pizzerias is that, generally, a single pizza is made up of various items (and may come in various styles). Think of them as hashtags—each hashtag in an order can and should be logged against a profile.

If a pizzeria knows the “hashtags” for a profile, they should also know what pizzas contain those hashtags. With that information, a simple database query can produce a series of “recommended for you” or “try this” type of suggestions. You could integrate and use some basic AI, but, for the majority of food establishments, that may represent a challenge.

There are so many ways to integrate offers, including coupons, into simple date-and-time-based systems. With digital, the probability is that people will be using a mobile device for your ordering system, which means you can also consider push notifications—either email, actual notifications or even SMS based on location, radius or other criteria (such as a regular customer)—to pop up offers to them. For a nominal cost (about $100 maximum), you could even buy a Bluetooth beacon that can trigger them, but it’s not necessary.

Related: 7 ways to promote your restaurant’s QR codes for contactless ordering

Hungry Howie’s utilized digital solutions like a mobile app to better reach and target customers across multiple locations.

App Attack

Daniel Brian Cobb, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer
Daniel Brian Advertising, Rochester, MI

Participating in the digital transformation of several pizza chains, including Hungry Howie’s and Papa John’s, we’ve used the mobile app as a core tactic to improve loyalty and reduce one-and-done customers. The mobile app itself creates an environment for repeat buyers. We can now automate the upsell, introducing salad, combo meals and even brownies for dessert. The average mobile app user spends about 30% more on a pizza order, and research shows they stay 67% more loyal than walk-ins or phone order customers. 

It’s all about using big data to build relationships with consumers. If they are already loyal pizza buyers, we can reward them with a discount on their favorite dessert item. If the customer has lapsed, we might need to entice them with a deep discount. These aggressive discounts must be offered to a very narrow audience, or we will cannibalize the current customer revenue. Therefore, the data drives the discounts with an intelligent approach that will grow both customer volumes and gross revenue.

Our model focuses on hyperlocal digital marketing, where the last click on the mobile app order creates an attribution metric to all of the advertising efforts that created the sale. You can reduce cost-per-acquisition marketing to a science, using big data from mobile phone orders. In fact, the ad campaign is individualized by store and by community, optimizing the message in social media, digital radio and TV, based on the preferences the buyers define for themselves in their mobile apps. So don’t be surprised if the customer orders Chicken Poppers one week and gets a promotion from his local store for Chicken Poppers in Facebook several days later! With new technology, even multilocation pizzerias can individually focus their messaging and targeting to their local communities. 

“The average mobile app user spends about 30% more on a pizza order, and research shows they stay 67% more loyal than walk-ins or phone order customers.”
— Daniel Brian Cobb, Daniel Brian Advertising

Text Tips

Jessica Ayre, Content Marketing Specialist
Text Request, Chattanooga, TN

With texting software, you can look at customers’ order histories and then send them promotions or coupons for ordering the same thing again. By being able to view each customer’s message history, you can identify their food preferences, interests and ordering trends.

When it comes to upselling or encouraging customers to try new things, you can pitch items that are similar, but don’t deviate too far from their norm. They are more likely to try new things and earn you an upsell if you pay attention to what they like. For example, if a customer typically orders a pepperoni pizza, you can upsell them on a different crust: “Hey, [Name]! Want to upgrade your pan pepperoni pizza to a Neapolitan-style crust? It’s only $3 more!” Customers appreciate being engaged. A texting software can ignite conversations and make the pizza ordering process effortless and transparent.

Related: How to increase your pizzeria’s online orders

CRM Smarts

Gustavo Melendez, Founder and Lead Technical Architect
Relay, Philadelphia, PA

Creating personalized service means putting customers first and starting with a single source of truth for their data. To provide customers with personalized recommendations, you need to create a single customer profile. With customer relationship management (CRM) technology, such as Salesforce, you can integrate it with POS and rewards management systems to recommend commonly ordered items or present them with new options for their next visit.

Powerful CRMs can introduce AI-driven recommendations that can help customize orders and suggest add-ons through the ordering process. Using tools like Einstein Prediction Builder, you can apply machine-learning principles without being a data scientist—helping your customers try new menu items they’ll love or upsell using AI-driven recommendations.

When you combine customer data into thoughtfully designed customer profiles, you can more effectively segment and market to them with privacy-conscious email marketing. When you combine CRM with restaurant point of sales and management systems, you’ll be able to send email, text and app notifications that increase customer loyalty and raise sales.  

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.