The digital menu board will soon have less in common with analog menus than with mobile applications, where the board can be used to curate and personalize the menu in restaurants or at the the drive-thru. Nearly all digital menu boards have full adoption because they’re directly in front of customers when they pull up to a drive-thru or approach a counter. And while front counter boards must appeal to a broader audience, drive-thrus have always been one-to-one interactions with customers, even when the customer is unknown and the restaurant doesn’t have any of their data.
Digital menu boards drive growth
With more customers than ever going through the drive-thru, the grand prize for restaurants with digital menu boards is not just lowered cost, but the ability to drive incremental revenue while improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. By displaying customer orders on the menu board, for example, products could be recommended based on what the customer is ordering, regional sales data and time of day. Now, it’s possible that the menu board is no longer just a menu board – it’s a real-time interactive marketing channel delivering data-driven insights that can be informed by the rest of the customer experience journey.
With this in mind, Publicis Sapient has developed Premise, an accelerator for data-driven digital signage, which was built from the ground up with a fully open architecture, capable of stitching together content and data from multiple sources. It provides content scheduling and device management, while putting no limits on future integrations. It puts analytics at the forefront so that brands can create actionable insights and easily A/B test hypotheses, leading to data-driven merchandising strategies.
Data as a key enabler
Early digital menu board adopters are already enriching the experience using data. In March 2019, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a leader in personalization and decision logic technology, for $300 million. McDonald’s has cited the acquisition as an opportunity to increase sales via digital drive-thru boards through upselling additional offerings. Starbucks has also been using its in-house AI platform to make recommendations to customers at the drive-thru, similar to what it’s already been doing on its mobile app. While these solutions are targeting unknown customers, it’s only a matter of time before recommendations and upselling are implemented for known customers, such as loyalty members. While the bump typically seen from switching from analog to digital boards is about a three to five percent growth in sales and a 12 to 24 month break-even point on investment, according to Networld Media Group’s Digital Menu Boards and ROI study, providing tailored recommendations to customers drives incremental revenue above and beyond that.
Most QSRs curate the menu items which are shown on their menu board, with slight seasonal variation and sometimes more frequent changes to limited time offers. However, even for brands with digital menu boards, due to the long turnaround time and difficulties associated with changing major sections of the menu board, the bulk of the board remains unchanged throughout the year with limited data to support optimizations.
But there is plenty of actionable data available to fine tune the products displayed on a digital menu board to unknown customers. While time of day and weather are the most often used data points, store-level and regional sales data can be used to predict customer preferences. When customer order display is integrated, it can drive product-level cross-sell or upsell. And for known customers, recent orders, customer preference data and loyalty can all be integrated to provide a tailored experience that helps them order faster, curates items they are most likely to try for the first time or reinforces that they are earning or burning points as expected. This has the potential to increase confidence and speed at drive-thrus.
Restaurants must also realize that simply implementing a digital menu doesn’t go far enough. Once menu boards are digitized, the next generation of solutions enable data-driven merchandizing and suggestive selling, or selling add-ons. Even if automated data-driven merchandising is not on the immediate roadmap, there are clear benefits to implementing digital menu boards with a strong system design and limited need for digitization, with greater levels of flexible content authoring directly in the content management system. Robust analytics and A/B testing, when paired with a flexible system design, offer the ability to experiment and optimize product merchandising.