Profitable Suggestive Selling in the Age of Hyper-personalization

Driven by digital everything, quick-serve restaurants can increasingly use data to bump up profits while making customers' visits seem more special.

Today, QSRs are taking cues from retail to boost sales. At the center of it all: personalizing experiences for guests in the hope of fostering loyalty and larger order size. Take, for example, your recent armchair shopping excursion online. Did Amazon or another retailer present you with items you might also like? 

If there is anything that we’ve learned from retail, it’s the fact that personalized experiences can be profitable. Maybe it was just a matter of time before restaurants adopted these retail cross-sell, upsell, and personalization practices. After all, a recent study by PSFK indicated that 79% of diners are interested in personalized menu recommendations. 

Return on Personalization

We’ve seen the news about brands like McDonald’s and Taco Bell investing heavily in technologies that help them personalize the guest experience like never before. In fact, the acquisition of Dynamic Yield, an AI-powered personalization platform, has been heralded as McDonald’s ‘Amazon moment’.

With this move, McDonald’s seems to be leading the QSR pack to deliver highly personalized guest experiences. Like the retail behemoth, the goal is to foresee customer behaviors and desires and be ready to meet them. The belief is that the data will enable the franchise to speed up service, improve the “fast” in fast food, and increase guest spend and loyalty. 

Let’s take a look at personalization, how it’s evolving, and how it can help you sell. As we do, we’ll dig into some examples of personalization that result in successful upsell. These examples are from actual successful upselling models that Xenial has implemented in the drive-thru for leading QSR brands.

Levels of Personalization

While the ‘levels’ of personalization in QSR are probably already familiar, let’s break them down, for the sake of discussion:

  • Personalization and upsell based on items in your order: complementary selling. When you order a sandwich or a burger, the order taker or self-order kiosk or drive-thru screen suggests that you add fries or make it a combo.

  • Personalization based on weather conditions, time of day/menu daypart, current restaurant traffic and popular or trending menu items. So on a sizzling August day the drive-thru menu board promotes the ice cold drink special. 

  • Personalization based on past orders and other data points the brand knows about you, the guest. For most restaurants, this is still the frontier of personalization. Whereas the first two levels are not truly personalized to an individual, this one is. That’s because in this scenario, the operator does recognize and can identify the returning guest because they have somehow opted-in. Today, this opt-in typically happens through mobile or online ordering, loyalty programs, or facial or license plate recognition.

When Will Cutting Edge Be Commonplace?

We’ve mentioned examples of brands that are leading the way. With the rapid pace of technology advancement the question becomes: when will cutting edge become commonplace? As mentioned earlier, personalization leads to profit, so brands certainly don’t want to be left behind in their efforts to reap the potential rewards of giving guests personalized experiences. So more brands will likely pursue personalization efforts. 

The low-hanging fruit for many QSRs is an asset they already have: the drive-thru. Since it accounts for about 70% of their sales, QSRs are modernizing the drive-thru, including spearheading their personalization initiatives there. 

Suggestive Selling Models That Work in the Drive-thru

With Order Confirmation Units embedded in Digital Menu Boards, the integration with the Point of Sale allows for much more than prompts for the crew to offer suggestions. By automating the process through business rules and logic, QSRs can remove the burden from the crew and provide guests with a simple and enjoyable ordering process that drives up average ticket sales. 

Based on brands we’ve helped, the best place to start is with complementary selling. When QSRs automate the process and build a strategy based on suggestive selling logic, they can highlight relevant items that complement a guest’s order. This strategy enables QSRs to highlight one or more high-margin items.

Selling Success: A Case Study

Here’s an example: one leading QSR brand recently used Outdoor Digital Menu Boards with Integrated Order Confirmation to highlight a high-margin complementary item when guests ordered a combo or a drink in the drive-thru. With this one strategic suggestion alone, the sales of the add-on item increased by 7.8x over a period of three months. And when the QSR suggested upgrading an a la carte sandwich order to a combo, combo sales increased by 3.7 percent. This success illustrates the power of personalizing recommendations based on items in the order. And when other layers of logic are added and business rules are adjusted for various day parts and individual locations, QSRs can transform their drive thru into a revenue generating machine.

The Power of Seeing

These kinds of results represent the power of incorporating intelligent suggestive upselling to offer items that complement specific menu items or orders. Perhaps even more powerful, however, is the value of showing a mouthwatering image of the item on the digital menu board as it is offered. 

Vibrant, video-based visuals go far beyond what suggestions from crew members could ever accomplish. A distant voice asking the guest if they would like to add a cookie to their order can’t compete with an appetizing visual of a delicious cookie right there on the screen alongside the order. If it’s a short video that shows steam coming off the freshly baked cookie, who could resist? In the split-second decision-making process of ordering in the drive thru, the right image or video can be all that’s needed for guests to add items to their order.

Final Thoughts

When contextually relevant menu items are combined with enticing visuals, the drive thru can become a powerhouse of suggestive selling that drives up average ticket sales and gives each guest a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Ready to Personalize?

Personalizing experiences not only meets consumer expectations that many of us carry over from similar experiences in retail; it also can lead to better profits: a dish that tastes good to any restaurant brand or operator.

Contact us today to share your vision. We’d love to see how we can help.