EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Connecting with today's "hyperconnected consumer" and using Facebook and Instagram to your QSR's advantage, a session by Euromonitor International, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, Facebook and Instragram Australia, and J.P. Morgan

Panelists shed light on how your brand can connect with this new market.

Erika Sirimanne, Business Development Consultant at Euromonitor International, Steve Plarre, Chief Executive Officer of Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, Ted Bergeron, Client Partner at Facebook and Instragram Australia, and Armina Soemino, Equities Research at J.P. Morgan share their thoughts on connecting with a new type of consumer, applying technology to your QSR brand and using social media platform to reach your target market at the QSR Media Detpak Conference and Awards held last July 22.

"Today’s consumers present a paradox: they are simultaneously more informed and more distracted than ever before," Sirimanne told the audience at the QSR Media Detpak Conference and Awards

"Technology permeates nearly every part of the day for most consumers. Therefore, understanding what devices are found in the homes and pockets of consumers, as well as how, when and why they use them, is an important first step in connecting with today’s “hyperconnected consumer”."

She added that the industry is reaching a fascinating point in foodservice, thanks to the possibilities of technology, where developments are more about keeping up with evolving consumer lifestyles and redefining consumer dining experiences, and less about adding services to an existing model or differentiating a brand.

"Technology has played a major role in QSR strategy over the past ten years, with the emergence of not only proprietary smartphone apps and new channels for ordering and payment, but also social media as an integral tool for branding and customer engagement," said Sirimanne. "It has now reached the point where the innovative use of technology for QSRs isn’t simply a selling point, but a necessity."

She shared results from Euromonitor's Hyperconnectivity Survey, noting that 74% of the respondents said they owned a smartphone and 40% said they owned a tablet. Consumers also tended to use an array of devices to research restaurants and make restaurant bookings, including desktop computers, tablets, laptops and smartphones.

In addition, traditional websites appear to be the most popular mobile payment platform used on smartphones or tablets when purchasing prepared food for takeaway/delivery. And, together mobile-optimised websites and mobile apps were as popular as traditional websites, while consumers were less likely to use text-based payments.

For his part, Plarre shared to the audience the 100-year old brand's attempt to integrate technology.

"It was more of what didn't work but it was still a process we're thankful for going through," he noted. The app launched last year, brings cakes to life using augmented reality technology. "The app was to supplement the cake, like a digital candle experience. To have our brand in people's houses and in their hand, and favourite devices. But, we got 50% less of the volume we wanted to get to a stage 2."

"When you got bakery business, mixing flour, butter and eggs, we make cakes and that's been happening for the last 1,000 years. For us, it's always finding point of difference in a really mature market," Plarre explained. "We dont have that cutting edge advantage, we're not a business to invent new technology. We wanted to find another way engage a customer, buy a donut, a cake in a really exciting environment."

Meanwhile, quick service and fast casual restaurants need to take note of user mindset when sending out brand messages using Facebook and Instagram, according to Bergeron.

"The frustrating and most exciting part of both of these platforms is it is changing everyday. Probably frustrating for [the QSRs] because you think you've figured it out and then it changes. First and foremost it's about reaching your customers.. They're different channels."

He explained that Facebook is people you know, it is your network, it's a very functional app. "You load it up cause you want to discover things. On average, Australians load it up 14 times a day because it's different every single time, so it really is a discovery platform. If you want to introduce a very straight 'hey we have a new steak wrap, come check out,' that's really the place to do it."

In comparison, people in Australia who use Instagram, on average, follow people they have never or met or will never meet. "It's Kim Kardashian or that dude who takes amazing photos, it's these amazing, aspirational people. The mind set when people come in to Instagram is very creatively driven, very inspirational, very aspirational. It's less of that functional aspect that Facebook serves, where you're essentially staying connected to people you care about."

"How you use both of those platform as a brand," Bergeron noted, "I think kind of changes on what message you want to introduce, understanding those mind sets people are in when they're in Facebook versus Instagram."

Both Bergeron and Soemino agreed that Domino's is a good example of a brand utilizing the digital space.

"Domino's by far in a way is the technological leader in the digital space. They describe themselves as a tech company disguised as a marketing company disguised as a pizza company. Domino's is one of a kind, there is a lot that they've done that is different."

Adding, the brand does a lot on the digital front. "Any Facebook person can attest to this, they're one of the only companies that has Facebook ordering in Australia. I think it's not a big part of the business but its something that they do. In the US, you can tweet a pizza emoji and you can order a pizza. Here you can play X-box and Playstation and not get up to order a pizza, that's just miraculous.”

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