Opinion: Why the marketing momentum is behind pre-order

By Olivia FitzGerald, managing director of Zonal’s Marketing Technologies

I hate getting the drinks in.  Not because I’m especially lazy or don’t want to pay my way, but because the entire process fills me with dread: from battling through the crowded bar, getting noticed, having to shout to make my order heard, to finally struggling to transport the drinks back to my table without any major spillages. I’m not alone – I know that friends who are equally lacking in “bar presence” share the same feelings. 

For bar-phobics like me, the idea of ordering and paying at the table, then having drinks magically brought over is appealing. So appealing, in fact, that I’m much more likely to part with more of my hard-earned cash! And that’s why the operators trialling this concept are seeing more drinks being sold and revenues increasing.

High street operators are all using apps to drive sales and improve customer experience.  The reality is that pre-order has gone mainstream and it’s set to grow. It’s a no brainer when you think about it – in-app ordering drives revenue from a single customer visit by increasing spend in a more a convenient, fun and appealing way.  And it’s a very effective tool in terms of converting additional sales.

When it comes to upselling, recommendations from a waiter can seem scripted and pushy, but when a product is suggested in an app it’s viewed as helpful and part of the service, enhancing the customer experience.  We work with a late night bar and club operator that sells bookable booths; for every booking, the app asks if they wish to add a bottle of champagne.  The customer is far more likely to say yes to an app than to a human.  It’s strange, but true. 

Pre-order apps serve up an array of opportunities and can be tailored to suit individual business opportunities.  Another Zonal customer is a theatre group that’s rolling out a pre-order app to boost sales in the interval, and the early results are excellent.  Many people, myself included, forego the interval drink due to the long queues and crowded foyers.  We would rather stay seated than risk missing the start of the second half.  The new app tackles this problem by allowing theatre-goers to pre-order drinks and have them delivered to their seat, avoiding queues, hassle and anxiety! And it will come as no surprise that in those venues using the app, uptake has been very strong and revenue is growing exponentially. 

For operators, it’s not simply a question of whether they should introduce pre-order, but when and what the best tool is for them to use.  There are many off the shelf pre-order services out there, however, they are of little use if they’re not talking to your till system, the central nervous system of your business. Stock availability, pricing and offers are all managed within the EPoS universe, and this information must be shared seamlessly with ordering apps to make them operationally viable. 

For me, the advent of pre-order is a real game-changer.  I can’t wait for the next night out, and this time, the first round will be on me!

Zonal are proud sponsors of the 2016 CGA Peach Consumer Insight & Marketing Conference.