Top 10 tips for QSR suggestive selling
The concept of suggestive selling is nothing new to quick-service restaurants. The practice usually involves a cashier asking patrons whether they want to upsize a drink or add a desert to a hamburger-and-fries combo. However, with the growing sophistication of point-of-sale displays and menu options, new technologies in suggestive selling represent an opportunity for QSRs and franchise owners to maximize their profitability and brand awareness through targeted advertizing and marketing.
 
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, digital signage with purchase recommendations can result in sales uplifts from 15 to 150 percent. Customized promotions based on dynamic factors such as weather, time of day, season, price and previously ordered items have a higher impact than "static loops," enabling QSRs to experience returns closer to the 150-percent range.
 
Behavioral modeling of customer purchase decisions can increase the profit contribution of every customer transaction, educate consumers about available products and services, and improve marketing and operational efficiency for QSRs.
 
Based on real-world implementations with some of the leading brands in the QSR market, here is a Top 10 list of suggestive selling techniques to communicate timely,customer-relevant upsell opportunities and reinforce a brand experience.
 
1. Consistency — To successfully implement suggestive selling, you need to have clear guidelines that are used consistently with all of your customers. Rules can include not only what but when to make a product recommendation. Automated systems can help take out the guesswork and keep a suggestive-selling program on track.
 

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2. Relevance — Suggestions should be based on previous selections. Nearly 33 percent of successful upsell offers are side orders, but you should think twice before suggesting a certain non-complementary item. No one wants to be asked to buy french fries with a low-calorie salad. You need to make sure that the offer matches your customers' tastes and likes, so that recommendations will not be classified as mere "white noise" to be ignored.
 
3. Local and global — Promotions should further corporate goals and — at the same time — reflect local habits and preferences. Every global QSR chain has specific products that it wants to promote, but certain neighborhoods may be a more appropriate cultural fit for certain types of upsell items (e.g. gourmet coffees). Make sure that your promotions are in line with regional tastes and culinary preferences.
 
4. Adaptive — As the old saying goes, those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Promotions need to be thoroughly studied to understand what works and why. Failed promotions often provide better lessons than successful ones, and these lessons need to be taken seriously and implemented as quickly as possible. If you have a solution that offers automatic adaption and self-tweaking, you are in a much better position to adapt quickly with successful recommendations.
 
5. Price sensitive — Typically, when people receive recommendations to purchase additional items, they expect to invest an amount that is significantly less than what they have previously ordered. Research shows that 58 percent of successful upsell offers cost less than 20 percent of the original price amount, and 31 percent of them are 12 percent or less than the cost of the original item.
 
6. Visual — In today's attention-deficit society, promotions need to be presented in a visually compelling manner to capture and hold a customer's attention. By combining wide exposure to colorful animations and video, with appealing and creative ways to visually depict food items, you can greatly increase the likelihood that your customer will make an additional purchase.
 
7. Timely — As with most good things in life, timing is everything. Present your promotions prematurely, and they will not register on your customers' culinary radar, while promotions that appear later than they should tend to be ignored. Promotions need to be presented immediately prior to or while a customer is placing an order for maximum impact on purchasing decisions.
 
8. Seasonal — Promotions that match the time of year or upcoming holidays are typically well received. Content should be modified to promote menu items and products that are traditionally eaten specific times of the year. For example, during Thanksgiving, you can promote your seasonal pumpkin pie as the perfect dessert product for the holiday season.
 
9. Repeated offers — Nobody likes to feel bombarded with promotions and chances, but experience shows that repetition of relevant targeted offers really works. Your best shot at implementing successful upsell offers is by displaying your top three most relevant offers in multiple sequences vs. showing the same one over and over.
 
10. Availability — Targeting your promotions on the basis of product availability provides more inventory control. You can heavily promote well-stocked items or promote similar products of an item that is running low. This way, you prevent excess food wastage of products near expiration and ensure all of your products are as fresh as possible. Food waste is a huge cost driver for QSRs, and improved capabilities in this area can drastically reduce operating costs.
 
Suggestive selling can deliver the most relevant and effective messages to each customer by factoring in data about local business goals, previous customer choices, business rules, time of day and other environmental considerations. A sophisticated and disciplined approach will enable QSRs to maximize the value-per-customer.
 
*Elad Halperin is vice president of marketing for Odysii, a provider of software solutions for marketing intelligence at the point of sale. He can be contacted at Elad.Halperin@odysii.com.

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