Target Customers With Recommendations

July 31, 2014

For anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry (or retail for that matter), it’s usual to ask or be asked, “Well what do you recommend?” Just last week I was at a café and couldn’t decide on what sandwich to buy. The person behind the counter asked me if I liked basil and proceeded to recommend the turkey and tomato basil wrap, which I then purchased. I wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t recommended to me, but I trusted the recommendation and left satisfied. In fact, this isn’t uncommon.

Many times, consumers choose an item that was recommended to them by someone they trust, which could be a friend, a family member or a waiter. Targeting customers with recommendations can lead to an increase in profitability and brand awareness, not just in retail, but in the vending industry, too.

Recommendations in other industries

A recent study by Technomic found that when wine drinkers are out at a restaurant, 36 percent of them say a staff recommendation influences their decision of which wine to order. According to Keller Fay Group, recommendations are the number one driver of consumer purchase decisions at each stage of the purchase cycle in multiple product categories. When consumers go into a restaurant, oftentimes the wait staff will make a menu recommendation based upon the specials of the day, etc., whether the consumer asked for the recommendation or not.

Blogger, consultant and entrepreneur Yu-kai Chou says smart visual placement and selective inventory promotion, among other things, help to integrate and manage product recommendations. Chou notes that restaurants should show off their “product of the month” near the point of sale, and although he speaks directly about restaurants/retail, vending and micro market locations can do the same thing.

Use digital signage

The Keller Fay Group study found that 8 out of 10 purchases influenced by a recommendation happened by people talking face-to-face. Although the route driver can’t recommend products to all locations through face-to-face interactions, using digital signage can be a great way to recommend products. If your digital signage lets you upload personal videos, do it to recommend products. Pair a pastry or candy item with a drink item and ‘recommend’ that together, the items can satisfy a customer’s cravings. In a micro market, strategically place items near the kiosk and have “recommendations” appear on the screen.

Get creative: make it personal

Low on budget? That’s still okay. Using a Word document, operators can create a simple ‘recommendation’ sheet that they can print off and have the route driver post on or near vending machines in different locations. Even using social media is a great way vending companies can make daily or weekly “recommendations”—I’ve seen this on both Twitter and Facebook!

And operators can get even more creative than that. Start a weekly “recommendation” and take the first name of the route driver or operator and call it “Ted Recommends”—each week “Ted Recommends” could change with the item or items the route driver or operator recommends. This move is personal; it targets the office employee directly and not only gives them a heightened awareness of the vending company, but it also puts them on a first name basis with the route driver or owner.