Ordering pizza via emoji is so 2015. Today, Pizza Hut will announce a new platform that allows users to order pizza via Facebook Messenger and Twitter direct message.
As Pizza Hut’s Chief digital officer Baron Concors acknowledges, this is just the latest in a slew of ways to order pizza digitally. Domino’s allows customers to order pizza via zero-clicks app, Siri, Amazon Echo, or by simply tweeting a pizza emoji at the restaurant to place an order. Pizza Hut has made similar moves, recently launching "Visible Promise Time" on digital orders, allowing customers to see an estimated timeline of when their food will be ready prior to actually placing an order.
The platform works in concert with Conversable, a tech company specializing in “conversational commerce,” which enables transactions through conversations on messaging and voice interfaces. “The general concept is just, there’s a lot of these new technologies and we’re just finding the ones we think will be most relevant to make it easier for customers to order,” says Concors.
The interesting thing about Pizza Hut’s latest mobile ordering platform is that it doesn't require an app. The message format, Concors notes, makes the transaction a bit more private — kind of like the old-fashioned, phone-it-in method, but ideally even easier.
“Today’s consumer would rather do almost anything than pick up the phone and call somebody,” says Concors, who says the chain has done its fair share of research into consumer behavior, even hosting focus groups to determine how consumers most like to interact. “We’ve found that there are four apps where people are spending the vast majority of their time: SMS or text, email, Facebook, and Twitter. Why not make it easy for people to order pizza through the experience they already interact with?”
Here’s how it works: Customers can chat directly with Pizza Hut accounts via Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM to order food, receive the latest deals and promotions, find their nearest Pizza Hut, or ask questions. The system also works similarly to many digital apps these days, in that it “remembers” customers and their preferences.
“My wife gets a veggie loves pizza every time she orders from Pizza Hut, so why would we present her with a bunch of meat options?” asks Concors. “So, the next time she orders, she will be presented with items we know are relevant to her. Everyone has their favorite kind of pizza so with the new platform, they have the ability to re-order something in two or three clicks.”
Like most quick-service and fast-casual restaurants these days, Concors says Pizza Hut is “knee-deep in its personalization strategy,” aiming to be “smart about presenting the right message to the right customer at the right time.”
And with good reason — personalized digital ordering platforms are growing in popularity, and seem to resonate with consumers in a big way. Fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s have recently turned to kiosks with this same idea in mind — that technology can remember things that humans don’t.
Consumers also tend to order more food when interacting with technology, rather than a human being. Kiosks and apps can present additional upsell opportunities (like asking consumers if they’d like to splurge on a large pizza, rather than ordering a medium) and they relieve some pressure from consumers.
“I think that particularly in our business, the phone call has been the primary means of interaction,” says Concors. “But people like to order on their own terms. With these new platforms, you don’t have the pressure of being on the phone with somebody. You don’t have to worry about being put on hold. People can take their time. Once they use it a couple of times, it becomes second nature.”
In a focus group, representatives from Tillster (the company behind both Burger King and Taco Bell's apps) found that consumers were overall more comfortable adding to their order, or ordering a larger size, if they didn't have to order it from a human being.
Research like that is one of the many reasons Pizza Hut executives are quick to point out that this latest ordering method isn’t just for publicity. “Everything we do is with the voice of the consumer insight,” says Concors. “We don't want to do things as PR gimmicks.”
In other words, it isn’t just technology that’s changing — consumer behavior is, and Pizza Hut and other brands are just along for the ride. In a little over 24 months, Pizza Hut saw digital ordering go from 20 percent to 50 percent of overall transactions. According to Concors, that number has risen even higher in recent months.
“Seventy percent of our digital business is now made through mobile technology,” he says. “And we know that our digital consumer orders from us more frequently [than a traditional, walk-in or telephone consumer].”
And the new ordering platform couldn't come at a better time for the pizza delivery industry — it officially launches in August, says Concors, “right before the football season starts.”