Bringing Customers to Your Location: Why You Need a Strong Digital Presence

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Image Credit: Supplied

The Restaurant market in the UAE is ever changing and highly competitive, it’s difficult for brands to get ahead when there’s a huge tourism market and a seemingly ever-changing flow of guests.

But what you need to remember is this – you have a local audience as well as a foreign one, and you need to appeal to these customers as well, 99% of the UAE population use social media and digital platforms – you cannot afford to ignore this opportunity.

Having a strong digital presence does a number of different things for you brand:

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  • It lets you connect with your local audience, informing them of where you are, what you serve, and how you do it the best.

  • It lets you appeal to your International customers. When preparing for holidays, most people will look up attractions, events and places to eat. If your channels are optimised and engaging, you can attract this attention.

So, What is a Digital Presence – and How Do You Make it Strong?

Your digital presence can include your website, social media channels, mobile phone apps and emails.

Basically, when you do something on behalf of your business online, you’re developing your digital presence. This is what your customers and potential customers will see, engage with and use to form their initial opinion of your brand.

It’s so important to keep this fact in mind: until they decide to interact with you, you won’t know that perspective customers are looking at your digital offerings.

This is one of the main reasons why your digital presence needs to be:

  • Unified (for example using the same account name across all channels where possible)
  • Clearly Branded (using the same colours, fonts, logo and style)
  • Kept Up to Date
  • Full of Engaging Content
  • Delivered in the same Brand Voice

If you’re using different usernames and logos, posting irregularly and with a different tone of voice between posts or channels, then your audience aren’t going to recognise you on another platform.

By having one cohesive look, feel and tone – people can get to know the personality of your brand and develop a connection with you. It’s much easier to like and remember a brand when they’ve made you feel connected to them.

What are people looking for from your digital presence?

There are multiple stages of the buyer journey – from initial discovery all the way through to making a purchase, and then recommending you to others later.

Each step of this journey has a different aspect that your customers are looking at, but it all ties into who your company is, what it is (and isn’t) doing, how you’ve handled customer enquiries, and what people are saying about you.

You might be wondering what we mean by that, well:

  • Who Is Your Company?
    People like to know about the companies they use and having information available about the history of your venue, your staff, the reason why you serve the dishes you do – this helps to build an image in their minds of your company as if it were a person.

  • What Your Brand Is and Isn’t Doing
    Your guests want to know the principles and values that drive your business. Are you in favour of healthy eating? Do you promote sustainability? Do you promote equality?
    It would be very easy to turn around and tell your visitors that you opened your restaurant to make money – but that would immediately put them off. There needs to be a deeper meaning, what passions drive you?

    You need to be very careful when developing your vision and values – it’s very easy to conduct research in the Digital Age, and if you’re found to be lying, or doing nothing towards the values you espouse, then you’re going to get a reputation for being a liar.

    Sometimes what you don’t do is almost as important as what you do. For example, if you believe strongly in using ethically sourced meat, then a point that you can share with your audience is that you don’t use meat that has been sourced cruelly or unethically. Again, it’s important that if you say something definitive like this, that you stick to it.

  • How You’ve Handled Customer Enquires
    One of the most convenient aspects of the digital world is being able to instantly find information. But when that information is not available, potential customers want to be able to contact you and get the answers as easily as possible.
    If you’ve got a reputation for not answering questions on your social pages, or ignoring comments asking for more information, you’re going to drive away customers who will assume that you just can’t be bothered.

  • What People Are Saying About You
    Your online reputation needs to be monitored, managed and maintained. Most people will read reviews and look for recommendations. If your channels are full of complaints or unanswered feedback, people will go elsewhere.

Your digital presence is what will get your venue seen and your brand talked about – whether it’s in a positive fashion or not will largely depend on how you handle yourself. It’s a fact of life that the Digital World is highly integrated with our day-to-day real one. If you’re not making use of the platforms, channels and outlets online, then you’re missing out on customers.

Dawn Gribble
Dawn Gribble is the CEO and Founder of Virtual Solutions- a boutique digital marketing agency delivering services, training, and consultancy for hotels and restaurants. She brings over 20 years of F&B and hospitality experience to Virtual Solutions, having worked with award-winning hotels, Michelin star restaurants, international food brands and celebrity chefs. She had appeared on MasterChef and write recipes and reviews for a number of brands. Her food writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, FooDiva and Menuism. As an international speaker, she had delivered talks and workshops at events, such as Social Media Week Dubai, the Restaurant Show, Coffee Shop Innovation, the Middle East Food Forum and the Social Media in Tourism Conference.