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Restaurant chains can enhance mobile ordering with gender-based targeting

Mobile ordering has picked up significantly in the past year, but one potential area of differentiation that not a lot of restaurants have taken advantage of yet is how behaviors differ between men and women.

Popular restaurant chains such as Subway, Domino’s, Chipotle and others are offering consumers the ability to place orders before they arrive at the premises. Recent research, such as food delivery ordering guide GrubHub’s September study, reflects how restaurant chains and other marketers could enhance mobile ordering with more targeted marketing tactics.

“At GrubHub, we’re always working to learn more about our diners and how they use our products,” said Meghan Gage, senior associate of public relations for GrubHub, New York, NY. “Looking at gender preferences and ordering habits presented us with a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the differing tastes of our male and female diners.”

Segmentation for different products
A study published last year by Harvard Business School discussed research showing that loyal consumers would get upset when a brand typically associated with a male audience expanded to include products marketed towards women. This was especially true in cases where men personally identified with a certain brand.

“Male and female segmentation has long been a simple and crisp way to target new products,” said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, Milton Keynes, UK. “The GrubHub data suggests, even in food, our most essential product, ordered from smartphones, there exist different choices among different genders.”

“Brands have long marketed differently towards men and women,” Mr. Mawston said. “For example, Coca Cola arguably tilts Diet Coke toward female drinkers.”

Coca-Cola’s difficulty in enticing men to drink Diet Coke eventually culminated in the male-centric campaign for Coke Zero, which was positioned as a defender of guy enjoyment.

However, while brands should establish specific marketing strategies, they should be cognizant not to pigeonhole themselves or suggest discriminatory tactics to other target audiences.

“It is important to be mindful of gender-biased marketing laws, which are rightly getting stricter worldwide,” Mr. Mawston said. “For example, female-only car insurance, from companies like Sheila’s Wheels, was banned in the UK a few years ago.”

Marketing to men vs. women
GrubHub’s survey results displayed different ordering times that men and women were likely to use, which meals were frequently ordered by which gender and which types of food had a gender connotation.

For instance, men were 55 percent more likely than women to order late-night food from their phones between the hours of 10 pm to 2 am. Women were much more likely to place breakfast orders between the hours of 8 am and 11 am.

Meanwhile, specific products such as salads and sushi rolls were overwhelmingly ordered by women, while men typically ordered foods such as boneless wings and chicken parmesan. GrubHub was even able to pinpoint various food fads associated with gender, such as women being 73 percent more likely to order cupcakes and men being 35 percent more likely to order bacon.

“As the data suggests, it would be advantageous for GrubHub and other food delivery services to target men with their marketing strategies on Sundays in the fall and winter as the NFL season is in full swing,” said Bill Aurnhammer, CEO of Aurnhammer, New York, NY. “Similarly, it would be beneficial for these companies to target women in their marketing strategies between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the work week as the data shows that women are 30 percent more likely to order food to the office than are men.”

Ultimately, marketers should focus on sending contextual messages at the right times that fit their brand positioning and attract the designated audience.

“I feel strongly that brands should align the right message for the right individual at the right time,” said Tom Edwards, senior vice president of digital strategy at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, TX. “The consumer is now in control of the marketing messages they choose to receive and contextual relevance is the real key to drive action.”

For brands looking to ramp up mobile strategies for the upcoming holiday season, studying previous data may aid in developing effective solutions and dictating whether their holiday sales will see large increases.

“This is highly dependent on the brands that leverage contextual data as part of their holiday strategy,” Mr. Edwards said. “Those that roll out highly personalized campaigns will most likely see data that confirms a gender divide when in reality they were more effective in delivering a relevant and contextual message that spoke to the target consumer.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York