Data mining: how pubs can make the most of EPoS data

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Knowing a lot about your customers can be vital to increasing sales, so mine your data well and you could unearth some real gems.
Knowing a lot about your customers can be vital to increasing sales, so mine your data well and you could unearth some real gems.

Related tags: Data, Surveillance

Systems that translate customer feedback into commercial insights are well worth investing in. Here, we look at how combing data clouds can reveal silver linings

Is ‘data’ a dirty word? Kept under lock and key, whoever gets their hands on this precious data tends to hoard heaps of the stuff, while data breaches or leaks spark ‘end-is-nigh’ news coverage about violation of privacy and robot takeovers.

But when gathered, analysed and used effectively, the electronic point-of-sale data (EPoS) from your pub can provide a useful rudder to help steer your business. Capable of capturing every transactional button press, EPoS systems can shed light on the who, what, when, why, where and how from both sides of the bar.

Publicans like Mark Edgell, from the Dog & Partridge, Yateley, Hampshire, confirm the positive impact these systems have had on his business. “We put in three tills, a back-office system and have two handheld tablets for taking orders at the table. With installation and training, we spent around £8,000.

“We looked at a variety of systems and could have spent more or could definitely have spent less, but less was going to give us less control and insight into sales. I can view my tills from home, can view sales on my phone, so wherever I am, I have complete visibility of the business minute by minute.”

The EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) will usher in a radical shake-up of how organisations manage consumer data.

A massive opportunity

Perhaps a tricky hurdle to navigate, Dan Brookman, commercial director at Airship, believes the newly regulated data cloud has a huge silver lining. “I see GDPR as a massive opportunity for the hospitality industry in particular,” he says.

“At the moment, everybody goes for volume, but it’s not really about volume, you’re better having a smaller number of customers that are more engaged and I think that GDPR will breed that naturally.

“Every tick box that was previously in place, post 25 May 2018 – when GDPR comes into force – will soon be unticked, so you’ll be asking those customers for specific consent to use their data in ongoing marketing and for profiling.”

According to Brookman, GDPR will challenge EPoS-data-using pubs to be more intelligent in the way they use the findings from point-of-sale metrics.

“It’s no longer about a broad brush and saying ‘I’ve got a database of 5,000 people and I’m just going to hit them all the time with stuff that’s going on’.”

Value exchange

One of the most important factors in collecting EPoS data from customers is balancing the transaction. Establish what customers stand to gain from sharing anything from their basic demographic information to a brief review of what they’ve just ordered.

Brookman describes this as putting a skin on data: “This is really about the value exchange with their customers and giving customers a reason to give their data in the first place, and importantly to opt in to give their data.

“Most importantly, they really need to advertise what the reason is to sign up and receive news from that individual venue.”

Capture guest sentiment

Gary Goodman, chief executive and founder of Yumpingo, says his platform captures between 4,000 and 6,000 guest reviews per month using EPoS – dwarfing the output of TripAdvisor trolls and keyboard warriors.

The Yumpingo system conducts one-minute surveys of roughly half of customers in partner sites, including those operated by Wahaca, Wagamama and Mitchells & Butlers – at the end of their meal, gathering fresh, detailed sentiment.

Servers use an iPad with EPoS integration, which they offer to the customer to review their meal when they present the bill.

“Effectively, we’re able to capture a lot of granular information in just one minute because of our scale and volume across many customers. It really gives eyes and ears to every site and every service.”

Easily adopted

Publicans such as Edgell argue that given our existing attachment to our smartphones, adapting to data capture programmes and hardware is far easier than you’d imagine with the right training – especially with the influx of smartphone-hooked Millennials and Generation Z staff.

Once up and running, transactional data sheds light on what’s happening on both sides of the bar, offering transparency on how well your staff are doing.

Zonal sales and marketing director Clive Consterdine says: “All data at a granular level is linked. That enables you to look at the performance of your staff, so if you run a particular promotion, an incentive for your staff that says ‘I want you to upsell coffee every time somebody finishes a meal’ you can say ‘well, Jenny has sold 320 cups of coffee in the month of June’.”

Snug Bars operations director Jonathan Grenville-Grey described the system his bars use as “extremely intuitive” and says that visualising findings helps use performance data to incentivise staff – often pinning printed graphics on notice boards to easily communicate what’s selling well, and what perhaps needs an extra push.

“It mines data quickly, so that we have more time to focus on our business. The old adage ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ relates to it as it does the same thing for spreadsheets – transforming data into a graphic, which is great to share with employees. It’s a game-changer.”

Taking stock

Transactional data also allows licensees to establish what products are and aren’t best suited to their clientele, and can provide grounds to experiment with new orders.

Edgell, who manages his pub remotely, is guided by analytics on the rare occasions he’s called in to take stock. “A couple of weeks ago the manager was on holiday, I was in doing the ordering and before I did the beer order, I looked at the consumption over the previous 10 days.

“I could see that we need ‘X’ amount of cases of different types of bottles or ‘X’ amount of barrels of beer and ‘X’ amount of bottles of wine. The EPoS is fabulous with that, it will help you manage your stock, control it and stop it from disappearing.”

Intertwine data threads

Ultimately, the end goal for any EPoS-using business is to work out exactly who’s buying what and market to them accordingly.

“The silver bullet is: can I match transactional data to a person?,” according to Consterdine. “Can I understand more about a consumer, an individual, and their spending behaviour and pattern?”

In tune with this, Brookman adds that EPoS data used effectively should help pubs segment their audience: “You should be able to understand who your sports customers are, who your food customers are, who your bar customers are, who your family customers are and market to them individually.”

Consterdine adds: “That’s the area that is developing more and it’s where pub owners need to think about how they can actually get that single customer view – how they behave, how they respond to offers – so that you can start to tailor offers for that single customer.

“When you can achieve that, your marketing spend and your return on your marketing spend is much more efficient.”  

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