15 mins

ContentDesignDevelopmentDigital marketingEmailSEOSocial media

What’s the future of pubs?

Author Matt Bowell

Date 13.08.2021

As author and digital authority, Tom Goodwin, says: “The only certainty now is uncertainty.”

Even so, I’m going to give it a go and try and predict the top future pub website and digital marketing trends and then. Then, it’s your turn… For a chance to win a brand-new iPad Pro, we want to hear what YOU think about the future of pubs. That got your attention, didn’t it?!

Just here for the chance to win an iPad Pro? Feel free to skip to the end and answer our survey about the future of digital trends for pubs.

If you’re also here to learn about what’s coming next in the world of digital marketing and pubs, let’s start more broadly…

General trends in pubs and digital

1. Online sales have increased.

It’s no surprise that online sales rose exponentially over the last year. As you can see from Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, the pandemic fast-tracked online sales into a place that would have (under normal circumstances) taken another 3-4 years to get to. This has levelled off somewhat back closer to the previous upward trajectory, but they’re still tracking above historic incremental year-to-year increases.

What this means is people have been and will be turning to websites more. Our key message over the last year to clients—well, just about anybody we’ve spoken to really—is that digital solutions have never been more important, and your website is your most precious asset.

We’ve seen this transformation in reality as more work has been coming into our agency with a focus on technology and website development vs marketing.

2. Website traffic has increased by around 70%.

From our own findings across our hospitality clients, we think these increases are even further exaggerated in the hospitality industry. We have seen an average of 70% increase in web traffic in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers, and even though this has decreased in July 2021, we’re still seeing an increase of 40% compared to July 2019.

3. Digital is more important than ever in hospitality.

Hospitality accounts for 75% of all our work here at Brew. We’ve seen an increase in web traffic, email marketing effectiveness, and increased social media metrics —all with smaller in-house teams and less budgets!

Why? Well yes, we have been pushing guests online with table bookings, pay at table, track and trace, etc. BUT, evidence suggests consumers are turning to digital for reassurance, planning, mitigating risk, and for practical information to improve their experience.

Our prediction is that this is certain to continue.

4. Online searches for “pub” are increasing.

Searches for the term ‘pub’ naturally ebb and flow in tune with lockdowns, but as you can see below, more people are Googling ‘pub’ than ever before.

They’re also asking questions that would have been far less prominent than in 2019 and before.

  • When pub open
  • Which pub is open near me
  • Are pub toilets open
  • Can pub play areas open

Then, more familiar ones:

  • What pub am I in* (*We’ve all been there)
  • Are pub lock-ins legal

More than ever, the hospitality industry needs to know what customers are hoping to know before they visit. The more they know, the more comfortable they might feel in a world that’s been completely changed by a pandemic.

Now, onto more specific pub digital marketing trends to look out for…

I’m going to look at four key areas:

  • Content
  • Voice
  • Social Media
  • Data

Trends in Content Marketing

1. Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral, a word that takes a few attempts to pronounce, ironically means ‘to last for a very short time.’ TikTok really is at the heart of this movement. In fact, this section could well have just been called TikTok. It’s very much a case of right place, right time, right audience for them as the trend shifts to ephemeral content and other social channels frantically try to catch up.

The next year will be a tipping point as hospitality brands take the leap onto TikTok (if they haven’t already). Brands are often cautious about introducing new social media channels as they know the amount of work required to do this properly, but for many whose audiences are increasingly influenced by content on this channel, it really is a matter of “not if, but when.”

2. Video is the future.

Following on from our ephemeral friend, video claims to retain 95% of a message compared to 10% when reading it in text. ‘Video would say that!’ you might say. But there’s no doubting that video is becoming more and more prevalent and this will only continue into the future.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, backs up video recently, claiming: “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app.” He explained that over the next six months, the app will start experimenting with different types of video, including “full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video.”

It’s not just Mosseri, by the way. Many experts believe that video content will completely dominate the social media landscape in the coming years. Cisco conducted a study where they predicted that 82% of all online content will be video by 2022.

The key for hospitality brands is how they curate video content with, in many cases, smaller teams and tighter budgets. From ephemeral through to high-production film, one key challenge for brands is how they integrate this into their strategy (and budget) for the year ahead.

3. Authenticity is key.

Authenticity is a long-standing creative foundation, and something that has never been more important. After a turbulent 2020, people can tell when brands jump onto topics, trends, or causes that have no relation to them for attention. Those that have been in tune with their communities while maintaining their authenticity have won over the last year.

We’re not saying hospitality brands will be more authentic moving forward—in fact, you could argue that the year ahead is going to be much more tactics-led —but designing and telling more meaningful and authentic stories are cutting through and really speaking to audiences.

How do you take a pause for a second to sense check your tone of voice, the personality of your brand or business? Those that have done this and continue to do this will win and those that don’t will be increasingly called out.

Trends involving the Voice.

1. User behaviour.

Voice Search is exponentially increasing and this will no doubt impact web and social media behaviour in the coming decade as people type less and start relying on voice recognition.

20% of searches done in the Google App are now done by voice, according to Google. And this is now! This is only expected to rise.

More interestingly is that predictions have historically centered around voice searches being informational searches, however, we’re starting to see predictions around the importance of the voice in transactions, too. For example, voice searches are predicted to account for 30% of all ecommerce sales by 2030.

2. Conversational queries.

More devices are using voice for search, resulting in an increasing number of conversational queries such as those seen above. This is the complete opposite of the short-hand text searches that most content is based around right now.

Since many online searches in hospitality often relate to information around opening times and location, Google My Business will also be an important aspect to consider. If people can’t get to this information using their voice, your pub might miss out.

3. Transactional queries.

There are two parts to this: the transactional SEO side of the query on a native voice app—such as via Siri or Google Assistant—then the actual functional side of it on the website itself or even social commerce channels, such as Facebook Shop.

“Put X in my shopping basket”

“Book a table for four at 7pm at Miller & Carter Mailbox”

Bots will begin to support with searches like these through a voice-to-search API, and voice input boxes will start to become common place. We’d envisage the usual questions required for booking to be asked directly to you, with you speaking the answers aloud. Magic!

Trends in social media.

1. Homogeneity.

Another word difficult to get your tongue around but practice this bad boy as it’s a key trend for 2022. We’re essentially seeing people, products, and services diversifying into different areas, so competition is increasing in almost every area.

In social media:

  • YouTube has started testing “Shorts,” 60-second TikTok-style videos.
  • Instagram is leaving behind its focus on photos and focusing to video.
  • Stories is a concept that we’re all familiar with, but it’s no longer something associated with just Snapchat and Instagram—both LinkedIn and Twitter have trialed this, although Twitter is leaving “Fleets” behind.

The key for you is knowing what to do based on brands and their audiences. A lot of businesses (particularly SMEs) still default to Facebook and even on this platform they are only scratching the surface, unaware or unable to leverage ads to their full potential. This isn’t just SMEs, either, but also multi-unit retailers at a local level.

2. Social commerce.

For ecommerce businesses, social media is the ultimate store front. For a while now brands have been using social media platforms to sell their products and services, however social commerce has now become a mainstream retail channel in its own right. The introduction of Facebook and Instagram Shopping has accelerated this through a simplified user journey, and this will continue to be leveraged by brands even more into the future with the introduction of new features from the platforms.

3. Content creators.

There are increasing incentives from social media channels to lure content creators with significant sums of money. Facebook and Instagram, for example, have recently announced a $1bn pot specifically available to content creators… and they are simply following YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat in rewarding ‘creators’ through into 2022.

Social is moving to a place where anybody willing to give it a go could become an influencer or content creator. It’s exactly why TikTok has become so successful. This is only going to be further enhanced and encouraged with TikTok marketers now able to directly sponsor trending creator posts.

This opens up some questions… Do people know what brands their stuff will be endorsed by? Will they be able to take control of who sponsors their trending content?

We don’t yet know, but like it or not, this is a sign of where things are heading.

Trends in the Data.

1. AI.

AI has been a hot topic for years, but only more recently has AI been used in a way that contains real substance. We know the importance of data leading the way on the content you write, from emails and social posts to website and app content, but testing what works and what doesn’t has always been a labour-intensive process.

Programmatic marketing is the solution, allowing you to test variations in content, images, and audiences on social media while leaving the AI to allocate budget based on performance without any manual intervention required. Moreover, the ability to set up automated journeys and campaigns via your CRM—welcome, birthdays and recency and frequency journeys, for example—can have a big impact on your customer’s experience and long-term loyalty.

2. Data visualisation.

Today, we love data. Most businesses have gigabytes of it, and often more than we know what to do with. It’s hard to see how you’ll track things into the future without a specialist analytics bod who can help you:

  1. Figure out what you need to know.
  2. Set up the channels to get you that data.
  3. Interpret the data you get and turn it into actionable tasks that will benefit you.

This last point is key. Data is the power. It drives the decisions and puts to play processes happening around us. Data visualization has much evolved from the classic Excel Pie chart. Today, data can look playful, dramatic, elegant, and minimalist, depending on the brand’s tone and the mood of information. Done correctly, data can inform, guide, and even entertain.

3. Third-Party Cookies.

People’s desire for online privacy has driven a push towards a radical change in cookie deployment. Searches for ‘online privacy’ grew by more than 50% globally in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Google ad-tracking tools could change dramatically with Google’s efforts to phase out the third-party cookie on Chrome (over 60% of online advertising market). This change has now been delayed to 2023, but the more recent iOS 14 update— where a prompt notification is served to users requesting permission to be tracked—paves the way for what’s to come.

What this means for digital marketers is that tracking users via third-party cookies will not be possible – with the clock ticking down.

So first-party data will be marketers most valuable asset. It’s therefore essential for CRM data to be in tip-top shape so you can ‘speak’ to people legally and use that data smartly to track customer visit and spend behaviour. This will allow you to identify everything from most loyal customers, recency and frequency, favourite day, average spend, favourite food and drink items, all with an eye on delivering relevant content using personalisation and dynamic content.

Trends in Tech.

1. Headless web apps.

This is the main change happening right now in development, with apps moving to web browsers and being installed directly onto devices without needing to worry about app stores. There is a big move to this kind of website or app and it makes sense as it’s financially more viable versus a traditional app, they take up less space on a user’s phone, and work more in tune with the website. They’re called progressive web apps (PWA), and we create these with the Gatsby platform as single page apps (SPA).

2. Bots.

Similar to growing AI and Voice trends above, bots have also been doubted before, initially believed to be inefficient and unpersonal. However, brands are starting to take note of the potential bots could play in customer management and handling queries across the board, even if it just helps to send customers to the right people or departments.

In many instances, guests would like a response—even just a holding message—rather than wait for a response. There are all kinds of uses for these though, loads of untapped potential and unique ways of using them.

At a very basic level, bots can help with simple queries like opening hours, menu queries, or table bookings, right through to more complicated items like serving tailored promotions and campaigns and even front-of-house support (although many still prefer to be greeted by a person).

3. Core Web Vitals and Structured Data.

Our recent post on this latest Google update explains what the three major parts of this are and what they mean, but the headline really is that the speed and stability of a website has never mattered more in SEO. Structured data is also the key to getting richer results in search. There are many different kinds of structured data including restaurants, job posts, articles, events, local business, apps and more.

There are still lots of sites not using structured data at all and getting this implemented correctly now can give you a competitive edge in search.

Expected trends from within the team.

1. Fragmentation of communication channels.

As more and more channels are created to solve niche problems in organisation and communication, there are more places to checks for messages than ever before, including email accounts, SMS, WhatsApp, Signal, Teams, Google Meetup, Zoom, LinkedIn, and Facebook Messenger, social DMs, and so many more…

Even though these channels are all created with the idea of improving communication between teams, the ironic result may be that people may become overwhelmed and miss messages or even mute all notifications to work without breaking their focus.

2. It’s all about The Cloud.

This has been around for a long time (e.g. Dropbox), but COVID-19 has fast-forwarded the migration to cloud services for a lot of companies to enable teams to work efficiently and remotely.

SharePoint is an obvious one for companies using Office 365, but it’s still very complex and difficult to set up and configure. Alternatives like Microsoft 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud have moved away from the old model of buying a product one-time and having support for a limited time to a subscription model of an evergreen product, which—as long as your subscription is active—means you get all the latest updates. This also massively helps with working remotely, because you can easily share documents with multiple people simultaneously.

3. Microsoft Teams (and the growing competition of work-based IM)

This section isn’t just about Teams, but how our means of communicating via instant messaging and voice call has increased dramatically as we’ve all worked increasingly from home. Whilst it looked like other solutions had got ahead of Teams (Zoom call, anyone?), there are signs that Teams’ capability for instant messaging and voice calls—not to mention its importance in the Microsoft 365 family—will make it the default chat and meeting platform.

Predicting the future of pub websites

So, now it’s over to you…

As an agency with a love for—and an expertise in—the hospitality industry, especially pubs, we’re running a survey to see what people think will be important for The Future of Pub Websites.

Our survey will only take about two minutes to complete and then you’ll be in with a chance to win a brand-new iPad Pro.

Want another chance to win?

Share this survey on Twitter and LinkedIn using #BrewFuturePubs and you’ll have another entry placed into the hat… You know you want that iPad Pro.

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