PizzaExpress has launched a Facebook Messenger bot allowing people to book a table upfront, in a bid to move away from gamification and make a “real” impact on how customers interact with the brand.
The bot allows consumers to choose a local restaurant and book a table within 90 seconds and uses live data to analyse timings and table availability.
The bot follows on from the restaurant brand’s Christmas activity, which allowed diners to scan a code using their smartphones to gain access to its “Shake The Tree” game on Messenger. Through the game, customers were given the chance to win prizes including free pizzas and dough balls.
PizzaExpress said the bot proved hugely popular, attracting more than 150,000 entrants into the game. However, the brand’s senior social media manager Tim Love admits the business was keen to move away from “gamification” towards an “always-on” booking facility, in order to make a “real” impact on how customers can interact with the brand.
“We were taken aback by how many people interacted with it, as Messenger bots weren’t around 12 months ago. We worked for a good couple of months to get the customer journey right, and make it as easy as possible. And a lot of people are already on the Messenger platform. It felt right to develop something that was always on, and secondly a step on from gamification,” he tells Marketing Week.
We definitely don’t see it as a fad.
Tim Love, PizzaExpress
The brand is now looking to further optimise the bot by analysing where consumers are switching off or stopping their journeys. Love adds there are plans to increase the bot’s capabilities, as there is “much more the brand can add to it”.
“We see it as just the beginning. For example, if someone wants to visit us at lunch time, they can go on to the bot and see what’s on offer. We definitely don’t see it as a fad, and the longer that Messenger is available for brands, the more comfortable people will be with the process.”
PizzaExpress is also excited about the bot’s future potential to learn more about its consumers and tailor its services to them accordingly. However, Love is adamant bots will not end up replacing its waiters.
He concludes: “We will then know who our loyal customers are and we can surprise and delight them. All we’ve done is make life easier for customers, which is what we always want to do. But we don’t want that to replace interaction with the teams once they’re in the restaurant.”