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From SEO to CMO to CEO: How the new boss of Hungryhouse is bringing data-driven marketing to the fore

Hungryhouse is eyeing a bigger chunk of the online takeaway market in the UK ahead of parent company Delivery Hero’s potential IPO later this year. In preparation, SEO manager turned chief executive Alice Mrongovius is looking maintain the brand’s positive trajectory in her new role by aligning its bank of data to marketing efforts, namely its burgeoning TV spend.

It comes as the battle to drive loyalty among hungry and time-poor consumers heats up in the increasingly competitive market; and with seven in 10 takeaway orders still made by telephone, there’s a lot to play for.

The fight may have started online between the UK’s biggest players, with Just Eat and Hungryhouse ploughing much of their early investment into search and display. But today the gloves are offline, as it were, with both spending big to get on TV screens and establish their brands.

However, having grown up analysing the value of every marketing penny spent means being data-driven is not a habit Hungryhouse is about to break. Depending on the time of year (the cold nights between September – May are peak for establishing the takeaway habit) at least 40 per cent of Hungryhouse’s spend will go on ‘traditional’ marketing.

“At its heart Hungryhouse will always be a performance marketing company,” Mrongovius – who joined parent company Delivery Hero as its seventh employee in 2011, charged with managing SEO – recently told The Drum.

“So we’ve applied the performance and product marketing mind-set to how we approach brand, out-of-home and TV marketing.”

This means constant A/B tests, pouring over any and all analytics available and making sure it’s agencies – namely it’s media buying shop MNC – and other suppliers are helping it uncover new ways to leverage its spend.

“MNC are fantastic agency but we’re always looking at new ways to buy TV. They’ve embraced our demands incredibly well. We’ve really been able to get much higher ROI when it comes to media spend on TV through bringing that data and tech analysis into the way TV is bought and sold,” said Mrongovius.

Among her other goals for the coming year, Mrongovius plans to lean heavier on Hungryhouse's bank of data to better personalise the app and web experience. She wants to get to a point where when the app is opened, it will immediately geo-locate the customer and know from their search history and previous order data what they like to eat and make it available in one click.

“There are so many possibilities [for this “engine of data”]. We’ve been working for a year and a half on integrating those data sources and there still a lot to do […] to create valuable experiences from it,” said Mrongovius’.

The final pillar to Hungryhouse’s growth plans is interestingly not reliant on data at all. Instead, establishing long-term relationships with restaurants is an ongoing priority and underpins Mrongovius’ relaxed attitude to murmurs that Amazon will be looking to roll out a similar proposition in the UK after it began testing in Seattle late last year.

“It’s not a company we really see as a threat to us. From the consumer perspective, it’s a app and you order something and it arrives, but behind the scenes there’s a whole process of developing relationships with thousands of restaurants and maintaining that,” she said.

As Hungryhouse is getting itself IPO ready (potentially happening at the end of 2016, but “more likely” 2017), Mrongovius was not willing to share any growth targets, or those of Delivery Hero, for the coming year. However, having increased sales through its platform by 50 per cent from 2014, the future looks promising for in the UK and Mrongovius was quick to state that there's room for more than one "winner" in the market.

"Depending on which estimation you believe, [the takeaway market] is worth £8-10bn a year and still there’s a channel switch to online happening. So you have room for the big aggregators to grow their buineses and the more niche service offerings. There’s an opportunity for everyone."

Jennifer Faull

The Drum senior reporter Jen Faull provides news and insight on the latest developments in retail and FMCG.

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