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Pizza Express says Christmas campaign is just the start for how it uses chatbots in its marketing

Pizza Express

Chatbots have been a hot topic among marketers of late, and Pizza Express recently tested the waters with a game its customers can play in-restaurant to win prizes, like a free serving of its famous doughballs.

But, it’s not writing the technology off as a bit of fun and will be exploring how to use it across the business in the coming year.

“We try to get back to all out customers personally to talk about their restaurant experience. But if a customer wants quick information such as opening hours, table booking etc, bots can definitely be a very useful tool,” said Tim Love, senior manager for social media at the pizza chain.

His interest in developing the tool has been spurred by a campaign it’s run over Christmas. Dubbed ‘Shake The Tree’ it, the campaign sees its in-store marketing featuring a Facebook Messenger code urging diners to scan on their phones and type #shakethetree to start the game. Every customer who plays receives a personalised video and gives diners the chance to win prizes including free pizzas and Dough Balls.

It had 75,000 players in first two weeks and will hit 100,000 by end of week three (or around 7% of its customers).

“We want to make every customer’s journey with us as simple as possible. So being able to book a table or download a voucher without leaving the [Facebook] Messenger app makes things very easy," explained Love.

"Payment through Messenger is also something we’re keen to adopt as soon as possible. Beyond this, the sheer volume of new customers the bot allows us to communicate with is very exciting for us. The challenge is to find the right way to do it.

“When we devised the campaign, Messenger bot technology had only recently launched so wanted to give ourselves enough time to be confident in the technology’s ability to work seamlessly when rolled with our Messenger code on every table in 460 restaurants,” continued Love.

However, the sheer volume of messages coming into its Messenger inbox was a surprise and it meant filtering through then all near on impossible. “I hope that in the future Facebook will be able to differentiate messages that are being sent by bots into different folders,” continued Love.

For now though, it’s been buoyed by the fact that it’s reached thousands of customers who had not previously engaged with Pizza Express online, data which it can extract using Facebook Custom Audiences.

Love added: “People are on their phones when in our restaurants and are happy to spend time on their phone interacting with Pizza Express, which represents a big opportunity for us.

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Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is deputy news editor at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in the retail and FMCG sectors. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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