Wingstop's new capability lets customers tailor their mobile order. Photo: Wingstop
Wingstop Inc. is debuting a conversational ordering platform on Twitter and Facebook Messenger that only requires customers to send the word “order” to the brand to start the process.
“Social ordering allows us now to actively reach out to consumers in the social media channels that they are already participating in,” said Flynn Dekker, chief marketing officer of the Dallas-based wing chain, in an interview Monday.
“We don’t require you to come to us; we’ll come you, in the two most popular social media channels,” he said. “You can transact your entire order and customize it all within the channels.”
Customers can tweet “order” or “#order,” or direct message Wingstop via Facebook Messenger, to begin the ordering, which is mechanized through a platform created with Dallas-based Conversable Inc., a Software-as-a-Service system for creating intelligent, conversational commerce and messaging.
Stacy Peterson, Wingstop chief information officer, said, “Conversable is basically a service layer that fits in between the messaging platform, like Twitter and Facebook, and our e-commerce system.
“It will pull items, prices and menu and serve those up to the guest through the messaging platform,” she explained. “In a series of structured conversations, it allows them to walk through the order. The order is handed over to our existing e-commerce system that has bee serving all of our restaurants since 2014 on the back end.”
The new capability sends users key pick-up information when an order is completed. Photo: Wingstop
During the ordering process, customers provide their ZIP code or street address and then are asked to confirm the most convenient Wingstop location and estimated pick-up time.
The platform also allows Wingstop to provide real-time responses to common questions regarding topics such as allergy and nutritional information, flavor descriptions and other menu details.
The brand, which has 1.1 million likes on its Facebook page and 181,000 followers on Twitter, soft-launched the platform Monday at its 815 domestic locations, Dekker said.
Dekker said Wingstop is highly engaged socially with its customers, about half of whom are Millennials.
“This indicates it’s the right place and the right space to reach those consumers,” he said.
Peterson added that this launch is “focused on conversational ordering, and they don’t have to be an existing customer.”
Other restaurant brands have offered social ways of ordering, such as Domino’s with its text messaging and Twitter emoji ordering that require prior orders or a user profile, and Taco Bell on the group-messaging platform Slack.
Peterson said Wingstop began investigating social ordering in the spring, and the platform partnership with Conversable took three to four months.
“They are the most integrated service offering that we could find that would allow us to nationally launch Twitter and Facebook in one day,” Peterson said, which required no additional corporate staff and provides no difference for the operator about how the order arrives in the restaurant from websites.
Wingstop’s social media team monitors the conversation and intercepts if issues are encountered.
“That team will help the customer place the order through other channels, probably our mobile website,” Peterson said.
The first phase launches on Tuesday, which requires customers to reach out with the “order” request. Dekker said the second phase will come later.
“We’ll begin to identify phrases that identifies people’s interest in placing an order, and then we will be able to proactively reach out to them. We will learn as we go so we can learn and adapt to those phrases,” he said.
Platforms like Domino’s require setting up a profile or replicating an earlier order, Peterson said.
“This really redefines the definition of targeted advertising,” Dekker said. “I can reach out and serve them up a message them” when they indicate an interest chicken wings. … We can be very targeted, very surgical. We can reach out to people in their channels and not expect them to come to us.”
“We think it opens up a new frontier for the way customers engage with Wingstop,” Peterson said, with no customer commitment of downloading an app or filling out a profile. About 15 percent of Wingstop’s business currently comes through online orders, she explained.
Dekker said Wingstop is working carefully not to be intrusive in the customer’s social channels.
“This is huge step forward,” he said.
The platform may be expanded to include text messaging, speaker-controlled Amazon Echo and Slack, Peterson said.
“It’s whatever opportunities that work best with the brand,” she said. “It’s all about convenience. We want to be where our customers are.”
Wingstop ranks No. 61 on the NRN Social 200 and has 900 locations worldwide.