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A new study by the University of Rochester sheds some light on our online pizza ordering behavior - and finds that when we're hiding behind our computer screens, we're much more likely to triple the pepperoni, double the bacon, and order the anchovies.  In fact, online orders tend to be more complex, higher priced, higher in calories, and more obscure.  Why?  It turns out that consumers are just plain embarrassed to order what they really want in person, but lose those inhibitions online. 

The researchers analyzed 160,168 orders made by 56,283 unique customers from a regional, franchised pizza chain.  The study reviewed orders beginning in 2007, evaluating the impact of adding a web ordering option in 2009 (accounting for 6.7% of their total orders). The average order price is $14.70.  The online ordering system was very basic with little extra feature such as suggestive selling or online specials.

What they found is that the average item in an online order is 15.0% more complex and has 6.1% more calories, in addition to being 23.3% more obscure.  In fact, the share of sales generated by the bottom eighty percent of items increased by 8.1% for Web orders - so be prepared for more sales of your unusual toppings or less popular appetizers. 

Researchers wanted to know why.  Was it because it's easier to order complex items on the website rather than in person? Is it because the menu is more readily apparent?  Their theory is rooted more in our deep psyche.  They were able to rule out these factors and, citing studies that show many consumers are reluctant to order higher calorie or unpopular items in person, concluded that the Internet lowers consumers' inhibitions and, consequently, leads them to choose a different set of products

The numbers also revealed important insights about the bottom line value of online ordering. The average customer increased their ticket averages online as well as their order frequency, leading to an average 20.8% gain per web customer per month.  That is, for every customer who orders online, the restaurant added $1.29 per month to their revenues without any other factors.  This did not include the impact of any suggestive selling or online promotions.   With 17% of this chain's customers using the web to order, they concluded that online ordering itself contributed to a 3.5% revenue boost chain wide. 

So if you're considering adding online ordering to your restaurant, be prepared not only for a boost in sales, but for an impact on your product mix.  Triple the pepperoni and see the value go straight to your bottom line!

Study: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/9082176/mcdevitt_internet_inhibitions_april_2012.pdf

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