How Digital Media Wire’s Annual LA Games Conference Pivoted To Online

For the second consecutive year, Digital Media Wire’s annual LA Games Conference (LAGC) is going all-virtual. With the gaming industry seeing unprecedented growth throughout the pandemic, there will be a lot of ground to cover at the online event, which is set to take place from May 10-12. The agenda is divided into three categories—Games Business, Hollywood and Creators, and Mobile and Esports—and features more than 50 speakers.

Ahead of the event, we caught up with Tinzar and Ned Sherman, co-founders of Digital Media Wire and LA Games Conference, about this year’s theme, best practices for pivoting to online, how they tackled the absence of in-person networking and more. 

What is the theme of this year’s LAGC and what, if any, was the inspiration for this theme?

LAGC2021 focuses on the intersection between Hollywood and Gaming with focus on popular gaming trends such as UGC, Metaverse, NFTs, esports, diversity and inclusion in games and investment.  Our theme is inspired by the latest business and investment activity in the games ecosystem, which monitor throughout the year through our community and network of news and events.  

Do you have any best practices for putting together an event like LAGC online? 

Whether producing an event online, in person or as a hybrid, our advice is to focus on community and execution.   

What has been or continues to be the most challenging part about pivoting LAGC from in-person to online? 

We use Zoom as our online platform. Since everyone was already familiar with it, the transition from in-person to online conference was smooth. The challenge is to provide a meaningful networking opportunity to attendees looking to meet new contacts. Our attendees are active on chat during the panel sessions and have successfully used the chat format as a way to meet new contacts with whom they connect with after the event. 

Were there any takeaways from taking LAGC online the first time last year? 

The speakers and attendees were highly engaged in the online format.  We also had more global attendees who joined us last year and we are expecting similar global attendance this year. 

How or in what ways does online LAGC differ from the in-person event?

The in-person event had 3 simultaneous tracks and it’s a 1-day event compared to the online event being 3 days for 3 different tracks. The days are shorter for the online conference too so attendees are not sitting in front of the screens the entire day.  

For many, a big drawback of online events is the lack of face-to-face networking—after last year’s online event, do you have any insights on this new form of networking?

Yes, we had explored the alternatives but found that our attendees and speakers are quite good at connecting via Linkedin.  We encourage people to share their Linkedin profiles during the sessions. When we can safely gather again, we hope to host more in-person gatherings and to experiment with hybrid formats. 

How do you see LAGC’s event model evolving? 

We think that the online version is here to stay but there is value in face-to-face meetings and hope to host hybrid events going forward.

The following list represents this year’s LA Games Conference keynotes and featured speakers. See the full list of speakers here.

  • Angela Roseboro- Chief Diversity Officer, Riot Games
  • Ben Feder- President, International Partnerships (North America), Tencent Games
  • Bernard Kim- President of Publishing, Zynga
  • Chris DeWolfe- CEO and Co-Founder, Jam City
  • Jaci Hays- Chief Operations Officer, FaZe Clan
  • Jeonghee Jin- CEO, Pearl Abyss America
  • Maxim de Wit- Global Head of Content, Unity Technologies
  • Samantha Ryan- Senior Vice President, Group GM, BioWare, Full Circle, Maxis, Motive, Electronic Arts
  • Saxs Persson- Co-Chief Creative Officer, Mojang Studios, Minecraft
  • Simon Sim- President and CEO, Netmarble US
  • Stanley Pierre-Louis- President and CEO, Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
  • Ted Schilowitz- Futurist, Paramount Pictures

The IAB 2020/2021 Internet Advertising Revenue Report

Last year, spending confidence and economic activity plunged, with advertisers pausing campaigns and shifting ad dollars from traditional to digital media. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2020/2021 Internet Advertising Revenue Report, that shift resulted in an overall 12.2 percent increase in digital ad revenue last year compared to 2019.

The first half of 2020 was hit particularly hard, with digital ad revenue growth in Q2 declining 5.2 percent YoY. Nevertheless, IAB’s analysis reveals that those losses were offset by revenues in Q3 and Q4—an increase of 11.7 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively.

Lockdown-induced behavior, including the rise in adoption of connected TV, online shopping and at-home services, as well as the surge in social media usage, are among the reasons why digital ad revenues rebounded, and will continue to grow this year.

First off, social media accounted for 29.6 percent of all internet ad revenue, as revenues ballooned to $41.5 billion in 2020—a 16.3 percent YoY growth.

Search continues to dominate, bringing in $59 billion in ad revenues, a 7.8 percent increase since 2019 and representing a 42.2 percent share of total ad revenue.

Yet it’s digital video that saw the biggest ad growth last year, with a 20.6 percent increase in revenue since 2019. It now accounts for a 18.7 percent share of total ad revenue for 2020, a 1.3 percent increase YoY.

Pointing to the format’s rising prominence, IAB mentions that total digital video ad revenues were 61 percent higher in 2020 compared with 2018.

Mobile accounted for a majority of digital video’s growth, surging 25.3 percent to $18.5 billion—the strongest revenue growth across all formats when compared to desktop.

IAB also observed gains in audio revenues. The format grew by over $350 million in 2020, a 13 percent increase YoY largely driven by higher mobile audio revenues.

Programmatic ad revenues grew by $14.2 billion, a 25 percent increase YoY in line with the uptick in agencies and brands that shifted from performance to mission-based marketing. Digital video in particular has seen the biggest increase YoY versus other non-search ad methods, reports IAB.

In 2020, display just slightly increased its share as revenues totaled $44 billion—a 15.4 percent increase. During Q4, display format revenues experienced the strongest YoY growth in revenue, up 35.4 percent since 2019.

In addition to internet advertising, the only other media types with positive ad revenue growth were eSports and video games, at 17.9 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

As far as revenues by pricing model, IAB’s data show that 67.1 percent of 2020 internet ad revenues were priced on a performance basis, up from 62.9 percent in 2019; 32.4 percent were priced on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis, down from 35.2 percent in 2019;  and 0.5 percent were priced on a hybrid basis, a 1.9 percent decline from 2019.

Consumers Expect More Digital Experiences From Brands

Over half (53 percent) of consumers believe that online experiences will be more important than in-person ones, according to Appnovation’s latest report, “The Digital Consumer: Shifting Expectation and Digital Readiness.”

The research, based on an online survey among more than 1,500 consumers in the US and Canada, revealed that consumers have two key expectations from brands—to deliver more online experiences and create more digitally-enabled in-person experiences that include touchless technologies.

The top consumer expectation of brands is to care for the safety and wellbeing of their employees (72 percent) and educate consumers about measures they’re taking against the virus (51 percent). But apart from COVID-related expectations, 44 percent of consumers expect more digital experiences from brands, while 45 percent of respondents expect brands to improve existing digital product and service offerings.

Digital self-serve options are also a priority for consumers. Sixty-six percent say they want brands to offer tap-and-go payment options, 65 percent want the option to book appointments through a website or app and 51 percent want to see self-service kiosks.

A majority of consumers surveyed understand that brands struggled to keep up with the digital acceleration amid the pandemic, yet not all are forgiving. Fifty-eight percent of consumers believe brands should have been better prepared to meet their online needs. 

Nearly half of consumers say the pandemic has shown them that everything can be done online and that in-person interactions are no longer needed to have great customer experiences. What’s more, half of millennials say they switched to a new brand based on the digital innovation they leveraged in response to COVID-19.

Looking ahead, though 84 percent of consumers in both the US and Canada say they expect brands to offer a seamless experience between online and in-store shopping, the same number of people say online shopping experiences will never fully replace in-person ones.

Still, brands that don’t increasingly adopt digital solutions will suffer, as 50 percent of consumers say they won’t engage with a brand as often if it doesn’t offer online experiences.

Online interactions surged during the pandemic and are expected to increase even further moving forward, reports Appnovation. This increase will be more pronounced among 25-54 year olds across a variety of verticals–from travel and tourism planning and insurance claims to health and wellness advice and buying non-essentials like clothes.

Consumers–particularly those aged 25-54 who say digital experiences are extremely or very important across all industries–show a strong digital readiness when it comes to the banking, travel and tourism, healthcare and insurance industries.

“Gone are the days when consumers measured and compared your digital experiences to experiences in the same space. Today, they’re comparing you with the very best digital experiences across completely different industries,” says Anton Morrison, Appnovation vice president, experience design.

Some consumers believe that brands have work to do in making certain experiences more digitally-enabled. For example, one in three feel that technological innovation is required to enhance interactions during a car purchase and shopping for essentials such as groceries.

With 67 percent of consumers saying touchless technologies make them feel safer interacting with brands in-person, it’ll be critical for brands to develop these experiences as more people resume pre-pandemic activities. Currently, 58 percent say that when outside their home, touchless technology is part of their everyday routine. Yet another 36 percent say using a self-service touch screen at a public place makes them anxious.

A little more than half of consumers are completely comfortable with sensor and gesture recognition and touchless technology. In addition, 74 percent perceive companies using touchless technologies as caring towards their customers.

Consumers expect their use of voice assistants and faceless recognition usage to grow in the next year or so, at 62 percent and 56 percent, respectively. They see public spaces like hospitals, airports and hotels being a better fit for gesture and sensor recognition technologies. 

Ayzenberg VP Of Digital Michael Marina On The Future Of Virtual Events

Over the past year, virtual events proved critical to the survival of brands. Online concerts, conferences and the like afford organizers benefits that physical events never could, such as reduced costs and carbon footprint, greater accessibility and the ability to reach more digitally connected consumers. However, seeing how some brands have labeled a set of pre-recorded videos “a virtual event” raises the question: What defines a virtual event?

The answer is, we’re still figuring it out. On a foundational level, any time you can get a group of people to congregate, communicate and react to something at the same time, you’ve got yourself a live event to some extent. But according to that standard, there are thousands of live events happening all the time across platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitch. There has to be something more to virtual events than that.

I better understood what that something more entailed when I attended GatsbyConf in March. The free two-day virtual event, hosted on the Hopin platform, was exactly what I’d expect a virtual event to look and feel like. A keynote from Gatsby CEO Kyle Mathews kicked things off before talks and workshops proceeded from various speakers, including those who worked at Gatsby and others from companies like WordPress, Contentful, AgilityCMS and others.

GatsbyConf felt well thought-out for a few reasons. Like CES and other virtual conferences that took place last year, the presentations were pre-recorded videos. But what made these stand out is that after the pre-recorded video ended, GatsbyConf switched to a live stream of the speaker from the video as well as a moderator. Viewers could then submit questions in the chat room and the speaker would answer them live. This elevated pre-recorded content gave it that real-time feeling, which is one factor I think will separate effective virtual events from the rest.

I also noticed a function that directed viewers to a networking section, something similar to Chatroulette, which paired you with someone who had a mutual interest in networking. This feature is particularly important for virtual event organizers to nail as sixty-nine percent of event marketers said in a Bizzabo survey that networking is the biggest problem with virtual sessions. What would’ve made this networking feature on GatsbyConf even better is if participants could choose who specifically they wanted to network with.

Lastly, there was a trade booth area that showcased the logos of the different event sponsors. Upon “entering” that area, there was a live stream where the organizers were taking questions and answering them, but you could also enter a one-on-one chat with them. This felt nearly as natural as it would at an in-person event.

Virtual events have their limitations. For one, engagement can be a problem, like sixty-eight percent of event marketers expressed in the aforementioned Bizzabo survey. Admittedly, I was multitasking during GatsbyConf, trying to focus on presentations while answering work chats and emails.

Moving forward, I imagine events will take on a hybrid form, much like where the workplace is headed, mostly because brands can’t risk hosting super-spreader events. There might be some in-person events, but they’ll be smaller and more exclusive, perhaps only accessible to those in the C-Suite then available for others to livestream. 

Bizzabo predicts this hybrid format will involve micro-events that have virtual components, in other words, an in-person event that takes place one day and a continuation of the event that takes place online the day after. This year, IACC Americas will adopt a similar hybrid format where intimate, in-person events will offer unique experiences while the event’s main elements are broadcast together.

Since virtual experiences are replacing stores, the brands that will truly stand out from the rest will enable shopping directly within live events. As noted in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2021 Brand Disruption report, while the goal of marketing in the age of COVID-19 is still to create a customer, the new way to achieve that goal is through “participation via ongoing communities, social selling, live virtual events, classes, and other forms of active involvement in the brand.”

A brand that I think is getting virtual events right is Bud Light, both for its weekly music series, “Bud Light Seltzer Sessions: Your Flavor,” live-streamed on its YouTube, and its live New Year’s Eve concert headlined by Post Malone. During the latter event, viewers were able to switch between performances, join breakout rooms to watch the show with friends and family, post photos of themselves to a fan wall and enter a giveaway for a chance to win a meet-and-greet with performers.

Another example of a virtual event that exceeded my expectations was the second part of DC FanDome, “Explore the Multiverse.” This was a 24-hour experience that gave fans across the world free access to more than 100 hours of on-demand content, and the ability to choose from panel sessions, screenings and exclusive content from the franchise’s film, television, comics and games. The organizers were wise to include a kid-friendly portion that gave parents a break from the stresses of remote learning. 

Until consumers can decide their comfort levels with dining and shopping out, let alone attending in-person events, brands should utilize virtual events whenever possible. Though they’ll never supplant physical events, virtual events will be a powerful tool for engaging audiences at scale. If Grand View Research’s $78 billion valuation of the industry in 2019 is any indication, virtual events aren’t just a pandemic-induced trend. The firm expects the space will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 percent from 2020 to 2027.

Socialbakers: US Social Media Ad Spend Surged 92 Percent In Q4

Despite COVID-19’s economic impact, social media ad spend surged 92 percent in the US during Q4 2020, according to Socialbakers’ latest social media trends report. Globally, social media ad spend saw a 50 percent increase during the 2020 holiday season compared to the same period in 2019.

Other insights from the study include a worldwide increase in cost-per-click (CPC), greater reach for advertisers on Facebook and a decline in the use of Instagram influencers over the holidays.

The average ad spend across industries in Q4 increased by 33 percent quarter-over-quarter (QoQ), with ecommerce fashion, auto and alcohol seeing the largest growth. Ecommerce ad spend grew by 25 percent QoQ, more than doubling from Q1.

Digital ad spend grew 56 percent year-over-year (YoY), with global CPC nine percent higher YoY ($0.180 VS. $0.165). The global average mostly grew throughout the holiday season, reaching a high in mid-December and dropping at the end of the year.

In the US, the Q4 CPC peak was identical to that of 2019, but at the end of the year, it increased by 15 percent ($0.506 vs. $0.441).

Worldwide CPC for brands on Facebook and Instagram ended 2020 nearly 36 percent higher than it started ($0.141 vs. $0.104).

Socialbakers found that nearly 74 percent of total ad spend went to the main feeds of Facebook and Instagram. Instagram Stories received nearly 11 percent of spend.

The Facebook News Feed comprised 57 percent of the relative ad spend in Q4, followed by Instagram feed and Instagram Stories, which collectively accounted for 27 percent of spend.

Among top five placements by relative ad spend in Q4 2020 vs. Q4 2019, the Facebook News Feed grew by 12 percent in CPC and 4.6 percent in cost per thousand (CPM). Facebook in-stream video increased by 16 percent in CPM QoQ, while Facebook video feeds increased by 29 percent.

Globally, Facebook ad reach increased by 23 percent YoY, while it grew by nearly 76 percent YoY in the US. In Latin America, it increased by about 42 percent.

Indicating the growing dominance of Instagram, Socialbakers’ data reveal that in Q4, the total audience size of the 50 biggest brand profiles was 39 percent larger on Instagram than Facebook. YoY, Instagram’s audience grew by 11.3 percent compared to Q4 2019, while Facebook’s audience decreased by 17.6 percent.

Though 55 percent of all brand posts were on Facebook, there were 21.4 times more interactions on Instagram than on Facebook.

Facebook Live in Q4 saw nearly triple the organic interactions that Facebook videos saw. For Instagram, carousels saw the most organic interactions.

As far as influencer marketing, Socialbakers found that the usage of #ad in posts decreased by nearly 18 percent YoY. Additionally, the only cohort among influencers to grow was those with more than 1 million followers. While marketers partnered with nano- and micro-influencers more than any other kind of influencer in 2020, by the end of the year, the number of collaborations with mega-influencers grew while others declined.

Socialbakers’ ad spend data is based on a sample size of more than 15,000 Facebook advertising accounts.

Merkle: How Brands Are Preparing For The Demise Of Cookies

As the phase-out of cookies approaches, brands are concentrated on enhancing their first-party data practices and creating new ones. According to Merkle’s Q1 2021 Customer Engagement Report, 74 percent of brands are increasing investment in technology and vendor solutions due to growing data restrictions.

Some brands have yet to understand the impact of the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), both of which were introduced in the past two years. Merkle found that only 59 percent of brands have a very clear understanding of the impact of privacy-related restrictions on their systems and operations; the remainder were less clear.

When asked what aspects of marketing they expect to change due to new data laws, 41 percent of respondents said digital media activation, followed by 39 percent who said web analytics.

Merkle suggests that one near-term solution to this shift is a focus on contextual targeting. A long-term priority should be exploring new ways to capture first-party data, such as loyalty and form capture strategies. Already 52 percent of respondents are prioritizing the collection of more first-party data from digital experiences.

Similarly, 88 percent of marketers say collecting and storing first-party data is a high priority in the next six to 12 months. Another 84 percent said that integrating this data will also be a priority this year.

Increasing investments that enable brands to take more control of their first-party data will also be important, reports Merkle. This includes developing new experience strategies that build a first-party data asset with a private identity graph. In fact, 74 percent said they plan to invest more in technologies or vendor solutions in response to stricter data regulations.

As in-store shopping slows, consumers expect the same level of personalization in digital interactions, which ultimately rely on customer data and an integrated data platform. Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents see this as their biggest gap in delivering personalized omnichannel experiences.

Nevertheless, 77 percent of respondents feel they deliver a better customer experience online compared to in-person or over the phone. For 76 percent of respondents, a full continuity between their brands’ online and in-person experiences is missing.

Across industries, 81 percent said having an audience management platform that centralizes and activates data across all online and offline channels is their highest priority.

Zero-party data, that which a customer voluntarily shares with a brand, is also becoming a high priority for brands. They can acquire this type of data through transactions or during conversations with customers online and in person. Alternatively, a brand can request this feedback through forms or surveys in exchange for a coupon, discount or limited products/services.

Another valuable source of data brands should invest in is second-party data, data that’s shared by partner companies, alliances and consortiums. Forty-nine percent of respondents labeled second-party data a high priority. One example of this when Amazon partnered with Buick on a campaign to reach young buyers to the brand while also promoting Alexa. Nearly 60,000 people participated by asking their Alexas about the activation, and 150,000 people have visited the digital showroom on Amazon to date.

To make sense of all their new data, businesses should also look to invest in data clean rooms, where multiple sources of data can be analyzed to protect privacy and data ownership. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they’re increasing investment here.

Merkle’s findings are based on a survey among 800 marketing, analytics and technology executives of major companies from the US and UK.

Apps Flyer: Mobile Game Installs Jumped 45 Percent This Year

The pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving to the gaming world. According to Apps Flyer’s annual State of Gaming report, mobile games globally saw a 45 percent surge in installs compared to last year as the crisis led scores of new players to try mobile gaming for the first time.

Apps Flyer’s data show that organic installs grew by 33 percent while non-organic installs (NOI) increased by 69 percent, the result of competition around organic app discovery.

Globally, hyper casual, casual and to some extent midcore games grew at double the rate of hardcore and social casino games. NOI installs for hyper casual games saw a 250 percent surge while total installs of hyper casual games grew by 90 percent. 

Realizing the opportunity to reach pandemic-driven mobile gamers, hyper casual games accelerated their user acquisition (UA) budgets. But to remain competitive, mobile games must utilize granular segmentation, bid optimization and predictive modeling in determining player journeys, suggests Apps Flyer.

NOI installs grew by 72 percent for midcore games, 58 percent for casual games, 27 percent for social casino games and 21 percent for hardcore games.

In-app spending (IAP) picked up in April then peaked in May with a 25 percent increase compared to February. IAP dipped slightly from May to June but peaked again in July.

As IAP revenue surged 67 percent from February to August, in-app ads revenue (IAA) declined 16 percent during the same time period, perhaps indicating players’ lower tolerance for ads this year.

Notable findings for the US mobile game market include a 35 percent increase in cost per installs (CPIs) post-lockdown, namely from May to September following the return of big brand budgets. Through August, there was a 27 increase in IAP revenue on iOS devices compared to an 11 percent decrease on Android.

As the share of paying users in the US grew by 25 percent since lockdown, the US also saw a 30 percent decline in revenue generated by ads, driven by hardcore, social casino and midcore games.

Apps Flyer’s research shows that remarketing drivers a significant performance lift in retention, share of paying users and average revenue per paying users, particularly in hardcore and social casino games. 

Despite its effectiveness and more cost-friendly nature, its adoption is relatively low, particularly among midcore and casual games. To address this, mobile apps should explore remarketing via paid channels and use push, email and social to improve overall re-engagement.

Additionally, it’ll be important for mobile games to introduce or enhance the social layer in their game to achieve organic growth that isn’t dependent solely on app store discovery.

Ralph Lauren Creates Virtual Replicas Of Its Physical Stores

Ralph Lauren has launched a series of virtual experiences in response to pandemic-driven shopping behavior, including digital replicas of four of its brick-and-mortar stores, an augmented reality (AR) experience via Snapchat as well as a shoppable virtual game on its website and Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games.

Ralph Lauren saw promising results when it tested a virtual version of its Beverly Hills store this fall—virtual foot traffic was 10 times higher than the number of people who would have visited the storefront, reports WWD. In response, the brand created virtual versions of its stores in New York, Paris and Hong Kong. Shoppers can virtually walk around in each store, where current-season items and vintage pieces are available to buy.

The brand has also teamed with Snapchat to create a series of AR experiences that users can unlock by scanning the Polo Pony logo from apparel, printed materials, digital executions, shopping bags and ads. David Lauren, vice chairman and chief innovation officer, told WWD that it took eight months to develop the technology.

The AR initiative follows the success of the brand’s Snapchat-enabled Bitmoji Collection, which enabled consumers to mix and match branded garments inspired by real-life designs. In Q2, over 10 million users dressed their Bitmoji in Ralph Lauren and tried on the collection over 250 million times.

The third component to Ralph Lauren’s digital holiday offerings is a shoppable virtual game called The Holiday Run, in which the brand’s signature Polo Bear races to physical Ralph Lauren stores worldwide, discovering and collecting new products. Fans around the world can play the game on Ralph Lauren’s website or through Messenger’s Instant Games. Next month, Ralph Lauren will bring the game to life via a live Twitch event featuring major gamers from the UK, France and Germany

Ralph Lauren’s heavy digital investment comes as the company has been struggling with financial fallout from the pandemic. Its Q1 performance update revealed a dip in sales, with North America revenue seeing the biggest decline at 77 percent, followed by a 67 percent drop in Europe and a 34 percent decrease in Asia. Revenue plummeted 66 percent year-over-year to $487.5 million.

In September, the company, which has 530 stores, announced it would cut 15 percent of its global workforce.

To help stay afloat, it started offering virtual client selling and appointment booking, buy online pick up in-store, curbside pickup, mobile checkout and contactless payments.

Its digital efforts paid off in Q2, when email campaigns with predictive artificial intelligence and high-reach paid social media helped add more than 1 million new customers to its direct-to-consumer platforms alone.

Chipotle Launches Sustainability Impact Tracker For Digital Orders

Chipotle has introduced a new feature on its app and website called Real Foodprint that details the brand’s supply chain practices and shows the sustainability impact of customers’ digital orders, which they can share on Twitter.

The sustainability impact tracker compares average values for each of Chipotle’s 53 ingredients to their conventional counterparts against five key metrics provided by independent research company HowGood.

Chipotle enlisted Bill Nye the Science Guy to demonstrate how the Real Foodprint feature works in his latest TikTok video where he plays both the part of a Chipotle patron and employee. Within six hours, the video amassed  237,700 likes and nearly 2,400 comments.

When placing orders on Chipotle’s app or website, the order confirmation message will display data on environmental savings based on averages for the ingredients that comprise a customer’s order. Those savings include less carbon in the atmosphere, gallons of water saved, improved soil health, organic land supported and antibiotics avoided. Customers can share their order’s tracker results on Twitter.

To determine the impact each Chipotle ingredient has on the environment and animal welfare, HowGood collects information from Chipotle’s suppliers and over 450 data sources like peer-reviewed scientific literature, industry findings and research from government and non-governmental organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization and the United States Food & Drug Administration.

According to its latest earnings report, Chipotle’s sales surged 14.1 percent from last year to a quarterly record of $1.6 billion as digital sales grew 202.5 percent and accounted for nearly half of total sales. However, its profit dropped 19 percent due in part to delivery expenses. Chipotle says its delivery fees don’t fully cover the commissions it pays to partners such as Grubhub and DoorDash.

Digital Drive-Thru Menus Expected At 10,000 Chains In The US And Canada By Mid 2022

Restaurant Brands International has announced that it’s testing digital drive-thru menu boards with loyalty program and remote, contactless payment integration at more than 10,000 Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons chains in the US and Canada by mid 2022.

The company says it plans to install more than 40,000 waterproof digital screens featuring predictive selling technology that allows for special offers to be tailored based on customers’ previous orders, weather patterns and the time of day. The technology can “learn preferred ordering habits” and will show the latest and trending menu items most-ordered in a customer’s location.

The 46-inch digital screens, powered by Stratacache Media Engines, are featured in 800 Tim Hortons locations in the US and Canada and 1,500 Burger King locations in the US. They’ll arrive at Popeyes chains later this year.

RBI is currently testing digital menu boards with integrated loyalty programs, enabled via scanning, bluetooth or near-field communication, at 30 Tim Hortons locations in Canada.

Immediate, remote contactless payment backed by Verifone will also be available through the digital menu boards. A Tim Hortons restaurant in Canada is home to the first prototype of this payment method, with 15 additional locations to test the functionality by January 2021.

To further increase the efficiency at its restaurants, RBI is installing, where possible, double drive-thru lanes at some locations.

RBI’s push to modernize the drive-thru experience comes as over 100,000 bars and restaurants have permanently closed due to the pandemic and many intact restaurants are slow to offer socially-distanced outdoor dining services.

According to research from The NPD Group, drive-thru restaurant visits surged by 26 percent in Q2. Even as more restaurants reopened in July, drive-thru visits increased by 13 percent.

Rapid digital transformation has enabled brands to adapt to the crisis and will be a strategic necessity to thrive during the process of an economic recovery. But with automation comes large amounts of data and therefore, risk, especially with the enactment of data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Remaining agile in the new normal will require brands to invest in automation tools that not only enhance consumer experiences but also protect their privacy.