When I had just started my business from home, I didn’t know how to reach people beyond my own network. The first time I got called by a customer who didn’t know me through someone else, I was shocked. I asked her where she found us and she said Zomato. That’s when I realized the power of leveraging an existing platform’s users to increase our sales. As Aroma and I dug deeper into this, we found the hacks that worked not only best for us, but also for free – and so, I’m sharing them with you:
1. List yourself for discovery
Many people don’t realize that Zomato started as a discovery platform and not an online ordering platform. What is the difference, you ask?
Think of a time you wanted to find a good place to eat Chinese in Koramangala – it’s most likely that you either googled it and clicked on a Zomato link or went directly to the Zomato app and searched for “Chinese in Koramangala.” You didn’t end up ordering from there for delivery, but you used Zomato like a search engine. That is basically what I mean by discovery.
It is likely that someone has already found you and listed your restaurant/bakery. To claim that you are the owner of the business and gain full access to edit the details that are displayed – you will need to show them some proof of ownership. An FSSAI license or GST number will work.
If you were to order the food home, then you’d use their feature that is called “on-demand delivery.” You needed it instantly, you ordered it and it will be at your doorstep in 30-45 minutes.
Sometimes, when a business is operating from home or is generally small and can’t afford to keep ready-made inventory, then this model doesn’t work out. For example, we make fresh cakes after receiving an order at Dream a Dozen – realistically that takes 3-4 hours. If a Zomato delivery person turned up at my doorstep, I wouldn’t be able to give him a fresh cake in 10 minutes.
As a consumer, you should also keep in mind that even though all of us like convenience and a fast service: fresh food takes time to be made. Most of the time, the faster you get your food – the less fresh it is likely to be.
2. Invest in good photography
I know that as small businesses, photography seems like an avoidable expense because everyone feels they can figure it out on their mobile. Unfortunately, that is true for a very small group of people. If you have good photos on Zomato, people will feel tempted to come there. Whereas if you have no photos uploaded by the restaurant and only ones by customers, then they may show something you don’t want highlighted. Maybe a dirty table or bad lighting that makes your product look unappetizing.
I’ve worked with at least 15 different photographers in the past 3 years and have realized you will definitely find someone who’s starting off their career and will be willing to help you at a nominal charge. Make that investment and it will make a world of difference.
3. Increase your ratings by finding microbloggers
When we had just listed on Zomato, I asked all my friends and family to go and rate us. Some 30 of them gave us 4 or 5 star ratings. Despite that, our average rating was 3.2 stars and we couldn’t understand why. Then we realized it is not an average of the reviews, it’s a weighted average.
Zomato encourages people to keep giving reviews by rewarding them with different “Foodie Levels.” The more places they visit (check ins), the more reviews they give and photos they upload – the higher up the foodie level they can climb. Everyone starts at Foodie level 1 and goes up to Foodie level 13 (the connoisseur).
All of my friends were foodie level 1 because they had barely reviewed one or two restaurants in the past, so their reviews weren’t given any weightage at all. Even when genuine customers were reviewing us, their reviews didn’t have any effect on our rating.
We hired a college student as an intern and she started searching for bloggers in the area. She reached out to people on Instagram, we would send them a sample of our cupcake box to give us a genuine review on Zomato. We were only able to reach out to people with foodie level 8 or 9. We realized that above that, the bloggers started charging Rs 500/review and I didn’t feel that was ethical to pay for a review so we didn’t do that.
As our rating started getting better, we gave up on this activity. It helped us with the initial traction and since then, customers have been reviewing us and it’s kept us at the same level. Our rating didn’t drop because we stopped this outreach, that was a relief. But it definitely helped us while starting out and I’d recommend this hack to other food business owners too.
4. Personalized touch with online ordering
If you choose to list yourself for online ordering, there are certain things to keep in mind. Zomato does not share the customer’s data – you cannot even see the name and number of the person you are servicing.
In my business, I make it a point to have a personal connection with all our customers and since this was missing when we were on Zomato, I started hand-writing notes to them. This little trick works wonders, because suddenly the customer knows that there’s a face behind the brand. I have converted many customers who ordered for small indulgences like lava cake or cookies into lifetime customers for larger customized cakes with just a 3 line note signed off with my name and phone number below, so that next time – they reach out to me directly.
Why is it better if they reach out directly? Because these aggregators eat a very large chunk of your pie (anywhere between 25-30% of revenue) if you’re a small business with one outlet and they know that you need them more than they need you.
Many people ask me about the documentation you need for Zomato. When we had listed ourselves 3 years ago – they asked for our FSSAI certificate. This is mandatory for anybody in the food business even if you are doing it from home and even if you are not listed anywhere. It is very simple and you should do it through the FOSCOS online portal instead of going through an agent. It is not mandatory to have a GST certificate if your revenue is below 20 lacs per annum, and you simply need to give a declaration stating the same.
5. Use the app “Zomato for business”
Once you “add a restaurant” and “claim a listing,” you will get access to a dashboard where you can edit all the fields Zomato displays to customers through your restaurant’s page. This will also include a menu, it’s a good idea to create an aesthetic menu so customers have an idea of what your offering is without you having to explain on call every time. You can easily do this for free through one of the templates on Canva and upload it as a pdf on Zomato.
You can also use the analytics setting to see what the trend is in your industry and where you stand. It’ll show you how many unique visitors checked out your page everyday/week/month. There is another feature called special menu that we use during festive times like a Diwali/Christmas season.
The ultimate question – do aggregators like Zomato/Swiggy really help businesses?
I’d diplomatically say that it depends on what your objective is and what type of food you make. Everyone in the F&B space knows that Biryani is the no 1 top selling product in the online-ordering space.
Zomato claims to have sold 22 biryanis every minute in 2020. However, desserts are at the bottom of this ladder, Indian consumer behaviour shows that even if one had a sweet craving – they are more likely to order icecream than a cake.
This is because we are in the occasion based business and people plan their cake purchases (unlike the on-demand format that online ordering offers). So in our case, it definitely helps in visibility but not so much in direct revenue. However, it’s a great way to acquire new customers and I’d definitely recommend any newcomer in this business to list themselves for discovery if not anything else.
If you’ve found a feature on Zomato that I haven’t mentioned or if you have any questions – write to me on Instagram and I’ll be happy to strike a conversation and add more to this post!