Just Eat, a food delivery app, is one of the UK’s fastest growing brands. Matt Bushby, Just Eat’s UK Marketing Director, speaks to WARC’s Anna Hamill for WARC Marketer's Toolkit 2021 about working with new social media platforms such as Twitch and TikTok, the at-home opportunity, and the future of data-driven marketing.

Firstly, congratulations on Just Eat being one of BrandZ's fastest growing brands in the UK for 2020. How has this year been for the brand in terms of super-charging growth?

It's been a fairly remarkable year. From Just Eat’s point of view, it's played out in a number of different ways. We started 2020 really pushing forward with our ambition to cement and grow our market leader position in the UK. We did that through the sponsorship of Love Island and through the continued development of our comms platform.

In March COVID-19 struck and as a market leader, our responsibilities and focus changed. Our role became much more one of support for our industry and for our wider surroundings. We obviously have our restaurants, couriers, and customers as well, and It became important for us as an organisation – but also as a marketing function – to make sure we were doing things that helped those groups who were going through incredibly difficult times. Whether that was building and communicating restaurant support and courier support packages, whether it was turning our comms towards discounts for NHS workers, working with the likes of ITV and the BBC on things like ‘The Big Night In’ or on ‘Britain Get Talking’, it became increasingly important that we were able to fulfil that role.

We (also) saw a role that we could play in injecting normality back into the world. Our brand platform is one of delivering joy, and therefore we felt that there was no better way of delivering joy than bringing a new campaign with Snoop Dogg to the fore in May. It was key for us to stay really close to consumer data to understand, from a gut point of view, what felt right from a national sentiment perspective before we then took that platform out to market. It's been a great success for us. It's helped us to really grow and develop the brand.

We've had the opportunity to roll out some of the biggest brands in the UK, particularly the likes of McDonald, Gregg’s and Pret which are new to the platform. So it's been a busy three-quarters of the year so far, and it shows no sign of abating.

Key insights

  • Just Eat’s sponsorship of Love Island and adoption of TikTok, Twitch and other platforms have been crucial for reaching 18-34 year olds and building brand fame.
  • COVID-19 has driven exponential growth in the ‘at -home economy’ and Just Eat now has more opportunities around breakfast and lunch delivery.
  • Logistics is the new frontier of customer experience, and can make or break a brand.
Just Eat has really been investing in brand-building over the last couple of years, especially in TV. How will you be evolving your media investment in the next 12 months for the next stage of that growth?

We see investment in the brand as key to building the business. It's absolutely fundamental. We've always been invested in TV but that's been particularly the case this year, whether it be through those bigger sponsorships such as Love Island or investment in sport. We launched the Snoop campaign and continued to take that through some of the biggest properties on TV and into the homes of the nation during lockdown and thereafter.

I also think there are big changes that we've seen in the media consumption landscape. Those platforms that were emerging – the likes of Twitch and TikTok – have seen huge acceleration. The growth in those audience numbers has been phenomenal. We've used those as well to help us reach audiences who are consuming media in a very different way, particularly those younger audiences. So whether that's TikTok takeovers, working with gaming influencers on Twitch or working closely with platforms like Snap, Facebook or Twitter, we've done a lot to ensure that we're engaging as broad an audience as we can.

Matt Bushby, UK Marketing Director, Just Eat

Are you seeing that younger audiences in particular are more likely to discover your brand through social media or TV sponsorships?

TV is still key. It plays a unique role in people's lives. It's a different environment where people are in a different headspace. The best place to get mass brand adoption and really build your brand is TV.

But increasingly, with the 18-34 market, it’s a declining TV audience and their media consumption has been diversifying. Whether it is YouTube, Snapchat or TikTok… it's important that as a brand, we're there. But we've got to be there in an authentic way. It's been really important for us to build content and our brand in a way that is native to those platforms and ensures that what we're doing feels right for those customers in that place. It's not simply a case of taking your TV ad and trying to squash it together or push it into another format. It's about building content that's genuinely native to those platforms.

The rise of the at-home economy in the wake of COVID-19 will be a huge trend defining 2021 and one that fits your business perfectly. What specific new behaviours are you noticing at Just Eat, and how do you intend to respond to that?

COVID-19 has driven exponential growth of the at-home economy. We saw, in the first half, over 32% year-on-year global growth of the Just Eat business. We've also seen significant growth in the number of restaurants on our platforms. Thousands have come to Just Eat as they've seen a change in the way in which consumers are behaving and they've seen a significant uplift in food delivery. In terms of how we've responded, a big part has been the way we've supported the industry and made sure that Just Eat becomes a platform where restaurants feel they can genuinely grow their business in a sustainable and interesting way. That means we're bringing to bear the best insight we can around food delivery, and making sure that we make it as economic and as profitable as we possibly can for (restaurants).

We are seeing changes in consumer behaviour, and there's a few that really stand out. One is that we're eating our dinner earlier… We've seen it come forward almost an hour and a half, it's (because of) the death of the commute really. We've seen an increase in basket size as well, which suggests that people are eating together. It's been a fascinating change in some of those social dynamics, which I think has also played through in terms of what we've seen from a breakfast and lunch point of view. Our breakfast and lunch demand has gone up by almost 100% in both cases.

One that emerged over the last couple of months has been this growth in ‘holiday destination cuisine’. So we've seen an uplift of more than 50% recently in Turkish, Greek, Thai and Vietnamese food… It feels very much as though we're starting to see people realise their holiday is not going to happen this year and want a little taste of what might have been.

One of the major trends we’re seeing at WARC is brands investing in e-commerce. What lessons has Just Eat learned from scaling up a mobile-based e-commerce business that you would share with those looking to create that capability for their own brand?

I think those lessons are pretty simple: it's ensuring that the customer is at the heart of everything you do. It sounds like a platitude, but what we found is that what our customers want and how they use Just Eat has changed over time. You need to start from a point of view where you're delivering, and producing or selling, something that people want. That sounds like an obvious thing, but there are enough businesses built around a good idea that nobody wanted.

Just Eat used to be a traditional marketplace. We had independent restaurants on one side of our business, customers on the other, and we linked them together. We saw customer trends change, and people wanting something different. People want food, whether it be from big QSRs or from smaller independent restaurants. We've built a logistics business that has helped us to deliver that to our customers... We've constantly needed to understand what our customers want, what they're doing, and those emerging trends. You need to ensure that actually what you're doing is continuing to be relevant at the forefront of what people want. If you can do that, I think you'll be a huge success.

And logistics is part of the new customer experience when it comes to e-commerce, right? It can make or break your brand.

Absolutely, yes. The expectation to deliver to customers in the time and way they anticipate is increasing. We're only seeing expectations rising – people are expecting things quicker… It's about building a business and building a structure that allows us to do that and allows us to be flexible enough to meet all of those different needs.

How have you changed the way you generate consumer insights and use data within the last few months? This is a really volatile period. Are you making any changes to get things done faster?

It's a challenge. As a business, we've always had the luxury of data. We take over one million data points everyday on Just Eat. It's always key to use those in a way that means you're getting genuine insight and you're understanding what's going on from a customer, restaurant or a courier perspective. Then, you can start to translate that into meaningful improvements that can help to make their experience a better one.

I've been in a number of virtual focus groups where we've been getting people together to understand how they're feeling more broadly about the ‘macro’ situation, but also understanding how they're interacting with food delivery and Just Eat over the period. We’re also working really closely with the restaurants. Under normal circumstances, we get together with all of the various different contributors and leaders within the takeaway space and work really closely with them on how we build and advocate for that particular group. That's being done over Zoom and WhatsApp and a whole load of different mediums that have really enabled us to keep doing that work and keep representing the industry in the best way that we can. So, you have to change and you have to adapt new methods. But I think the key thing is really taking that time to engage with these various different groups, whether they be customer groups or restaurant groups.

There's obviously a lot of new data regulation impacting brands in Europe and also elsewhere. When it comes to the idea of a cookie-less future or more regulation in the data space, what do you expect that to look like in terms of your data strategy?

We envision a future that remains data-driven throughout our marketing… We have built good practice across our various digital channels. But we're always looking at ways in which we can use data and insights to help supplement that and make it smarter.

I think there is always a danger that certain areas of digital marketing become over-engineered… The old adage remains: if you have good content, and you put it in the right context, then you will be successful in what you're doing from a marketing point of view. Obviously that’s not just for digital, but for all advertising. We're continuing to work as regulation changes, and as platforms change as well, to make sure that we are constantly testing ways to ensure that our comms remain relevant, interesting and engaging for our customers and that we're able to bring the right content to the right people at the right time.