CMO profile: Repositioning and enabling Providoor to operate in the next normal

Chief marketing officer for premium restaurant marketplace talks through the customer insights and tech investments ingredients making up his growth recipe

Many Australian businesses launched into digital ecommerce by necessity during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some were hasty bolt-ons, others represented completely new business models that flourished.

Providoor, a marketplace enabling Australians to access some of the country’s best restaurants from home, is one of the latter. The brand was born out of the pandemic, a marketplace launched by Melbourne-based celebrity chef, Shane Delia, in 2020 to enable high-end restaurants to get premium food offerings into the hands of house-bound diners.

Fast forward to today, and Providoor has helped restaurants deliver more than 1 million meals across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, giving customers as close to an in-restaurant meal as possible by allowing them to complete the last steps of the cooking process at home.

Given these lockdown beginnings, it’s not surprising to hear the first imperative of its inaugural chief marketing officer, Michael McCash, was to find out why customers still valued the service and what they wanted from Providoor when not in enforced lockdown conditions. McCash joined Providoor in January 2022 after a stint leading consumer growth marketing for DoorDash. His resume also includes marketing roles with HotDoc, Assembly Payments (now Zai), Australia Post, MYOB and Eftpos Direct.

“While we had collected some data, viewpoints and done some research, it was born from lockdown,” McCash tells CMO. “I’m a massive believer in quant, qual, quant research: You do quick research to understand some parts, then do broad qualitative research to find out more.

“In three months, we spoke to 300 customers to understand occasions and what they use as for, the good versus bad, and delved into motivations and other factors. We started building out that bigger picture. From there, it’s much easier to create new themes and engage in further quant research to validate opportunities.

“We coupled this with brand metrics and stats on where we sit in the marketplace, how we are perceived, why they choose us and frequency. Through this, we built this cross-dynamic of data showing what customers now use us for, what uses they see us for in future, what our product groupings today and offerings we had landed, and where the gaps and opportunities lay.  

“From there, we started building our larger selections, different opportunities and restaurant partners.”

Distinct offering

Driving this investment into customer insight and market clarity are clear goals for where Providoor wants to end up.

“We are distinctly different to the others in our category and space – both in the product offering but also how we work with partners and how they have to adapt to it as well,” McCash explains.  “This makes us unique, but also makes us very special. My remit is therefore to grow awareness and ensure we maintain the high customer experience and premium position we have built. It’s ensuring we maintain premium alignment with our restaurant partners. We are very protective of their brands and are a custodian of them, so we need to treat that with respect.”

Credit: Providoor

To do this, McCash needed a team and go-to-market structure and strategy enabling Providoor to transition from lockdown and pandemic to the next normal.

“I’ve worked for startup businesses before where in that early stage of analysing the product market fit you wonder if you’ve got it right. Here, it was resolute. Ninety-nine per cent of people had an exceptional experience and would highly recommend us,” McCash says. “So we knew we had the right product. What we probably didn’t nail was where people would want to use us moving forward.

“Post-lockdown, adaption to other occasions we are great for took a bit of time for us to go through. We had to learn what these were, understand them better from a customer perspective, understand the dining experience better and post-lockdown, where we fit in the landscape.”

Initially, Providoor’s captive audience was two people locked in the house, unable to travel more than a certain distance. Today, popular occasions go from banquets for two to catering for four, six and eight people as they host dinner parties and larger special occasions, such as Mother’s Day, at home.

“Bringing those premium restaurants people love into the home and catering at a larger scale with some tweaking to provide such accessibility has been a big change,” McCash says. “We realise our growth is in having friends over for the weekend, or people with kids, making these restaurant choices accessible and easy to do at home.

“This gives us a solid growth trajectory, both in the moments, plus everyday as well. For instance we are finding diners enjoying slightly smaller orders but enjoying it as an elevated takeaway as opposed to another platform or local offering.”

Tech investments

In complement with research to understand occasions and customer sweet spots, Providoor has been replatforming its technology back-end to be better fit-for-purpose.  

“We realised we were limited somewhat by technology and our existing platforms, which had served their purpose at the time but not for the future,” McCash says. “The challenge we had, especially as we grew into several states and locations, was added complexity coming from that. Shopping ecommerce places are not geared for marketplaces, and those geared for marketplaces aren’t generally geared for geolocated products.”

While noting previous provider, Marketplacer as an exceptional platform, McCash said the technology was geared to shipping a product anywhere and passing the order through. “Where it wasn’t fit for purpose was geolocated – so if you’re in Sydney, you can only have these things, versus in Melbourne, you can only have these things,” he explains.  

“So we have rebuilt the tech stack to work with partners and how they use it. We also needed something to better manage inventory more responsively, to cope with things like when a restaurant sells out of something on the night. With our range of brands, and thousands of items, those things are complex to solve.”

Providoor has brought on Commercetools and Convert Digital as a result. The Commercetools Composable Commerce platform provides headless and composable commerce, while ecommerce Web design and development agency, Convert Digital, has supported Providoor on replatforming its website.

Providoor now offers same-day delivery, and has real-time inventory visibility. Its API functionality provides more flexibility and extensibility, better connects Providoor with its partners and ensures integration across the company’s full tech stack.

Rebuilding martech has been another component, and Providoor has been putting a customer data platform (CDP) in place. The business uses Klaviyo for EDM, SMS and communications, and McCash says commerce and website tools were chosen because they integrate well.  

“We now have the martech that will see us grow for years to come. We were particular and selective about what that was so we didn’t have to keep redoing things. It should be iterative from now on,” McCash says.

“We looked for best-in-class for the thing that platform does, but to also make sure things are as interchangeable as possible. We are now going through a process of looking at our referrals platform. It’s easy to look at tech choices by exploring what will work with what we have now, bring in our specific user requirements and narrow the field down quickly.”

An example of how this tech foundation is helping augment experiences McCash points to is enabling and promoting high-quality content and special event menus with partners. One such opportunity is the recent launch of Curtis Stone events.

He also notes within weeks of launching same-day delivery, it had become 18-20 per cent of how customers now choose to order with Providoor.

To support these changes, McCash is evolving his team’s skillsets. “What we needed in the first six months of 2022 was different as we added new martech and functionality,” he agrees.

“Merchandising, front-end development, and deep CRO tests and optimisation was previously really difficult. It was very hard to run tests. As we added that, we needed talent with skills in those areas. We have done that with paid performance, communications and other people internally have been exceptional at taking on more and taking on additional remits as we have adapted.

“What I envisaged as a team and structure in January, by June was very different. As we finalised 2023 plans, it was again looking quite different.”

Partner mix

From a partner perspective, Providoor has additionally adapted offerings and go-to-market mechanisms to make it easier for them to participate. Noting the ongoing staff and produce shortages continuing to plague the hospitality industry, McCash says the emphasis has been on streamlining so there’s less impact on a restaurant’s processes, staffing and delivery.

“Think about the local restaurant, their process of cooking a Thai green curry: Putting it in a plastic container and having that sent out to you doesn’t change the process very much. Whereas with us, we want it to be finished at home and the finished product to be as close to the dining experience you would have in the restaurant,” he comments. “It needs to be prepared and cooked in a way indicative of that, so you know you can have that exceptional meal at the end.

“There is this process flow working with partners to educate them on that. That is a change for them, so there is change management required when coming onboard.”  

Providoor’s partner mix has equally changed as the pandemic progressed and restaurants experienced different challenges. “For example, when we launched in Brisbane, a number of launch partners were impacted by the floods and it took them a few months to come back. The prioritisation was on in-venue,” McCash says.  

“We also want to retain that premium experience. We have a very resolute mission internally, which is to make exceptional food experiences accessible. It’s juxtaposed with purpose, and the fact exceptional food experiences tend to be constrained. Our ability to bring Rockpool across the eastern seaboard is leaning into the accessible side. It doesn’t have to mean it has to be pricey either, it’s the best possible in that space. But this does limit the number of people we’d want on the platform.”

Creative and brand positioning

Then there’s the brand building and creative expression Providoor is pursuing. In October, it debuted the ‘We worship food’ multi-channel brand campaign focused on the love and devotion of food consumers can have across diverse backgrounds. The creative work embraces a devout, religious element, while showcasing the connection between Providoor and its restaurant partners.

To do this, the video-oriented work teased out individual nuances that celebrate the personality of each chef and restaurant. The launch film was produced in collaboration with Revolver and directed by Leilani Crouche, while the creative work was done with agency partner, Emotive.  

McCash says 2023 is about homing in and growing marketshare in the category Providoor wants to craft and position.

“It’s about more brand awareness and growth in customer categories we know we resonate most with, building the value propositions, then the transition of making sure we’re using our tech to grow that marketshare and build awareness,” he says. “We have to be decisive about where we do, who we target, who loves us, who is ordering from us frequently, and giving them the best possible experience each and every time.”  

The other priority is experience optimisation, and McCash has the goal of pushing into new levels of experiential dining this year.

“Say you watched a chef on TV or saw something they created. The ability for us to have that and distribute that is quite interesting for shows, publications, chefs and international players who are looking for accessibility. There is a lot in that from a media, creative and publisher space to grow into,” he says.

“We’re also collaborating with others with best-in-class offering in this space. At Christmas, we launched a co-branding partnership with Cultiver, which provides napery, crockery and tableware. These are important factors in the experiences, as are alcohol and music. It’s all adding to creating that ambience at home.”  

And while McCash admits the economic downturn and fears of recession would have seen many marketers, including himself, reforecast, he believes Providoor sits in a category that will retain relevance.

“While people are going out less, it doesn’t change the fact they love exceptional food, or what humans and friends around them. We bring that to them,” he adds. “We have built a niche where I’d go to 3-4 restaurants a month, but I’m happy to sacrifice that now, spend more per head and have an exceptional experience at home. Nothing is recession-proof, but the impact I expect would be less than in other categories and sectors.”  

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