More than two decades ago, Pizza Hut sold its first pizza online—reportedly the first thing ever sold on the Internet. Ever since, the nation’s pizza chains have been leading the way in online sales innovation. And this year, that innovation is expected to continue as pizza brands fight off a stiff competitive field.
In the last two years, the industry saw new online ordering tools from some of the biggest quick-serve pizza players. For example, in 2013, Pizza Hut’s online sales surpassed the $1 billion mark, helped in part by the brand’s game-changing Xbox 360 ordering app, which reportedly generated more than $1 million in sales in its first four months. And in October, competitor Domino’s Pizza, another leader in online ordering, debuted its voice-ordering system, allowing customers to order on the mobile app using their voice rather than their fingers. The voice-activated system is named Dom and works like Apple’s Siri.
But now, there’s an emerging contender in town giving companies like Domino’s and Pizza Hut a run for their money—Toppers Pizza. Year to date, Toppers’ online sales have reached a record high of 48.02 percent. To put that number in perspective, in 2015, online sales peaked with a record high of 42.21 percent. And according to Mark Cairns, the director of franchise development, if Toppers keeps moving forward at such a rate, the brand will end 2016 just points under a company-wide average of 42 percent—a 24 percent increase over 2015.
This boom in online traffic comes nearly eight months after the hire of Tony Ellis, Toppers’ vice president of information technology. When Ellis came on board, one of his first goals was to improve upon Toppers’ cloud technology foundation. His mission was to enhance the speed and stability of Toppers.com—both as a mobile and desktop experience—so that during peak hours, users aren’t experiencing a slow-down in load times. Today, Toppers.com loads 30 to 50 times faster. According to Cairns, this is a huge win for the brand—especially on days where they expect four- to five-times the traffic, like during the Super Bowl.
“It’s clear that our investment in technology is paying off in a big way. People talk about Dominos’ technology leading the pack all the time. But we’re here to prove that Toppers has something equally as good,” Cairns said. “On days like Super Bowl, which is historically one of our busiest online ordering days, our website would be very sluggish. But now, that has increased dramatically. Users are finding our website so much easier and quicker to use—that 10 second wait time can really make or break an order. Our digital and e-commerce teams are constantly improving a customer’s online experience to make ordering online as easy as ever.”
Now, with 2017 in sight, Toppers is unveiling another round of initiatives to kick up online ordering even more. In December, Toppers rolled out its 12 Days of Toppers special. The brand followed this up with the launch of a new Upsell Module that encourages customers to add on wings to their order during check-out.
“Our goal is to put Toppers in a positioning where we’re providing the best technology in the pizza space. We want to be an innovator in our segment, and technology is a huge piece of that,” Cairns said. “As we continue building upon our e-commerce platform, we believe that the next big thing in the tech space for Toppers Pizza comes in the form of our most important Team Member, toppers.com.”