Multiple franchisees, one website: how to solve the challenges

What does the perfect franchise website look like and how does it work?

How do you optimise your website? We asked Catchi managing director Cornelius Boertjens to explain how to convert online visitors into customers.

The dream of every franchisor: one perfectly branded website, with all its franchisees using it in the same way, following corporate digital guidelines. However for most franchises this remains just that – a dream.

In our work with a range of large franchisors over the years, we know all about the range of different challenges franchises have to overcome with their online offering – but there are two big ones in particular, which we’ll cover today.

We tend to notice that all franchise organisations struggle with both these challenges, but the geo location issue tends to occur more with franchise organisations selling a physical product and the brand consistency issue happens more with franchise organisations generating leads online with the actual transaction happening offline.

Geo location

One of the key challenges with some franchise organisations selling or generating leads online is the allocations of leads and sales.

So a franchise organisation sells a product online and the order needs to be fulfilled by one of the franchisees – how do you allocate this sale properly? Franchise organisations need to have proper omnichannel fulfilment systems in place in order to take care of both offline and online orders.

Large global franchise organisations like Pizza Hut and Domino’s let you order via one central website and have you select a pick-up location; for deliveries, the system picks a store for you.

Challenges with online sales arise when there is no central fulfilment and website and franchises have their own sites selling products online. This takes away the control regarding the area the franchisee operates in.

According to Franchisees’ Websites and Concept Uniformity: A New Challenge for Franchisors, in Europe franchisors look at online-selling two different ways: passive vs active sales.

Passive sales by franchisees refer to people coming across the franchisee’s website using for example a search engine. Active sales are sales that are the ones promoted by the franchisees using for example mass email and online ads.

The European Commission is highly favourable to online selling, but it also wants to ensure that a franchise group doesn’t get destabilised by a few very strong and aggressive franchisees that focus (purely) on online sale.

Some franchise organisations have guidelines to ensure the exclusion of “pure players” as well as the quality requirements placed on franchisees’ websites.

Other franchisors require each franchisee to sell a minimum quantity of products (in either volume or value terms) offline in order to ensure sustainability of the physical store.

Target areas are even more of a challenge when it comes to lead generation and we have seen this with several large franchisors we’re working with when optimising the leads generated online.

Trying to coordinate generated leads when visitors to the main franchisor’s website contact someone outside their geographic area is very challenging and needs to be dealt with consistency and fairly.

Brand consistency

Another growing challenge we’ve seen over the last few years is franchise organisations trying to maintain brand consistency and protect their brand.

Some franchisees just do what they want, ignoring the brand guidelines, corporate language and templates. There are often a range of different reasons for this but a very common one is the difference in digital skills between the franchisees.

Something we’ve noticed is that the younger franchisees often fully embrace the internet and want to use it to the max to grow their business. Sometimes they are more digitally savvy than the franchisor and this creates frustration as they see the opportunity their franchise business has if they use the digital channels properly, but the franchisor isn’t fast enough in getting things done (often due to lack of resource and knowledge).

This is when we tend to see franchisees starting to run their own (non brand conform) Adwords campaigns, doing video marketing, writing blog posts and setting up landing pages.

They start using a different tone of voice and possibly different (low-res) images. Over time this really damages the brand as the cohesion is gone.

On top of that, because everything online stays online pretty much forever, the digital footprint can never be erased.

This behaviour really hurts conversion rates.

As a result, we often get approached to help drive digital transformation and over the last few years we’ve worked with a range of large franchise organisations on online templates and guidelines for franchisees to adhere to, to keep that brand consistency on course.

We’ve also assisted with digital insights and run in-house conversion rate optimisation (CRO) training courses focusing on uniformity with these organisations to ensure they lead the digital transformation and stay in control of their digital presence, while offering their franchisees the best possible leading digital assistance and guidance.

So if this is happening in your business, you’re not alone – it’s very common but, thankfully, easily solved.

Your website can be the difference between a potential customer buying or not. Tighten up these two areas and you’re on your way to increasing your conversion rate and running a more profitable franchise.