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The Top Franchises of 2019: Website Trends and Insights

Every year, Entrepreneur releases a list of the top 500 Franchises based on criteria like brand and financial strength, franchisee support, and stability. This year was their 40th annual Franchise 500 Ranking, and needless to say, things have changed quite a bit since that first annual list. With the rise of the internet and social media comes more online reach for franchises, and more competition.

So, how do these top franchises portray themselves online, and what lessons can we learn from studying their website designs, structure, and content? We investigated the Top 30 franchise websites to see what the strongest franchises are doing and learned some interesting facts along the way (Taco Bell has a wedding chapel at its Las Vegas location?). Read on to see our insights from studying the websites of these top franchise brands.

1.) Website Hierarchy Trends

We were particularly interested in how these franchises built out their website hierarchy, and whether the subdomain, subdirectory, or separate domain approach was used for individual franchisee websites. Of the 30 sites we looked at:

  • 13 use subdirectories to display information about specific locations. For example, the Planet Fitness closest to me has the club page https://www.planetfitness.com/gyms/austin-e-riverside-tx.
  • 11 used a combined subdirectory/subdomain approach. For example, Taco Bell uses the subdirectory locations.tacobell.com to list all their individual stores. My nearest crunch wrap supreme can be found at https://locations.tacobell.com/tx/austin/2000-guadalupe-street.
  • 3 franchises use a unique domain/subdomain approach. For example, Sports Clips has keyword-driven domains like haircutmensunsetvalleyaustintx.com for each of its locations, while Orange Theory has a subdomain for each studio. If I wanted to burn off that crunch wrap supreme, my nearest Orange Theory is south-lamar.orangetheoryfitness.com.
  • 3 of the franchises we looked at didn’t have a separate website presence for their individual locations. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts simply displays location information on its /locations subdomain, but there isn’t a unique page for each store.
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2.) How Do They Promote Franchising Opportunities?

We were also curious about how these franchises are promoting franchising opportunities on their websites. After all, franchises have two distinct target audiences: consumers, and those interested in franchising. The majority of the sites had links to franchising information in the footer of the website and many also featured franchising opportunities on the header, secondary header, or even home page content.

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An example of a secondary header can be found on Jersey Mike’s website:

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Anytime Fitness promotes its franchising options in the main navigation.

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3.) Most Had Separate Franchising Websites

Related to the point above, of the 30 franchises we looked at, 19 had separate domains for the franchising side of their business. For example, www.dunkinfranchising.com. From a tracking and marketing standpoint, this makes sense. Having a separate franchising website provides more room for targeted content about franchising opportunities, which can be beneficial for online marketing efforts geared towards finding more franchisees.

4.) Restaurants Like Promoting Their Perks

Of the 14 Food and Beverage companies we looked at, 9 strongly promoted their perk/rewards programs on their franchise website. From Dunkin Donuts DDPERKs, to Pizza Hut’s Hut Rewards, many franchise websites placed their loyalty perks front and center on the homepage.

5.) Location Finders Are A Necessity

97% of the franchise websites we looked at featured a location finder on their homepage. This shows the importance of giving website visitors an easy way to find the franchise location closest to them.

Conclusion

While this study gave us insight into how the top franchises are building their online presence, it’s clear that website design, structure, and content doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Whether you’re redesigning your current franchise website hierarchy or starting a new one, we recommend building with your unique business model in mind and focusing on what can bring the most success to your customers and franchises.

Interested in getting started on a franchise website redesign? Check out our blog for tips on how to approach the Franchise website design process, or contact us today.