Posts Tagged ‘loyalty programs’

3 Important Concepts for a Successful Loyalty Building Restaurant Campaign

October 1, 2014

No one is likely to disagree that building customer loyalty in the restaurant industry is important, yet there are a surprising number of restaurant businesses who have yet to implement any sort of loyalty rewards program. The most cited reasons are cost and limited ability to measure results. That noted, there’s also no doubt that loyalty programs are effective, and if done properly, can be just the incentive needed to get that customer’s foot out of your competitor’s door and into yours.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs Can Run the Gamut from Simple to Sophisticated

The first thing to recognize about loyalty programs is that they can come in many forms. They can be as simple as a paper punch card that gives the user something like “buy 10 get one free,” or as sophisticated as a mobile application that integrates with the POS, collects data and provides a mobile payment platform that doles out rewards the instant they are earned. There are pros and cons to both sides of the spectrum, but there’s no doubt that the expectation of rewards is a big motivator. In fact, customers will often spend a good deal more on a ticket when they are about to receive an incentive than they do on the average transaction. As a result, the restaurant often makes back what it spent on that reward in a single transaction.

Regardless of how you go about your loyalty building campaign, in a highly competitive arena like the hospitality industry, it’s risky not to employ every viable way of enticing customers into your restaurant (and then taking measures to ensure their continued engagement)—especially when your next-door competitors are doing so.

A Restaurant Loyalty Program Needn’t Be Discounting

Another important understanding to have about loyalty programs is that it needn’t be all about giving your customers frequent discounts and promotions, if that is not consistent with the brand image you’re trying to create. It’s important to recognize that the point of a loyalty program is you’re telling your most valuable customers that you value them, by creating a program that is personalized and relevant to their interests and needs.

If you’re building for the long-term, you’re trying to create a loyalty program that engages and rewards customers, enticing them to make the extra effort to visit your establishment over a competitor’s. This kind of loyalty program can actually build your brand up.

Providing a Consistent Customer Experience is Key to Building Loyalty

One of the keys to building loyalty is to provide a consistent customer experience. This concept applies at the single store level just as well as it does across an entire franchise system. It doesn’t matter how good your promotions are, or how spiffy your loyalty rewards program, if the quality of service can’t be relied upon. People need to know that they can count on having the exact experience they are after if they are going to be loyal in seeking it out. It’s as simple as that.

Recognizing that you have a lot of options when it comes to what type of loyalty program you are going to build, as well as how you are going to implement it, is a liberating understanding. You know how important it is to build a loyal following for your restaurant if you hope to see it succeed long-term. Having a commitment to consistently providing the best customer experience possible, as well as finding ways to reward your most valuable customers for their business, goes a long way toward ensuring the success of a loyal following for your restaurant.

Restaurant Loyalty Program: 3 Tips to Boost Customer Engagement

August 23, 2013

Despite the upward shift in the national economy, the restaurant industry sales environment remains somewhat shaky in 2013, and has seen several ups and downs over the course of the year. Repeat visitors continue to provide the most income to restaurants around the nation and as such, it pays to find novel ways of engaging and retaining these consumers.

Loyalty programs have long been a favorite approach to meeting that goal and the increasing use of social media and mobile devices have vastly increased the frequency of use for restaurant loyalty programs. As a savvy restaurateur, it’s well worth your while to ensure that your loyalty program is engaging your customers in the most effective ways possible. Here are three tips to make the most of your restaurant loyalty program.

Tip One: Offer Worthwhile Rewards to Your Restaurant Customers

The biggest mistake restaurants make with their loyalty programs is that they make the rewards either too difficult to attain or not enticing enough to bother. It’s critical to make your rewards reasonably easy to achieve without making your customers jump through too many hoops.

It’s just as critical to offer something that they would really like. Earning a free five-course meal, for example, is far more interesting than earning a t-shirt with your business’s logo on it. Getting entries to win a sponsored mountain bike is more fun than getting entries to win a free appetizer. Offering rewards that are truly meaningful to your consumer base is the first and most critical step of a successful loyalty rewards program.

Tip Two: Loyalty Points Should be Easily Gathered and Redeemed

The second step to a successful rewards program is making the accumulation and redemption of loyalty points as easy as possible. Approximately $16 billion dollars, or somewhere around a third of the overall loyalty dollar value, goes unredeemed each year. Part of the problem is making your customers jump through too many hoops to gather and redeem their points, but the other part of the problem is the somewhat cluttered nature of loyalty currencies themselves.

Fortunately, there has been an outcropping of new loyalty currency aggregator apps to address this issue. These mobile applications allow members to use and share the same points across multiple small businesses, including restaurants, right from the convenience of their personal mobile devices. Businesses benefit from joining one of these networks because they get a ton of free user data, social media exposure, and increased enrollment in their loyalty programs.

Tip Three: Tie Your Restaurant Loyalty Program to Your Social Media Campaign

Odds are you already have a social media campaign going, and if you aren’t already using it to leverage your loyalty program membership, you should be. Social media provides a great forum for user engagement. You can make it very easy for your customers to garner points for online activities such as leaving reviews, posting pictures eating at your establishment, or sharing your restaurant’s page with their friends. Doing so has the double benefit of both engaging and building loyalty with your customers as well as gaining free crowd-sourced marketing and reputation building.

It ends up being a win-win for everyone, and creates an on-going conversation with your consumer base that helps to build long-term relationships and traffic that comes through your doors again and again.

A New Perspective on Special Offers in the Restaurant

July 24, 2013

Providing special offers such as ‘daily deals’ and ‘happy hours’ in the restaurant is nothing new. That said, creation and participation in such programs can be a rather costly affair. As a result, an increasing number of chain and independent restaurants alike have been creating, managing, and posting their own special offers and coupons on their websites and utilizing the new technology that is available as a cost-effective means of stimulating more visits from their best customers.

Giving Your Best Restaurant Customers Exclusive Benefits

The general rule of thumb is that 80% of your restaurant’s business comes from about 20% of your customers. Therefore, it makes sense to do everything within your power to reward that 20% for their patronage. While it’s smart to have regular coupons posted on your website which any consumer can use, it’s even smarter to provide exclusive coupons and offers to your most loyal customers.

Typically, this is done through the creation of membership programs or the joining of exclusive mailing lists. A recent study by LoyaltyPulse shows that 77% of participants feel that the most important feature of a loyalty program would be earning points toward free or discounted meals. Another 70% said they would like to receive unexpected benefits in the restaurant, such as receiving a free appetizer or dessert. Special birthday coupons were in high demand for 72% of participants, and an additional 58% wanted holiday coupons and discounts for trying new menu items. More that 50% said that being the recipient of exclusive offers unavailable to non-members was their primary motivator for joining.

Cause-related marketing is also powerful and using the technology that is available would allow you to easily set up a system in which you donate x% of a customer’s bill toward the charity of their choice. Additional examples of exclusive membership rewards include offering a certain percentage off their ticket during their entire birthday month or even year-round discounts for members!

Tailoring Your Special Offers to the Unique Tastes of Each Customer

With the technology that we have available to us, it is easier than ever to create highly customized, special offers unique to each customer. For example, if a customer never orders dessert when they visit your restaurant, it’s useless to send them a coupon for discounted dessert!

Instead, it is far more powerful to send that customer a coupon for a meal or food item that they regularly order when they visit your establishment. Not only does this increase the likelihood that they will actually use the coupon, but it demonstrates that you are really paying attention to what they like and are doing everything within your power to reward them for giving you their business.

Utilizing Technology to Track and Retain Customers

Aside from allowing you to really customize coupon deals, using technology to track your customers’ behavior also tells you important information such as how frequently they come to your restaurant. This is useful because if a customer who normally comes in once a week hasn’t shown up for three weeks straight, you can set up the system to automatically generate, say, a 10% off coupon to be delivered to their in-box, encouraging them to return.

The take-away message here is that it is critical to look for creative ways to engage and exclusively reward your most loyal customers. With the technology that we now have available to us, this is a task that is easier than ever to do.