More and more restaurants are realising that true competitive advantage lies in creating an engaging customer experience. Not only in the restaurant, but between visits. One that is personal, timely, and insightful. By using advanced analytics to find out the right information, restaurants can make smarter investments in the customer experience, leading to higher satisfaction and loyalty in the long term.

Customer loyalty is vital to achieving long term success. Through loyalty programme sign ups, companies in the restaurant industry can collect, analyse, understand — and most importantly use — customer data to learn how to improve their customers’ experience between visits.

If a guest has a strong connection with a restaurant brand, they soon become a loyal customer. A win-win for guest experience and restaurant management alike.

Here are a few ways for restaurants to maintain relationships with guests between visits.

Gather the Right Customer Information

One of the most attractive reasons for restaurants to run a loyalty programme is the ability it provides for gathering vital information about their guests. Introducing some form of loyalty allows restaurants to find out exactly who’s coming in, what they are buying and how much they are spending. As soon as guests sign up to a loyalty programme, they start providing a lot of useful information about their interests and buying behaviour.

Asking for a customer’s email address alone won’t give restaurant brands much information about who is coming through their door. Compelling customers to provide their email address, plus identify themselves at each visit so that the brand can gain insights into all purchase and visit behaviour will.

Knowing where guests subscribe to the programme can give restaurants a better idea of how to communicate with its guests and where a restaurant might want to focus its marketing efforts going forward. For example, a restaurant brand might see that the majority of its signups are being generated from forms hosted on its social media channels. Meaning it would want to focus more on connecting with its guests – and potential customers – through social media.

An example of a brand that has done this particularly well is Starbucks. The coffeehouse chain learned that its customers are avid users of social platforms. Starbucks invested a great deal into its social presence, earning enormous followings along the way. This gives Starbucks a reliable, constant source of feedback from customers, ensuring that their needs are consistently met. As well as being a great way of engaging directly with them.

Personalise Marketing Emails

 Marketing Sherpa reports open rates for restaurants at between 18 and 20 percent. This suggests that many emails are being ignored because they aren’t tailored to a specific audience. On the other hand, targeted loyalty scheme email open rates range from between 25 and 60 percent.

A consistent error restaurants are making today is assuming their customers have children. In fact, restaurants see a lift in unsubscribes when they fire out a kids’ meal offer over email to all subscribers, rather than just targeting those with children.

Restaurants also often seem to assume their customers drink alcohol. Mass email campaigns surrounding ‘Prosecco Payday’ or ‘wine and dine’ evenings should also be targeted to the customer segment inclined to purchase an alcoholic drink.

Why do these mistakes happen? It’s because the loyalty scheme sign up form gathers data from a very small window in time and does not ask the right questions. Consider the answers for the following questions: “Would you purchase a kids’ meal when visiting our restaurants?” as opposed to “Do you have children?”.  The former would be answered in the affirmative and reveal those  grandparents and other family friends and relatives – not just parents with young children – who are likely to purchase kids meals.

When there’s a loyalty programme in place, the marketer can rely on specific insights found in the purchase data, that is not captured on a form. For example, a marketer can see that an individual is inclined to purchase kids meals or alcoholic beverages, or both, and then structure relevant, timely messages accordingly.

Be Relevant Across All Customer Touch Points

 Reaching out to customers through email marketing alone is fine. But customers can also be reached on other channels such as SMS, the restaurant app, social media and ePOS.

Creating meaningful content which is consistent in style, tone and message and synced across all customer touch points is key to encouraging repeat business and gaining a competitive advantage.

If loyal customers are close to securing a free coffee, they should be reminded via SMS. When customers are close to receiving a reward, their visit pattern changes remarkably – more visits occur in a shorter period of time. If the customer has earned a certain number of points, then a notification should be sent to their phone. That particular restaurant brand is then brought to the front of a customer’s mind. Consumers welcome relevant messages. Sending timely and relevant messages to the customer’s phone is even more engaging. Paytronix has seen upwards of 40 percent of those who receive a geo-fenced message dine at the restaurant brand the same day.

Restaurants that can achieve this will enjoy a far stronger connection to their guests.

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