Implementing a customer loyalty program is a great way to increase the frequency with which customers visit your restaurant, as well as to boost check averages. It’s also a very effective strategy for cultivating new customers – just consider the statistics. According to the National Restaurant Association, 57 percent of adult consumers are more likely to frequent restaurants that offer some type of customer loyalty program. Meanwhile, a recent study by Loyalogy, a provider of loyalty program analysis, revealed that rewards programs may increase guest visits by 35 percent.
However, maximizing the benefits of any customer loyalty program involves more than just rolling it out and advertising it now and then. Rather, making a consistent, concerted effort to ramp things up is a must. Let’s take a look at three ways to get the job done:
1. Show some marketing moxie – Put together a marketing plan that involves multiple channels. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, in-store signage, and notices on menu boards are all good ways to advertise. Play up the customer loyalty program in your restaurant’s newsletter if you have one (and if not, think about starting one) and via e-mail blasts to individuals who have “opted in” to receive this type of communication.
Be consistent and balanced in your efforts to use these marketing vehicles to reach existing and prospective customers. In other words, avoid sending out multiple e-mail blasts and Twitter “tweets” one month, and doing no marketing at all the following month. By the same token, don’t become so over-zealous that you bombard recipients with multiple e-mails. This is a major turn-off; one or email per month is probably sufficient.
2. Go up close and personal – The most effective customer loyalty programs are tailored to specific customers and customer groups, so leverage historical point-of-sale data to target and personalize program components. For example, mine through your data to identify loyalty program members who often order a particular menu item, then offer these customers a coupon good for a discount on that item or a complimentary item with their next purchase (a good point-of-sale system can help with this). Some operators use geo-location technology to “push” notifications about personalized and targeted “perks” and offers to program members’ mobile phones. When the technology detects that the customer is nearby, he or she receives an offer based on previous orders and typical spending patterns.
3. Get in the game – Customer loyalty programs whose premise is limited to accumulating points or receiving a reward for every x number of purchases might spark patrons’ interest at first, but may not keep the momentum going for the long term. Injecting an element of “gamification” into your customer loyalty program is a better idea. This rings especially true if your restaurant audience skews toward younger, mobile-device wielding patrons—whose obsession with digital games is well-known.
For example, consider building into your program games that offer rewards for purchasing the most of a certain menu item (perhaps within a defined time span) or a prize for winning virtual-reality games. How about a trivia game, with test scores that qualify customers for different discounts? Scratch-off, instant win games are great, too—and you can even structure things so customers need to make a certain number of purchases before being given a card.
While these strategies should help you to ramp up your customer loyalty program, don’t forget to measure and assess the impact of each campaign to determine which elements are working, and which are not—and adjust them accordingly. When you remain methodical in your approach to cultivating customer loyalty, you—and not just your customers—will reap the rewards.