Considering that consumers of all ages are growing weary of the marketing campaigns and messages constantly bombarding them, 2017 could be a tough year for fast casuals to engage new and old customers.
What still works really well, however, is engaging them on their own terms, and mobile channels are great for that. Seventy percent of mobile phone users said they actually want to have loyalty cards on their devices, and recent studies found that overall activity on mobile devices now accounts for two-thirds of digital media time.
Taking those stats into consideration, below are five things to consider when defining your 2017 customer relationship strategy:
1. Incentivize your customers to share personal data
The success of your marketing efforts heavily relies on what you know about your customers, and your customer database needs to be a year-round priority. Keep in mind that nobody will fill out guest experience cards these days. Customers want to release their personal information on their own terms and in the easiest and most rewarding way.
If you have a mobile app, the data gets richer as customers use it and engage with it, so make sure you continually give reasons for new customers to install it and existing users — to log in. If customers know upfront what they are signing up for and are incented, they'll be less likely to delete your loyalty app or unsubscribe from communications later on.
Make it a quick and easy experience for your customers to install your restaurant app and register their personal info using your wi-fi access. Offer an incentive like a menu item for the download.
Consider an ongoing lottery with a regular prize like a meal for two: restaurant guests are usually much more inclined to share personal data if there is a drawing involved.
2. Get laser focused with targeting
Use the year end and Q1to exhaustively analyze which tools your specific audience engages with most and reflect on which campaigns have worked effectively for your restaurant. Then consolidate your marketing to fuel these efforts. Carefully segment your audience for different campaigns and analyze results afterward — you need to know exactly how effective your tactics are and who you are addressing. Make sure you target specific groups with highly tailored messages.
Segment your existing and potential customers based on demographics, favorite menu items, important dates, etc. A married couple doesn't need an email about a "singles special" on Valentine's — target your younger demographic instead. Nor should you send giant burger promos to your vegetarian customers.
Track birthdays: we see a high 35 percent conversion rate on average for birthday incentives in the fast casual segment, so invite your customers to stop by a week before or after their birthdays.
3. Focus on mobile apps
In Q2, prioritize hands-on marketing campaigns and mobile channels for communications. We know for a fact that mobile-based gamification works great as people really enjoy collecting points for visits or gaining a certain status at the restaurant. Using mobile apps for these campaigns means you can encourage active sharing of pictures and engagement of your community (especially if there's an additional incentive to invite friends or share the message on social channels). Millennials represent the most "mobile-engaged" customer group, so you also maximize the use of tools like proximity notifications and actions on the go when targeting younger customers.
Consider investing in a digital ordering system, so your regular customers can rapidly pre-order their meals and pick them up at lunchtime.
Offer the newest mobile and digital forms of payments that attract mobile-savvy customers. Customers now expect brands to offer these convenient options, and this trend will only continue to intensify.
4. Find creative ways to upsell
Your focus for Q3could be on upselling and increasing the average check amount. It's an obvious way to grow the restaurant revenue, but the key here is to position the offerings as useful recommendations and bonuses that will make your customers' visits even more enjoyable and fun.
Offer additional points for a larger check or discounts for groups since summer is all about vacation and spending time with friends and family.
Use bounce-back coupons to give your customers incentives to come back within the first 7 days of their visit. Chances are, if customers visit twice in 1-2 weeks, they'll be coming back again — we've seen consistent success with this tactic.
5. Measure incremental sales
As you are reflecting on your results and reviewing your efforts in Q4, the emphasis should be on the incremental value of your marketing efforts. For example, based on the average number of weekly visitors, how many more people visited the restaurant since you've launched a particular campaign? Incremental value is probably the most important stat that you can gather by comparing historical data and your average numbers in a given week.
If you are operating a fast casual chain, run a promotion in two locations out of four that perform at the same level. Then compare the revenue and other numbers with the locations that didn't run a promotion.
Analyze historical data for the same location comparing the week of running a promotion with the previous week. Pay attention to specific issues you are trying to solve: for example, if you want to fill up the restaurant at off-peak hours, run a weekly comparison of the off-peak purchases.
What are the key takeaways for restaurant owners and marketers? Ditch simple offers in 2017, relying on the fact that a 10 percent discount or another free slice of pizza just don't cut it anymore. Instead, start building committed customer relationships through highly targeted and personalized mobile campaigns that deliver incremental value to your business.
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