It’s widely understood that loyal customers are your best customers. But do you fully appreciate their impact on your business? Recent data from The NPD Group shows that, on average, loyal diners frequent a location four times more often than regular patrons. If you don’t have a customer retention program in place, or if you’re looking to improve engagement in your existing scheme, read on for some tips!
Pick the program that’s right for you.
We’ve moved beyond the era of simple punch cards and discounting. Most major QSR brands now have an app, while others such as Burger King and Domino’s are taking it a step further with Facebook chatbots and Twitter emoji ordering, connecting their digital worlds with brick-and-mortar stores.
Some common types of programs are listed below:
Customers earn a certain number of points with each purchase, whether simply for buying an item or according to dollars spent. Once patrons rack up enough, a reward such as a free food item kicks in. For examples of these programs, think about Burger King Crowns or Starbucks Stars.
This program involves various levels that patrons unlock as they visit more frequently and spend more dollars. Rewards values increase as you go up the tier, incentivizing diners to return and achieve the highest loyalty status. For instance, Chipotle’s summer loyalty program features Mild, Medium, and Hot status levels, which guests reach depending on number of burritos or bowls purchased.
After making a purchase, members have the opportunity to participate in a game (like McDonald’s Monopoly or Taco Bell Explore) or enter their name in a sweepstakes for the chance to win various prizes. Social media challenges are another fun way to interact with customers and allow them to promote your restaurant online, such as with Applebee’s #TakeTwo Instagram contest.
Keep in mind that ease of your program use and speed at which rewards accrue is extremely important to customers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, so offering an immediate freebie or discount upon joining can incentivize diners and motivate them to become engaged early on. Whatever type of program you choose, integrate with your POS system to make it easy on your employees and eliminate any confusion on rewards accrual. You can also access valuable data on customer purchase behavior including visit times, frequency, food choices, and more.
Create an emotional connection.
Share the story behind your brand! Are you on a quest to provide fresh, farm-to-table ingredients? Or maybe you’re selling delicious classics at an affordable price. Whatever your mission, make sure patrons know about it. As guests identify more and more with your brand values, their visits will increase. Use consistent ideas, imagery, language, and tone across various platforms so customers can immediately identify your look and voice, whether they’re walking into a store location, glancing at an advertisement, or scrolling through your Facebook page. With so many restaurants competing for their business, diners want to feel special, valued, and unique. Brands that actively foster this emotional connection and treat guests as respected friends are driving loyalty.
Encourage digital engagement.
Promote your products and offer special discounts for following or interacting with your brand on various social media platforms. Don’t let the conversation fizzle: regularly share and create useful content, such as menu announcements, polls, industry articles, or videos. Consider a mobile app, which lends members easy access to rewards balance; menu, pricing, and nutritional information; and program rules, levels, and point costs per reward. Be sure to enable loyalty enrollment through your app! Efficiency is a huge success factor.
Seek feedback and listen closely.
Lucrative loyalty programs require consistent activity from both sides: participation on behalf of the patrons, and listening on behalf of the brand. Test the waters every so often by asking what kinds of rewards diners want. You may find that instead of free items or discounts, guests prefer non-monetary awards such as guaranteed reservations, invitations to special events, or the ability to sample new menu items before their rollout to public. Remind guests that you welcome comments and feedback on your social media pages, and post your contact information around your stores. By asking the right questions, you can also gain insight on why guests are leaving your loyalty program or why they’re not enrolling. Maybe it’s something simple like asking for too much information on the signup form or sending too many messages. Or maybe you need to go deeper and rework the variety of your rewards or how members accrue points.
Ultimately, a loyalty program should involve a two-way relationship that benefits both your restaurant and the customer. Get creative and have fun with it!