Restaurant Marketing: The Customer is Always Mobile

(Missed the last blog post in this series? Read Above-Store Restaurant Operations – From BI to ERP here.)

The convergence of technologies such as mobile devices, social media, and Big Data have created a new level of customer engagement, the likes never before possible. The restaurant food service industry is in a great position to capitalize on these technologies for better interaction with the customer in the store, improving marketing campaigns above-store, and extending the relationship beyond the store via mobile and social media.

In this article I’ll discuss some of the best practices related to these innovations and how they can be deployed

Customer engagement starts in the restaurant. This begins with providing quality foods and service, and elevated by providing interactivity. Leading food service companies will allow customers to interact with them in multiple ways so they can get important feedback and improve customer service.

Prioritize Mobile Strategies

Interactive displays or kiosks in the store, can give customers a self-service option for placing orders, expediting the process. But even more so, it can provide promotional information, suggestive selling, and allows customer to input feedback or sign-up for loyalty programs.

Interactive digital signage and kiosks were among the top ranked in importance for business performance, and customer engagement in a recent Hospitality Technology magazine survey. The highest ranked CETs – (Customer Engagement Technology) were mobile websites and mobile applications. Essentially, if your company does not provide a mobile channel for your customer you are at a disadvantage.

A best practice mobile application will allow customers to not only view information about your company and menu details but include key functionalities.

Location-based restaurant search

It’s important for customers to find your nearest restaurants – however this feature should provide more than what is available on Google Maps. You should include store hours, specific store promotions or other key features of each store. Does it have a patio? Or rooms for special events?

Nutritional information

Consumers are getting more conscientious about their diet – and with the government focus on reporting trans-fat and sodium content – nutrition information is a required feature of any mobile app menu. Take advantage of the menu nutrition information to highlight healthy alternatives, or ways of modifying menu items to reduce calories or fat.

Mobile ordering and payment

As part of the modernization of the store POS/BOS we previously discussed the need to support mobile ordering and payment. A recent QSR magazine survey says, “Hungry consumers are turning to smartphones and tablets to place online orders for pick-up or delivery, with more than two-thirds (69%) of those polled saying they have placed food orders via mobile devices.

Making this part of your mobile app functionality is not only essential, but it gives you discrete and direct access to the customer’s ordering trends, preferences, and history.

Integration with social media

Consumers today are growing more technology savvy, with a good chunk of those using social media connecting with brands. In the 2012 National Restaurant Association Industry Forecast the study revealed that nearly one-third of consumers said they would be likely to sign up as a follower on Facebook or Twitter if a restaurant made its specials available on those platforms.

The two-way communication model of social media allows your brand and your customers to easily view, share and provide feedback. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, other platforms such as YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare are also highly popular. By tapping into the information social media provides you can gain important insights to customer behavior and preferences that can be used to improve the customer experience as well as the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives. Making these platforms easily accessible via your app should be a key feature.

Access to promotional offerings

An effective promotion not only provides an offer or discount to the customer, but allows you to capture key customer data. By integrating your promotional offers with your mobile app you can gather customer information such as which offers are the most effective. Using location, loyalty and purchase information provides tailored hyperlocal context-based promotions. All of this data put together provides a better understanding of your customer – which is core to designing new offers, creating new products, and expanding your business.

Integration with your loyalty program

A customer loyalty program is table stakes in order to attract and retain customers.

In a recent interview, VP at Craftworks, Ben Brown stated, “”The restaurant industry is so competitive. Most companies now realize they have to have (a loyalty program), but to differentiate themselves in this industry, it has to be a great one. Brands have to up the ante.”

According to a Yankee Group survey 47% of respondents would choose to shop at a store with a mobile loyalty program over one that didn’t. However providing loyalty points and rewards for your best customers is not enough. To truly realize the value of your loyalty program it should be integrated and mobilized.

Ability to provide feedback via survey or comments

Feedback should always be encouraged through a user-friendly interface, especially if you are looking for specific survey data. By integrating the survey with you mobile app and loyalty program, you can provide incentives for completing the survey. In return you receive the customer loyalty data – all of which is delivered immediately via the mobile device.

Don’t Ignore the Big Data

Collecting large amounts of data via social media, interactive mobile applications, and customer engagement technologies is meaningless unless you can harness this data to improve the customer experience and marketing efforts.

As we covered in our prior blog post, Big Data is the ability to analyze very large data sets without comprising speed or accuracy. You can apply this technology in several ways.

Real-time response 

Using Big Data technology you can gain insight immediately to how your current marketing campaigns, promotions or offers are working. This allows you to make immediate adjustments to a marketing effort or address other customer issues in order to steer your campaign to success.

For example, if a certain promotion is not resonating well via a specific marketing channel, or customer demographic, you can adjust your marketing focus to more effective channels and target different customer profiles.

Understand customer behavior

Why did a customer decide to participate in your marketing promotion or chose to make a purchase? Using customer journey analytics or path analysis you analyze multiple touch points or interactions by customers and determine what series of events led to a certain outcome.

This analysis can help explain details on why certain customer demographics may gravitate to specific locations, or menu items. Using this information a marketer can target promotional offers, and marketing efforts to specific customer profiles.

Predictive analytics

Analysis can be conducted based on historical customer data, to predict which marketing offers will be most effective based on customer profiles, geography, and seasonality for a forecasted time period. There can be variables in your predications so having a strong experimentation framework is key to adjust and refine predictive models.

Next-best offer analytics

Next-best offer (NBO) analytics estimates the probability that customers will be interested in a targeted offer of products and services they are likely to buy. Recommendation engines in combination with NBO can help marketers increase average order size by recommending complementary products based on predictive analysis for cross-selling purposes.

Conversely you can identify customers that will not benefit from the offer or would normally purchase the product without a promotion, so you can optimize your marketing dollars.

Social network analysis

Social network analysis (SNA) uncovers relationships between entities or customers in a large network with the goal of identifying influencing nodes of customers. This can help identify your most vocal, or influential customers, as well as your most valued customers. These customers can help promote your brand and drive trends.

Overall, there are numerous ways to analyze your customer data with Big Data technology and the list outlined is not exhaustive.

The first thing to consider is your strategy and goals for using this data. Is your purpose to improve customer retention, identify possible new customers, or find your most valued customers? This will help target your analysis and data source needs so you can begin to truly uncover the answer to your questions.

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