Whether you are contemplating a mobile promotion for the first time or you’re a veteran, there are certain good practices that you should keep in mind. These guidelines apply across the board, whether you operate one restaurant or many, control all your mobile-based promotions from a central office or allow your local managers to run their own micropromotions:
1. Ready, aim, fire! Before you begin a mobile campaign, it’s helpful to incorporate a customer engagement platform that can provide a wide spectrum of feedback—including where your customers live. You may think you know where your best customers are located, but a “heat map” from a platform’s dashboard can pinpoint a location. One of the restaurant managers I was working with recently found that 80 percent of his customers were opening his app from a residential area to the south of the restaurant. He was able to direct his promotions and see a significant increase in sales.
2. Automate “push notifications” that don’t backfire. Be smart about your automated push notifications. Case in point: A local manager ran a popular promotion for his city’s favorite sports team. When the team scored six runs, the local app users automatically received a coupon for a discounted meal. But, one night the team played a game three time zones away, and scored 6 runs at 10 p.m. The folks who received a free coupon on their phone at 1 a.m. weren’t pleased. Create a blackout window when you don’t send notifications.
3. Watch the fine print. You would be surprised at how many local promotions with restrictions bury that information deep in the fine print of the mobile coupon. Make restrictions explicit and pump up the font size. This will create less frustration in general and will help customers who have a hard time reading that tiny screen.
4. Test for the best. Compare multiple promotions, then go with what’s most effective. Experiment with price point discount levels to find the sweet spot. Try buy-one-get-one (BOGO) and compare against price point promotions. Understanding your greatest return on investment can make a significant difference to your bottom line.
5. Discounts can make you money. Providing discounted items as incentives can get more customers into your restaurant, but they’re not completely loss leaders. A good mobile customer engagement platform can calculate the total revenue you brought in from each customer. Your mobile analytics should be able to tell you the extra items they bought with that free or discounted purchase. Compare tickets and consider any increase as part of your promotion’s total return on investment.
6. Be creative. Most mobile “scratch off” coupons allow consumers to use their finger to brush off the pixels covering the coupon to reveal the offer. One of the most creative approaches I have seen was a manager that covered his offer in graphic soap bubbles. The customer had to shake the phone to rid the window of the bubbles to reveal the offer. It was so fun just to go through the motions that the use of the app spread virally through the community.
7. Create a sense of urgency. Make an offer available for only a small time window or a limited supply. Offering a discount for just a few hours each day can bring customers into the restaurant who will see your app as a valuable “alert” to promotions. Ultimately, using a mobile app and a comprehensive customer engagement platform will not only increase your bottom line, but give you a leg up on your competition. Mobile promotions have reached their “tipping point” so the concern over whether your customers will be using a mobile app is no longer the question. The only real question is whether they are going to use one in your restaurant or your competitors.
Daniel Dreymann, cofounder and c.e.o. of Mowingo, has been a Silicon Valley entrepreneur for over a decade. Mowingo’s mobile platform is currently deployed at thousands of locations across the globe, engaging millions of consumers.