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How to leverage holiday traffic to build restaurant loyalty

How to leverage holiday traffic to build restaurant loyalty

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As reported earlier this year in Restaurant Hospitality, restaurant loyalty programs have not exactly set the world on fire. The good news is that there is ample room for improvement and guests are interested in joining loyalty programs and being rewarded for their activities. According to Deloitte, 86 percent of consumers said they would be willing to join a loyalty program if it were free.

Why are loyalty programs so powerful? Customers who do join loyalty programs tend to be more engaged than those who do not. In fact, 59 percent of respondents in Deloitte’s study who joined their favorite restaurant’s loyalty program said that they would serve as a brand ambassador compared to only 37 percent of core customers who don’t belong to any restaurant loyalty program. Additionally, 48 percent say that they have developed a personal relationship with the brand, compared to only 29 percent of core customers who don’t belong to any restaurant loyalty program.

Despite those statistics, 48 percent of Deloitte’s survey respondents said that they have no information about the loyalty programs of the restaurants they visit. And 43 percent said their favorite restaurant did not have a loyalty program at all.

As we head into the busy holiday season and consumers begin to open their wallets, it’s a critical time of year to ensure guests return to your front door. Loyalty programs can play an instrumental role in doing so. Moreover, as the world becomes social-mobile, leveraging social to fuel your loyalty program success is important – especially as awareness of loyalty programs among consumers is low.

Here’s how to do it:

• Create loyalty program members out of “Likes” by offering the opportunity to join the program via your social media.

• Leverage your existing email list by sending an email with social actions embedded to find out how consumers like to hear from you. Additionally, marketers can build on existing success and increase cross-channel conversion by socializing an existing loyalty program email list, further incentivizing loyalists and improving lifetime customer value. Socializing an email list can also help a brand link customers’ social handles to email and other personally identifiable information that helps provide a more holistic view of the customer.

• Reward loyal customers for their social actions. This encourages sharing, increases reach and prompts new customers to join the loyalty program. In addition, because people will self-identify if they know they are going to get “credit” for participating, rewarding customers for social activities provides brands yet another way to connect the dots between social handles, email and rewards accounts, which allows marketers to have a much truer sense of their brand value and helps track customer activity across programs.

• Analyze and measure content to determine what is most engaging and encourages the most social participation. Understanding what content resonates the most has immense value in its own right. Additionally, consider using hashtags in your social marketing; hashtags are like a pixel on a social media user. By activating users and giving them specific hashtag calls to action, marketers can easily analyze which channels and promotions work best with their most invested consumers.

Loyalty programs have proven to work in increasing the frequency of guests’ return visits and their willingness to advocate on behalf of their favorite restaurant. But many people don’t even know that their restaurant’s program exists. Social media can be an effective vehicle for educating guests and encouraging participation. Use these tactics and they will help you improve engagement with your best customers, increasing their lifetime value. In the process, potential customers will hear about your store from the best source possible: happy, loyal customers.

Jessica Williams is marketing manager at Chirpify, where she is responsible for driving social strategy, engagement and conversion in concert with SEO, analytics and digital marketing initiatives.

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