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Michael McLellan

Restaurants leverage social media and mobile loyalty programs

by Michael McLellan | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

May 28, 2013 | 2 Comments »

AppsBIZMOLOGY — Restaurant operators are increasingly ditching paper and card-based customer loyalty programs and turning to digital, mobile platforms as part of their customer relationship management strategy. Many companies now offer smartphone apps that enable direct customer communication and creative customized promotions.

Software can be used to track customers’ frequency of visits and spending habits. With concrete data in hand, companies can reach out to previous guests with customized messages and offer special discounts to frequent visitors with tangible social media influence. The key influencers in turn let their social circles know about great food or great deals. In essence, loyal customers who are key influencers become an extension of the public relations, marketing, and sales teams. It’s old-fashioned word of mouth for the digital age.

Some businesses struggle to find legitimate traction on social media platforms. But restaurant operators appear to be an exception, proving there can be real value in social media efforts. Many restaurant marketing managers have come to regard social channels as an effective way to talk directly to their customers (and to listen to them as well).

Customers may not visit websites of particular restaurants or read foodie blogs, but they will click “like” on Facebook or “follow” an establishment on Twitter to receive discounts, event invites, chef philosophy, or the inside scoop on menu updates. Mobile food vendors have found social media particularly effective for getting the word out to the masses.

The biggest trend now is “hyper-local social media advertising” with Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. While we might still be a little ways from the scene in “Minority Report” when Tom Cruise walks past store windows bombarding him with personalized hologram ads, smartphone GPS tracking and opt-in mobile customer loyalty programs make such a scene seem less far-fetched every day.

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It’s a little unsettling to reflect back on the film Minority Report & to think of advertisers calling you by name. To think that I’m being watched & my moves carefully calculated is enough to make me want to stay inside… where the Xbox One gaming console watches what you do in your own home.

Author George Orwell thought we would be watched & held by an iron fist in 1984. Author Aldous Huxley thought we would invite triviality into our lives for fear of being left behind in a place that didn’t make us happy anyway when he wrote Brave New World. I still think they’re both right but I can’t help but think that Huxley was a little bit more on the mark especially when it means everyone wants to save 10% on their next meal.

Great post, Mike! Marketing through social media is also cited as an Industry Opportunity in the newly updated First Research profile on Casual Restaurants.

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