BIZMOLOGY — 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.