By Ohad Jehassi, President Lavu Inc.
The abundance of loyalty and reward programs out there, along with the conflicting advice regarding their worth, create a muddy and overwhelming picture clouded with bad choices. As the owner or manager of a busy restaurant or café, with so many things on your “absolutely must do” list, wading through optional loyalty programs may still be on your “maybe one-day” list. Or, perhaps you implemented an easy program and know by now you could have done better, but doing better can wait because at least you’ve got one. Either way, here you are reading about loyalty programs, once again. The subject keeps invading your world and taking over your mind because you know there must be more to it, and you’re right. Loyalty programs spread from airlines to grocery stores to retail venues to food service because they have redeeming qualities, but they have evolved and so should you. The right loyalty rewards your customers, but also rewards your bottom line, and utilizes cutting-edge technology to do so.
The results you want from a loyalty program are an increase in the frequency of visits from regular customers, an increase in your average transaction price, an incentive for new customers to choose your business, and engagement with your customers that makes them want to tell their friends. That final piece, the engagement with customers, is where loyalty is headed, and where the most strides in technology are being made. Using sophisticated technology that gathers essential data, mobile loyalty apps are taking engagement to a whole new level. The alarm bell going off in your head right now when you realize your punch card loyalty program uses neither technology nor data and in fact just kills trees, is a valid alarm bell, listen to it. And don’t be afraid, the sophisticated technology part is being taken care of by ridiculously intelligent developers and by the time it gets to you and your customers there should be nothing hard about implementing a good, dynamic loyalty program. I’ve seen too many restaurateurs avoid technology they don’t understand, while the customers seeking that very technology walk on by.
Sure, there have been improvements since punch cards, and many of you have moved on to third-party apps like Belly or SpotOn, both a good step up from a punch card and both with some data tracking capabilities. Or you may belong to a restaurant network that your customers can access on their mobile devices, but which offers no guarantee of loyalty to your establishment. These options simply do not represent the best that technology offers. The best now comes as a mobile app, integrates with your POS system, offers online ordering, and uses geolocation technology. In 2016 the National Restaurant Association’s Industry Forecast said 50% of restaurant customers use their smartphones for rewards and deals, a significant number. And mobile loyalty apps claim much higher retention rates than traditional loyalty programs, so if the 50% using mobile apps on their smartphones are also the most engaged and easiest to retain, that number becomes even more significant.
The importance of mobile apps will only continue to grow due to their popularity and the increasing number of people using them. So, when you choose your app, make it a good one. A truly amazing mobile loyalty app should be personalized and customized so the fancy software remains hidden behind your restaurant’s brand, your restaurant’s logo, and your restaurant’s feel. Carrying your brand across multiple platforms gives the customer an omnichannel experience, and doing this builds brand loyalty. Building brand loyalty goes directly to those end results you want, specifically an increase in visits and a desire for your customers to share your brand with their friends. Not all loyalty apps offer this customization. Make sure your app builds brand loyalty for you and not the developer.
Get an app that integrates with your POS system and offers online ordering. Online ordering via mobile devices now accounts for one-third of e-commerce sales. Mobile ordering creates opportunities to increase efficiency and turns while also rewarding loyal customers. Imagine a busy coffee shop during rush hour. Regular customers who use the app can order online, pay online via integration with your POS system, and pick up their favorite drink without waiting in line. You’ve rewarded your regular customer by cutting down on their wait time, but you’ve also incentivized new customers who would normally be scared off by the long lines. And you’ve done all this through what you thought would just be a loyalty program, but can really be so much more.
Geolocation, just like online ordering, perfectly captures the multiplicity of mobile app features and how they can reward customers while also rewarding you. Imagine the same coffee shop as before, but during off-peak hours. Geolocation technology allows that coffee shop to send push notifications to loyalty customers in the area alerting them that they are nearby and enticing them to stop in for a special deal. This same technology can be used to send out short, meaningful surveys to customers currently in the shop to engage them and gather feedback. How many of you have sent out e-mail surveys and gotten virtually no response? A mobile app with geolocation offers up a new way to talk to customers and find out what they are thinking, which in turn helps you target them with exactly the kind of reward they want.
The list of what these apps can offer is impressive and too long to spell out here, but to sum it up, you should really be thinking of your next reward program in terms of how it rewards you and your bottom line while also rewarding your customers. The two do not have to be in opposition. In fact, if done correctly, a good customer experience should simply continue to increase the success of your bottom line. Here at Lavu, we thrive on being leaders in emerging technology and imagining new ways to take customer engagement to the next level while ensuring the success of the businesses we support.
Ohad Jehassi, President Lavu Inc.
Lavu is the world’s leading mobile point-of-sale restaurant management system. Used in 89 countries worldwide, Lavu is a fully featured iPad-based POS system designed exclusively for restaurants and bars. Lavu was the first iPad point of sale in the Apple App Store and continues to be a pioneer of technology. Lavu is ideal for all food and drink establishments, streamlining operations to simplify management and improve the customer experience. https://www.lavu.com.
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