Punchh and RunningRestaurants.com conducted a survey recently that examined whether restaurant operators believed their social media marketing efforts worked. The most common answer operators gave us was, "We're not sure."
Not the most encouraging response given the amount of time spent updating Facebook pages, filling Twitter feeds and inviting followers to come to restaurants for deals and events.
The survey confirmed that operators must find the right mix of mobile, social and loyal to make their marketing programs most effective, and here's why:
Fifty-five percent of all Americans own a smartphone.
They almost never leave it behind.
They use them extensively to communicate through social media.
They love to use them to communicate through social media and photograph what they eat and drink at restaurants. (It's as though they fancy themselves social restaurant reviewers.)
That presents the huge opportunity for restaurant operators to engage customers through their smartphones by employing social media channels. They can encourage customers to talk about their experiences (i.e. what they ate and drank, whether they had a good experience) through Facebook and Twitter; and then, by rewarding them for "talking up" their restaurant, the operator also will gain long-term customer loyalty.
There's no shortage of customer loyalty-and-reward programs or social media channels created for the restaurant industry, in which to promote restaurant brands. The number of smartphone-based apps that allow customers to interact with brands also is growing.
But there are few packages that perform all those functions simultaneously or deliver the added bonus of POS integration that automates those processes. POS integration also captures customer data, such as purchasing habits and preferences — which eliminates any question as to whether the social media plan is actually working. It also eliminates customers having to swipe mag-stripe cards or punch paper cards — things that slow down cue speeds.
Customer expectations for an interactive experience are interesting, too—they actually want to control that whole process. When you encourage them to talk about your brand and their experiences in social media channels, you see an explosion of social content about your brand. Better yet, when they are rewarded (given food and drink) for commenting, it empowers them to share those rewards with others.
Think about it: If a customer already loves a particular burger, he's a loyalist. If you reward him and he shares his recommendation of that burger with another, you get product trial and another potential loyalist who visits your restaurant on the first customer's endorsement, not yours. And when that customer is happy with you, he also champions your brand in social media. You reward him also and the cycle continues.
Jitendra Gupta is CEO of Punchh, the only mobile-centric marketing platform for restaurants that uses the power of mobile devices and social networks to drive and measure repeat visits, word of mouth, and referrals.