By Daniel Rubinstein
Chief Business Development Officer
Some restaurant executives express concerns that the digital age is killing loyalty and personal touch with their customers due to the short attention span of today’s mobile generation. Quite simply, having instant access to millions of choices in their hands gives consumers the ultimate right to choose their own content, and to rapidly tune out what they don’t like. An informative report from Accenture “Customer 2020: Are you future-ready or reliving the past?” describes how these new shoppers have become “non-stop customers,” who are always looking for the best deal with a natural willingness to switch providers when it suits them. It means their loyalty must be earned.
Is loyalty and personalization dying? No, but it’s however changing for the good.
Technology Heightens Customer Expectations
The rapid evolution of new Internet technologies has shifted consumer behavior and, thus, the way brands reach their audiences. Two-thirds of those surveyed by Accenture said that the number of companies they consider for purchase has increased, compared with 10 years ago.
Today’s customers, especially Millennials and their younger counterparts, Generation Z (Born after 1996), want to interact with a salesperson as little as possible. It gets increasingly harder for brands to build loyalty using old approaches, as their tech-savvy consumers are sometimes bypassing the sales stage entirely, relying on technology. Previously, brands controlled nearly all the information that guided a prospect towards a buying decision. However, today this process is controlled by the customers themselves, who search for reviews, better pricing, enhanced service, and customization.
How to Build Customer Loyalty in the Digital Age?
Even though the digital age has entirely changed interactions between brands and consumers, digitization, paradoxically, has brought new opportunities that innovative brands can take advantage of to effectively build trust and loyalty online.
Taking into account this new level of competition for consumer attention, and new challenges that disruptive technologies have set forth, here are 6 things restaurant owners can do to earn customer loyalty and trust in the digital age.
- Use a points-based rewards program
A points-based system is one of the most popular loyalty program models, especially in the restaurant industry. Using loyalty programs to build loyalty may sound obvious. However, a successful loyalty program remains a highly effective tactic to address customer expectations, build trust, and develop a sense of belongingness for the brand. The popularity of points-based rewards programs can be explained by the fact that its intuitive mechanics make it easy for both new and repeat guests to participate and benefit from the program. New clients earn points for their very first order, which makes them more likely to participate in the program. When it comes to loyal guests, by rewarding them for their frequent visits and purchases, companies can nurture stronger customer relationships. Pizza Hut’s bonus loyalty program successfully employs a level of personalization and accomplishes its goal of customer engagement and repeat visits. In only two months after launch, its loyalty program app was used be every third guest. In April 2017, 54% of those who took part in a survey created by Pizza Hut marketers said that they visit the restaurants more often, because of the app, as compared to 51% in 2015.
- Accentuate customer service
Even though there are less face-to-face interactions between some businesses and its clients these days, it doesn’t mean that consumers have nothing to say to businesses. With the new technologies and innovations, customer expectations have changed greatly. Loyalty today is driven by positive experiences. To keep up with clients’ expectations, companies need to provide smarter, more personalized avenues to deliver great customer service. By learning more about their audience restaurants can not only solve problems, but also predict the future needs of the clients. It’s better when restaurants deliver support everywhere—via phone, email, social media, apps and other channels.
- Encourage customer reviews
According to Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they believe personal recommendations. That makes customer reviews extremely important for businesses in different industries. By encouraging reviews companies can boost confidence in their potential clients and show their current customers that they care about their opinions. You can motivate your consumers to leave their feedback by making it easier to write reviews on a smartphone, which people literally always bring with them.
- Take advantage of customer data
Some business owners view technologies as major disrupters within different industries. Innovative brands, on the other hand, created new business models that embrace today’s technologies, driving competitive advantage and providing great opportunities to communicate with consumers. Collecting data insights allows companies to develop an in-depth understanding of their customers. Effectively and smartly leveraging important information about their consumers can help businesses customize their promotions and special offers and create a more personalized, pleasant experiences.
- Focus on engagement and personalization
Now more than ever customers value authenticity and novelty in companies they maintain relationships with. All interactions between a customer and a brand should make a customer feel important. If you want to grab your audience’s attention, you need to offer them real value. The digital age has created new opportunities for brands to engage their customers and offer them entertainment value. Innovative brands that’s already embracing the mobile-first approach provide mobile apps with engaging elements, like rewards programs and gamification features. If your company focuses on engagement, customer loyalty will follow. “Essentially, there are two steps in maximizing your profit from a restaurant mobile app. The first one is to engage your customers and build what we call true brand loyalty. And the second step is to turn that engagement into revenue with app mechanics,” said Jim Steinberg, SVP of Enterprise Partnerships at LoyaltyPlant.
- Be authentic
Sales are still all about building relationships. People don’t want brands to aim just their wallets. They want authentic communication. It means that businesses should learn how to maintain an authentic tone and be flexible while interacting with their consumers. Therefore, instead of investing all your efforts in tracking and analyzing your customer behaviors, it’s also worth taking your time to crafting your brand voice.
The Digital Age Isn’t Killing Loyalty, But Reshaping It
No doubt, the digital age has changed loyalty and consumer behaviors. The new age compels restaurant brands to review and upgrade the ways they build customer relationships. Companies that view digital transformation solely as investment in IT and digital platforms, miss out on many other opportunities that are involved with it. The true relationship is driven by the people behind your brand and their attitude empowered by great potential that modern technologies provide. With so many options available, consumers will not stay with a company that doesn’t make them feel valued. Through keeping up with current trends and offering satisfying experience, it’s possible to create long-term, loyal relationships.
By Daniel Rubinstein, Chief Business Development Officer for LoyaltyPlant. Visit http://www.loyaltyplant.com for more information.
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