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How Mobile Games Are Helping Grow Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Tapping an emerging marketing channel for loyalty and rewards can help restaurants retain existing customers while enticing new customers to join.
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Mobile game players are a receptive audience for restaurant rewards. They eat out an average of 1.7 times weekly, with half of gamers enjoying fast food at least once a week.
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Many restaurant marketers have created loyalty programs to help drive customer frequency, retention and lifetime value. However, some of the biggest challenges with loyalty programs are improving engagement and acquiring new customers from the program.

These are both sizable undertakings, and are often treated as sequential tasks, meaning, “First, let’s solve acquisition, then move on to solving loyalty program engagement.”

Of course, acquisition and engagement are tasks that never go away, so whatever is receiving the immediate attention, typically means the other is taking a backseat.

But there’s a new channel available with large audiences from key demographics that QSRs and Fast Casual restaurants are eager to get in front of that are helping marketers both acquire new loyalty members and continually engage them: Mobile Games.

Change the Channel to Mobile Games

Mobile gaming is a largely untapped media channel for restaurant marketing.

Mobile users spend an average of 4.8 hours daily on their devices, according to apps analytics firm This massive usage by consumers helped drive the growth surge that propelled digital advertising beyond traditional ads two years ago.

And mobile gaming is hugely popular. According to Techjury, about 210 million people currently play mobile games in the U.S. and it is even more popular than social media and texting. ironSource reports that 70% of mobile users like mobile games, compared to 55% who enjoy social media and the 46% who text or call family and friends.

Not only that but mobile game players are a receptive audience for restaurant rewards. They eat out an average of 1.7 times weekly, with half of gamers enjoying fast food at least once a week. And in-game ads have high engagement as 56% say they are more likely to buy from a brand that features in their favorite game.

Mobile game publishers are eager for in-game rewards because it encourages the player to keep playing the game and expands the game’s ad base beyond ads for competitor’s games. The longer consumers play, the more likely they are to make in-game purchases.

By targeting rewards toward mobile gamers who often eat out – and boosting loyalty programs with these rewards – restaurants can drive more customers to locations through three strategies:

  1. Expand the Customer Base

To attract new customers to a rewards program, it needs to start by being frictionless. A fast-loading page, a short sign-up form, and text-to-join capabilities help generate new reward program participants.

An appropriately placed reward in-game such as an offer for “a free burger” when a user hits Level 10, or even promoting a game in your owned media channels in exchange for a reward has proven to stimulate new customer traffic into restaurants. A surefire way to help promote new loyalty sign ups is to make sure the game offers are only redeemable in the loyalty app.

That placement can also expand the order and the customer base beyond the reward recipient. Mobivity’s data has shown that 67% of these first-time customers add other full-priced selections to this type of “free item” reward.

And 26% make multiple meal purchases beyond the redeemed offer – either by the friends accompanying them for the offer redemption, or in follow-up visits. In these ways, the offer exposes restaurant brands to new customers who like to eat out.

  1. Generate Word-of-Mouth

While getting people to talk positively about restaurant brands is not easy, rewards inside mobile games can help to prime the pump and enabling features like Refer-a-Friend has proven effective.

Additionally, since first-time customers often bring others along when they redeem rewards earned from games, the savvy marketer can design in-game rewards so that the mobile user is encouraged to share the game and offer with others.

Location-based rewards can also boost invitations by recipients to nearby friends. Chipotle, for instance, generated a lot of buzz with its collaboration with Roblox to enable players to earn in-game currency, rewards and promo codes via its Boorito and Grill Simulator games. 

  1. Build Customer Loyalty

Tying restaurant rewards to gameplay can be structured to achieve whatever restaurant objectives you’re after, such as encouraging repeat visits and brand loyalty. For example, an in-game reward can offer additional discounts or free add-ons for subsequent visits by the same mobile user. Additional rewards can be offered to mobile gamers who sign up for a brand loyalty program at the same time they receive their initial reward. 

By connecting rewards to mobile games, marketers can reach users from all generations, 64% of which are between 18-54, inside one of today’s most popular pastimes.

To help restaurant marketers collaborate with mobile game publishers, a connected rewards provider with a marketplace can facilitate cross marketing. The marketplace allows  each party to join and deliver rewards strategically to a new audience . This ensures offers are displayed in a privacy-safe, non disruptive manner that promotes engagement and acquisition.

Targeting the mobile gamer audience that eats out regularly and often at brands with a well-designed campaign can help restaurants find new customers, retain existing customers, and engage both to drive higher order values tied to loyalty.

Even the best mobile gamers would consider this a ‘high-score’ for restaurant brands.

About the Author

Dennis Becker is  CEO of Mobivity. With more than two decades of experience redefining the way technology and business interact,   Becker leads the company’s vision of bringing businesses more customers, more often through disruptive marketing technologies. An inventor of several patents, Becker’s background also includes awards as founder of Frontieric Corporation and CEO of Bexel Technologies. Prior to Mobivity, he studied Computer Science at the University of Oregon and served in the USAF.


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