According to most estimates, there are approximately 200,000 quick service restaurants (QSRs) operating across the U.S., with nearly 40% of American adults consuming food from one of these restaurants on any given day. This translates into a lot of competition among restaurant chains looking to attract and retain loyal customers.
One way for QSRs to do just that is by putting in place a strong loyalty program that focuses on providing customers with increased flexibility, personalization and ease of redemption. QSRs can also tap into loyalty networks, which give customers opportunities to use their loyalty points as currency at partner or complementary businesses.
With new or revamped QSR loyalty programs popping up, here are a few considerations to keep in mind if you’re contemplating a program launch at your restaurant.
Lean into a mobile-first mentality.
These days it’s rare to find someone without a smartphone glued to their hand. Most everyone expects to have access to every-day conveniences via their mobile devices, including having the ability to book travel, visit with a doctor and, of course, order breakfast, lunch or dinner. For these reasons, it is paramount that QSRs give careful thought to their mobile-first experience.
Starbucks Rewards is one example of how a QSR is getting it right, doing so by tying point-of-sale (POS) to customer accounts.
This allows restaurant patrons to simply scan their phone to manage the redemption of their points (or in this case, stars). What’s more, the redemption is embedded into the ordering process via a mobile device, so the whole experience is frictionless.
Make redemption easy.
These days, printed coupons and discounts are becoming less of the norm. Take Burger King for example. The QSR announced late last year that it would be phasing out printed coupons in favor of digital promotions. A move such as this streamlines the way customers use their perks. Rather than running to the printer, or clipping coupons, customers can simply pull up their mobile app for a quick scan. That is, if the QSR has integrated redemption into the check-out flow.
In order to make redemption as streamlined as possible, the loyalty program needs to be tightly integrated into a QSR’s mobile, POS and online channels – so much so that everything appears as a single system. With the system fully integrated, QSRs can lean into real-time APIs that call up a points balance allowing customers to pay with points at check-out. Offering this alternative way to pay – without the customer giving it a second thought – can go a long way in keeping them loyal, especially with inflation rates being at their highest point in quite some time with prices continuing to rise.
Personalize, personalize, personalize.
QSRs have access to a significant amount of customer data, which can be leveraged (responsibly!) to create a personalized loyalty program experience – from customized offers to menu recommendations to overall customer communications. As of late, there have been great advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, which as an added layer to a loyalty program, can help to create this type of personalized experience.
The benefits? Personalization can help increase overall basket size and keep customers coming back time and time again.
Make the most of offers and promotions.
Another key to loyalty program success lies within offers and promotions. They allow QSRs to test new menu items, for example, particularly with their most loyal customers. This helps customers feel more involved in the decision-making process through “exclusive access” – and can go a long way in solidifying their brand advocacy and long-term investment in the QSR. Just make sure the offers and promotions are easily accessible via a mobile device to keep the experience frictionless.
For QSRs that are looking to launch or revamp their loyalty programs, being mobile-first is the ticket to success. Technology, when integrated correctly, sets the stage for a frictionless experience from start to finish: earning, redeeming, personalized communications, and offers and promotions. Each touch point provides an opportunity to engage with the consumer and curate a high-quality experience with your brand – something that’s becoming increasingly important in the competitive QSR landscape.
About the Author
Len Covello is the CTO of Engage People, the only loyalty network that enables program members to pay with points directly at checkout. He leads the long-term technology vision of the company and is responsible for driving continued innovation in the loyalty sector. (Twitter, LinkedIn, Website)