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06/21/2021

Why Boosting Customer Loyalty Is Restaurants’ Secret Weapon

Restaurants need a loyalty-based marketing strategy that draws from specific data to create a unique experience that meets the needs of the customer.

Food prices are rising around the world, and many are fearful that economic inflation will affect the day-to-day spending of average consumers. But people have to eat, and they’re doing so strategically. Food culture, and the experience of food, is strongly linked to how we perceive our world and the things we value. The data proves it. Even though prices are rising, a recent restaurant study showed that 64% of consumers choose to pay more at a restaurant they trust.

But many restaurants could do more to generate loyalty. It’s not as simple as creating products that people come back for, or food that they like. Loyalty is built on collected data, accurate buyer personas, and evolving technology that helps brands reach their customers. And as simple as this adjustment may sound, many restaurants miss out on the opportunity. Statistically, 24% of diners say they are not loyal to any restaurants, even the ones they frequent, because the restaurant did nothing to promote loyalty.

But loyalty is the restaurant industry’s secret weapon in this time of economic change.

Restaurants need a loyalty-based marketing strategy that draws from specific data to create a unique experience that meets the needs of the customer. It looks different for every restaurant, but three tenets remain the same for any loyalty initiative. You will always need accurate data, updated technology, and personalized communication.

The Cornerstone of Customer Loyalty

You can only build a loyal relationship with your customers if you know who they are and what they want. Accurate data is the cornerstone of customer loyalty, but the truth is that most brands don’t understand how to attain accurate customer information. Traditional data collection methods like third-party cookies only give an overview of customers’ preferences, not the detail needed to craft a marketing plan. Further, our study showed that 40% of data records contain inaccurate information.

This is where zero-party data comes into play. In a nutshell, a zero-party data strategy means that the brand talks directly to the consumer and gets the information they need in a simple conversational exchange. This could take various forms, but the key factor is that the customer willingly hands over their information in exchange for an asset given by the company.

Within the food and restaurant sector, 73% of diners said they want product recommendations based upon past purchases. Even more compelling, more than half (50%) of consumers are willing to share their information with brands to get a more personalized experience.

The best way for restaurants to obtain accurate data is simple: just ask. Using a zero-party data strategy eliminates the middle-man and helps companies show their consumers that they value their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This way, the untrustworthy background collection of cookies doesn’t diminish customers’ trust.

Bridging the Gap Between Information and Experience

While accurate data is the cornerstone of customer loyalty, technology is the essential tool that makes loyalty possible. 51% of customers have downloaded apps for their favorite restaurants to augment the customer experience. Ultimately, data plus technology leads to a loyal customer base.

Customer information is just a sea of numbers if you don’t have the right tools to assess, and act upon, those metrics. If you want to orchestrate a unique, memorable customer experience, your marketing technology needs to work with the data you collected. Your system should be able to track metrics in real-time, provide journey-mapping solutions, and manage cross-channel messaging from the same platform. This ensures a consistent message which will, ultimately, lead to a better customer experience.

Any restaurant brand that wants to deliver truly excellent experiences needs access to all guest data. Wherever it’s collected from, to be effective, it must be seamlessly integrated into a single, 360° view of the guest — that identifies them and matches them with their dining behaviors.

Personalized Communication

The key to customer loyalty is making the buyer feel special. In the restaurant industry, you can provide each customer with this experience through communication. As mentioned before, diners want product recommendations based on past purchases. In terms of “how” to generate loyalty, email outperforms other platforms by 92%. This may come as a shock in an email-ridden world but think about it this way: restaurant customers can easily search through their emails for recent offerings, promotions, discounts, or customized offers more readily than anywhere else. It simplifies the process.

In a post-pandemic world, restaurants need to move from survival to thriving. Cultivating loyalty, above all, is the next best step for restaurant marketers because it is where they will find the most accurate leads and the greatest return on investment.

About the Author

Tim Glomb is VP of Content & Data at Cheetah Digital and founder of Audience Sherpa. As a 20-year brand marketer, his experience is rooted at the intersection of content and technology with senior roles in music, TV and most recently enterprise technology.