(Photo: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Technology has touched almost every aspect of the food and beverage industry in the digital age, and while some companies have fallen behind the times, others have risen to the occasion, incorporating technology like e-commerce and mobile applications into their business strategies. One aspect of the food and beverage space that has benefited in the digital age is loyalty programs. And restaurants and retailers are increasingly using today’s tech tools to elevate their loyalty strategies.
For Jess Stephens, chief marketing officer at digital marketing firm SmartFocus, it is all about creating an omnichannel, personalized experience.
“It doesn’t really matter what the channel is, it’s more about making it personalized and relevant in real time,” she said.
Today’s digital world allows retailers and restaurants to approach loyalty programs through different tiers, from more traditional loyalty cards, to mobile apps and location-based services, Stephens said. These different tiers help companies increase the amount of information they know about their customers and allow companies to provide customers with a more personalized shopping or dining journey.
In Stephens’ opinion, mobile apps are the most vital piece to a loyalty program that successfully reaches customers across channels.
“Without a doubt, a mobile application has to be at the heart of an omnichannel campaign,” she said.
Beyond just having a mobile application, Stephens said adding layers like location-based features to retailers’ and restaurants’ mobile strategies is also important for engaging loyal customers. And when it comes to customer loyalty, retailers and restaurants must approach every customer differently, and devote the most time and resources to holding onto their most loyal groups of customers.
“Don’t try and recruit everyone for a loyalty program,” she said. “Otherwise you’re wasting your energy.”
Above all, Stephens said facilitating an effective omnichannel loyalty program is about creating experiences for shoppers and diners.
At Save Mart Supermarkets, a chain that operates more than 220 stores in California and Nevada, a partnership with NCR and Inmar Digital Promotions Network has helped the retailer set up an omnichannel experience for loyal customers. Through tech tools that include cloud-based, marketing, content and digital coupon solutions, Save Mart has found a way to provide shoppers with a loyalty experience that spans across online, in-store and mobile channels and gives customers the ability engage through whichever channels they choose.
“As part of our strategic goal to change the way Save Mart engages with customers, we wanted them to be able to save coupons directly into their loyalty accounts at any time via multiple channels, including mobile or online. NCR and Inmar have allowed Save Mart to improve customer experience and loyalty by implementing their flexible cloud-based solutions across our business,” Save Mart’s Chief Information Officer James Sims said.
The loyalty program also allows Save Mart to make it personal for shoppers, giving the retailer the ability to target content and promotions based on the behavior and preferences of its loyal customers.
“Digital channels and promotions are a powerful way for retailers to engage with shoppers….This enables them to respond to the consumer-driven shift from paper to digital media,” said David Wilkinson, NCR Retail Solutions’ vice president of sales for North America.
Omnichannel loyalty programs also present restaurants and retailers with other opportunities like drawing in additional shoppers and diners who might be regulars at other establishments, Stephens added. Location-based features of mobile apps are especially applicable in this case, she said, referencing the example of a shopping center that could use a loyalty app to find out which restaurants shoppers regularly visit and push messages out promoting other restaurants that are in a similar location in the mall or serve food the shoppers might like.
“You could preemptively drive more business than you might normally,” she said. “Also what that then means is you’re delivering that full omnichannel journey.”
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