Tech Talk: ‘Mobile Apps are the Best Option When it Comes to Marketing Automation’

LoyaltyPlant builds mobile apps and targeted marketing campaigns designed to increase customer loyalty and increase sales. The company’s proprietary platform offers a powerful CRM system, a white-label app and POS integration. LoyaltyPlant’s client list numbers more than 560 in eight countries and includes KFC Amrest, Pizza Hut, KFC, Hooters and Burger King franchisees.

In this edition of Tech Talk, Alexandra Kolesova, director of marketing for LoyaltyPlant, discusses the importance of mobile apps and loyalty programs and dining trends.

How important are mobile solutions for restaurants?

To make a long story short, mobile apps are the best option when it comes to marketing automation; as they are now proven in the restaurant industry. We live in a mobile era, therefore, it’s hard to imagine a restaurant that does not understand the importance of interacting with the clients using modern communication channels. Nowadays, mobile solutions are essential.  Failure to use them to their potential will lead to a huge gap in communication with customers, the Millennial audience in particular.

You can’t develop an automated system for communication with all of your clients without technologies and a clear understanding of how this system will work and how you will use it.

The most valued benefits are those that cannot be repeated in the other marketing channels. For instance, a mobile app from LoyaltyPlant can create automated push notification campaigns that will go straight to the customer’s smartphone right at the moment they are around the restaurant (based on geolocation). This makes for the most efficient marketing campaign compared to emails with special offers, and this is especially true for the QSR segment. Specialized automation mechanics integrated with mobile apps can automatically send users an actionable message at the time they are most likely to use the specials or redeem a reward. This is just one example among many benefits that all together to serve as the assets of a successful marketing strategy.

How tech savvy does a restaurateur need to be these days?

The levels of depth for technology depends on the restaurant audience. When considering Millennials, to be successful with them restaurants must have the proper tools that work with the communication tools and tech that they are accustomed to. We see that a lot of hot new restaurant concepts like one of our client, Balance Grille (Toledo, Ohio) were founded by the tech guys who completely understand the challenge of social media race and digital competition.  It’s no coincidence that the Millennials are a popular topic among marketers. They expect continuous innovation and change from the businesses that service them, they willingly give a feedback, and they appreciate brand that produce value and will pay the restaurant back for it. Marketers are trying to listen to their needs, assuming that Millennials’ purchasing power is estimated to be around $170 billion per year. Every business needs to plan its marketing strategy more tactically and choose the right tools and channels based on its target audience.

Alexandra Kolesova

What do you envision the restaurant of the future looking like?

The restaurant of the future is not just for feeding people and providing great service. The main focus will be about unique experiences that customers receive from every interaction with a brand. It will be all about creating emotional and true loyalty by the means of gamification, brand engagement and constant personal communication that is relevant for every client.  How can restaurants realize this vision? It’s important to look ahead and think about the tools that will help in collecting customer insights and analyzing their behavior to build that personal relationship.

How important are loyalty programs for restaurants?

Loyal customers are a crucial part of the restaurant business. They will always be the highest priority in terms of setting the brand on the right course. They will even help in gaining the new customers if to be presented with the best brand experience and an awesome loyalty program. No need to say that the new guests who were brought to the restaurant by their friends will more likely become the loyal clients too.

The restaurant owners shouldn’t consider the loyalty program a list of actions that should be strictly completed to achieve KPIs, but view loyalty as a key way to define a marketing strategy and all of their business processes. Only when you build all of the brand interactions around a restaurant loyalty program and combine it with easy-to-use digital ordering, will restaurants get the desired results. Loyalty programs should no doubt be an essential center of the restaurant’s digital marketing strategy.

How does technology promote efficiency in hospitality?

Having a deeper understanding of customer desires and their behavior lead to enhanced efficiency. Mobile apps and the right customer engagement program helps restaurants achieve the clearest results and focus on what’s crucial to operating more effectively.  When it comes to efficiency, the challenge is finding ways measure it. For example, LoyaltyPlant offers a win back customer campaign that will help to connect with the lapsed guests and bring them back to the restaurant. With the campaign, a restaurant can track its open and conversion rate and its impact on revenue. What’s more, the restaurant can measure the word-of-mouth effect the campaign had, a task requiring a lot of sophistication in the system. Technology is the best tool to boost the word of mouth effect and track customer activity.

What trends are you seeing from diners in what they expect from technology and restaurants?

Diners today increasingly want not just a meal, but an experience from end to end. They expect and demand user friendly tools. If they want food to go, they may want to automate the whole process from their smartphone, promoting speed, accuracy and flexibility. Adhering to simplicity while using mobile technology can help restaurants build communication with customers and to have the data that lets the understand results clearly. 

Do you think restaurants not responding to this demand will lose customers?

If restaurants don’t implement modernized methods of business management and automated marketing they will severely limit communication, and as a result, they will lose customers. Complacency in this area makes it much more difficult to turn their restaurant into a growth engine. 

What are the advantages of increasing technology use in the hospitality industry?

There are three major advantages:

  1. Increased Business Visibility: Restaurants can keep track of every single action.
  2. Personalization: Restaurants can collect all pertinent data about customers and use it for improved targeting of marketing campaigns and to deliver more personalized communications.
  3. Efficiency:  Process automation and human resources optimization as a part of business management.

How are fears allayed regarding technology detracting from hospitality (customer experience)?

Concerns that technologies are killing the value of customer experience make for a strange prejudice, because instead of killing, they are creating a unique experience. Some practices become overly common and outdated, like the tradition of Starbucks writing your name on your coffee cup. Everybody loved it at first, but it has become impersonal as it lost meaning. The best customer experience is built on personal communication. You can’t develop an automated system for communication with all of your clients without technologies and a clear understanding of how this system will work and how you will use it. To combat the fear of the negative impact that technologies can have on customer experience, you can start with implementing small, step changes and then monitoring how customers respond to them. The adoption of new processes has always been painful, but it inevitably, they lead to increased brand awareness and revenue growth.

In what ways can independent restaurants, who might have less resources, use technology to their advantage?’

Today the most important question that restaurateurs face with is how to choose the right tools for their business tasks. For example, they need to decide whether to choose in-house product development for a mobile app or a market tested ready-made platform solution that can be quickly adjusted to the business needs, requires smaller initial investments and comes with less risk.