Keep your customers close. Keep regulars even closer

Jason Lark Celerity

Jason Lark, managing director at database marketing and technology specialist Celerity, explains how to get the most out of marketing technology

As innovations in consumer technology open up more channels through which to connect with customers, companies in the hospitality sector can have more meaningful conversations, about the right things at the right times, with clientele than ever before. The flip side of this is that technology has also made it more difficult for companies to maintain customer interest.

As the market diversifies, customers have more options. They also have more ways to find out about the latest bar in town – and are voting with their feet. Consequently, all companies in the sector face the same long-term acquisition and retention challenges. To properly overcome them you first need to understand your customer’s journey, their interaction with your brand, from their perspective.
We split this into four key stages: attraction, identification, engagement and retention.

They’re clearly not thinking about you, but everyone. Or that’s how it feels anyway. Bar X has gotten its name out there: you’ve seen their flyers, you’ve heard their radio spots, but none of it feels like it was made for you.

But for a forward-thinking venue, technology presents an opportunity to deliver more targeted campaigns than ever before. Beacons, for example, are miniscule Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that can be placed strategically around your venue to send messages to mobile devices within a certain range. Where a passer-by wanting a drink might ignore a promo person waving flyers in their face, a push notification with a special offer hits people where they increasingly live: their smartphones. Facebook realises this and is on the bandwagon with its new Bluetooth Place Tips beacon tech currently being rolled out to hospitality venues throughout New York – soon to be beaming from a bar near you.

Say this tactic got your attention, and you went for a drink. It was a pleasant experience, and while you’re non-committal, you’re also open to the idea of returning.

Bar X is a little different: it’s making a real effort to get to know its customers. It has integrated its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database with its Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system, and can now link specific purchase behaviours to individual patrons – allowing it to effectively segment its user base.

Every time you return to the venue, the system gleans a better idea of your preferences – your favoured drinks order, how long you stayed, whether or not you had a meal – and the bar will be better equipped to delight you in future.

Now Bar X is a regular haunt – why? Because it gets you! It doesn’t always get it right, but over time, it is getting better at it, and you’re starting to get offers that are right up your street.

What’s more, Bar X isn’t just interested in your money: it wants to be valued by you. Increasingly loyal customers are getting personalised email surveys after transactions, and bars are using the feedback to become better places to socialise and drink.

How? Bar X is using an automated decision-based programme that immediately understands your spending behaviour (as recorded in the CRM) and sends you what it believes to be appropriate marketing material via channels (SMS, email, Twitter etc.) it knows you use every day. In addition to your purchase history, it can tell which correspondence you’ve engaged with or ignored; which text offers you’ve taken advantage of; and anything else that might give a clearer picture of your likes and dislikes.

If you have gin and tonic every time you visit, you’ll get email offers for gin and tonic; if you always have the house burger, you’ll get a text telling you when your favourite is half-price. Over time, you’ve become a regular.

There are other places in town and your friends want you to go meet them somewhere else.

Eventually, consumers may ‘drift and shift’ to another venue, which begs the question of how Bar X is going to win out. It understands how to increase frequency and value of visits, and it’s had some success with attracting regulars, but how can it bring back customers who seem to have lapsed? Well it certainly has the upper hand because it knows its patrons better than any of its competitors do.

A rival might have the best burger in town, but it won’t know that you’ve texted STOP to every SMS alert you’ve ever received; another bar may have better G&T offers, but it won’t know that you never read your emails and don’t drink on weeknights. And when you’re trying these other places out, you’re getting occasional messages from Bar X reminding you what you’re missing out on.

Personalised, omni-channel marketing has not only given you a better experience: it’s made it harder for you to go anywhere else.

One size doesn’t fit all
We know no two customers are exactly alike. But that’s exactly why segmented views of clientele are so important to the bottom line.

360 degree Customer Views can be transformative for any business, but to properly utilise digital technology, you need to understand how to apply it. This means adopting a retail-style approach that creates unique experiences for each customer – while retaining consistent brand experience across every relevant touch point. In turn, this means not writing off a channel because it’s ‘unproven’ or ‘outmoded’ – if your customers are using it, it’s clearly not.

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