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A recent 2012 Harris Poll reported that the majority of consumers surveyed planned on reducing their spending on dining out occasions. And in a 2011 market research done by The NBD Group, a leading market research firm for the Restaurants and Food Service Industry, the company determined that "U.S. restaurant industry visits declined from 62.7 billion in 2008 to 60.6 billion in 2011 and independent restaurants accounted for 87 percent (2 billion) of these traffic losses".  During this period, more than 7000 independent restaurants closed their doors!

The surprising fact about these findings is that major restaurant chains actually increased their market share during this period! So what are they doing to increase their market share, attract and retain their customers or get them to come back more often and spend more?  What lessons can the small, independent restauranter learn and adopt from the majors without breaking the bank and maintaining profitability?

The bottom line is that the major restaurant chains have learned to change and adapt to the changing demographic, social and marketing landscape. The most important marketing strategies that are being used by the majors are as follows:

Customer Data :

They have learned or are learning to better integrate customer data capture across ALL their marketing channels (newspaper, radio, TV, billboards, internet,  social media, etc). They have found a very simple way to tie all these advertising channels into a single, integrated database from where coupons, specials, loyalty programs are directed at their customers. Small restaurant owners currently keep their customer data in several, separate silos that do NOT talk to each other and therefore reduce overall marketing spend ROI. Individual or independent restaurant owners can use these same inexpensive strategies to attract new customers and improve profitability.

Identifying, Influencing and Rewarding Customers:

Most restaurant marketing professionals report that the main way consumers find and decide where to dine is based on a positive word of mouth recommendation from a close contact in their social sphere. However, when it comes to identifying,  activating and rewarding those customers who have the most authority to drive recommendations, there has been a significant lack of information on who those individuals are and which simple, inexpensive  and easily available tools to use to encourage them to do what comes naturally.

A One On One Intimate Connection & Communication  With Your Customers:

Social media has made getting to know the brand much easier and connecting with current customers or diners outside of the restaurant has been a simple communications evolution for many restaurants. However, diners are now demanding more: They want to get up close and personal with who’s cooking in the kitchen. The Major restaurants which are using mobile marketing, described by the New York Times as the "Most Effective Media Ever Invented" to perform this crucial marketing task and are the ones grabbing market share from the small, independent, restaurants.

Coupon Personalization:

In 2011 many restaurants experimented with social coupon sites such as Living Social, Groupon and others. Unfortunately, many reported neutral and often negative results. The main reason for these poor results is the lack of control that this third party resourced customer experience has imposed on the restaurants. Many restaurants were unprepared for the deluge of customers that swarmed their business, and the found out belatedly that the discounts negotiated sometimes resulted in losses or poor customer service experince! Again, the most effective and profitable restaurants are using a cost effective mobile marketing, coupled with a selective and personalized strategy to grab market share and improve profitability.

So What Must You Do?

Your current and/or future customers comprise the majority of the ‘untethered" consumer.  Consider this, according to the latest statistics, about 80% of US household have mobile phones and growing. Almost 30% of mobile web users  use their mobile phone Exclusively, and their their mobile phones are within reach 24/7. Finally, 97% of them will open/read your messages, coupons, discounts or special offers with 5minutes vs only 4% via email or newsletter!

Whoever is in their pockets (via smart phone app), will COMMAND their attention, loyalty and $$$ dollars!

Fortunately for the small to medium sized business person, there are affordable, scalable and functionally powerful, cross platform mobile app solutions on the market for you.

What Features MUST You Look For In Your Mobile App Design Solution?

Your App Must Have Cross Platform Capability – Must work on Iphones, Ipads, Android and Windows

Push Notification – This feature allows you to send unlimited offers/coupons to ALL your customers who have opted to download your app ( at NO additional charge)!

GPS Direction – One tap by your customer; and directions to your business is displayed! No more wasting time & resources to answer calls for direction!

Quick Response (QR) Coupons – Can be used to download your apps and also as a ‘frequent  buyer" card similar to the paper cards used by coffee shops, etc

Tap To Call - One tap, and device calls your business, no more fumbling to find a # and dial

Tap To Email – For your email, newsletter, etc

Mobile Ordering Platform – Should integrate with your existing platform (if you already have one)

Shopping Cart Feature – Should integrate with your existing platform

Mobile Reservation – Should integrate with your existing platform

Simple, Inexpensive, Complete Integration : Your app must be capable of handling the existing functionality and features on your website, and must be scalable to handle any future changes. You must not accept high, ongoing code changes or expenses.

Social Media Integration - Your app must integrate with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc

Mobile App Marketing - You must choose a mobile app developer who will work with you to market your app to ensure you get as many current and/or future potential customers as possible to download your mobile app.

Conclusion

It is not too late for the small to medium business to consider adding a mobile app to their suite of marketing strategies. It is especially crucial if you are already marketing offline (Yellow pages, billboard, TV, radio or newspaper) or online (website, email, banner or pay per click marketing). Adding a mobile app will considerably improve your marketing ROI by enabling you to identify which channels are worth investing additional marketing dollars or vice versa.

For more information about how you can take advantage of an affordable mobile app to get more customers and increase customer loyalty and revenues  please email Mike at: mike@multimediaadvertising.biz

Michael Ofori is President of MVO & Associates, LLC, a multi-media advertising and mobile app design agency and can be reached at 978-631-0363 or email mike@multimediaadvertising.biz

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