Loyalty programs worth the love

Loyalty programs have been around forever, as has the question of whether we, as marketers, are making the most of this opportunity to retain our customers. The answer: Usually not. This week we take a look at restaurant loyalty programs with an eye on improving the customer experience and program effectiveness. How can your brand differentiate itself from every other restaurant loyalty program? And what can we apply from airline loyalty programs?

Take three minutes for a few great strategies from Shawn and Kacha.

Rather read than watch? Check out the transcript below!

// Transcript

Kacha: Hi everybody and welcome to Branding Bites. My name is Kacha. I am the strategy director here at Skidmore Studio.

Shawn: Hi. I’m Shawn the design director. Today on Branding Bites we have just one topic: customer loyalty programs. We want to help restaurant marketers and restaurant brands attract and retain loyal customers.

Kacha: Yeah. Absolutely. CMOs I’m look at you here, because it is time up our game. Loyalty programs have been around forever, right?

Shawn: Forever.

Kacha: Then there is a baseline minimum loyalty program which is …

Shawn: Welcome rewards, birthday rewards …

Kacha: Yeah, that kind of thing. It’s time to get up from that. We need to improve. Let’s talk about things like simple, like, “Hey. I could customize.”

Shawn: I think Red Lobster does a good job in this space. A lot of restaurants might offer you a sandwich if you buy a sandwich. What if I don’t want a sandwich? What if I want something different? I probably do. Red Lobster does a great job of allowing me to choose my rewards.

Kacha: Being a nice little interface, let’s talk about apps for a really quick second. A good loyalty program will have a good app that is easy to use.

Shawn: Without a doubt.

Kacha: One I was liking recently, Tupelo Honey. I downloaded it. It’s powered by this Thanx program which I really like. Thumbs up, except that you get stopped at this enter your credit card screen. We should interact with the brand a little more first, right?

Shawn: Yeah. Get me into the app. Show me what you have to offer and then ask for my credit card.

Kacha: When it comes to loyalty programs, you and I, we complain about this all the time. If it feels like work, if it smells like work, it’s work. Make it easy, right?

Shawn: Absolutely.

Kacha: What don’t I want to have to do?

Shawn: I don’t’ want to have to put in my credit card. I don’t want to have to carry a physical card around. I definitely don’t want it on my key chain.

Kacha: Nope.

Shawn: Make it easy for me.

Kacha: I don’t want to scan a receipt.

Shawn: Absolutely not.

Kacha: What is the smoothest path into the loyalty program and into those rewards? Also, what is the most unique thing you can offer me? There have been some great examples of some unique programs recently. Thinking about Wendy’s Frosty Key Tag. Nobody else offers a frosty. For $2, I get free unlimited frosties for the year. That’s a left-turn moment. I am now turning left into Wendy’s [rather than turning right into their competitor]. There are other great examples…

Shawn: I think McDonald’s Monopoly program is one of those great examples.

Kacha: Yes.

Shawn: It is a limited time thing. I have to go there. It’s only at McDonald’s. Definitely a left-turn moment.

Kacha: Totally unique. CMOs, let’s just keep amping up that uniqueness in our loyalty program. Speaking of uniqueness, let’s take a cue from the airline industry. Right? When I get enough miles then I get access to a gold member status. I get to go to the lounge and I get the free drinks and snacks and whatever it is. Why can’t we do that at restaurants?

Shawn: I would love to go into a Taco Bell Customer Lounge that is only for me as a gold member. What do you think would be in there?

Kacha: For me, there would a quesalupa on the menu that I could order because I was a gold member, but it’s not available to anybody else.

Shawn: You want hot sauce on tap? Fire salsa? All that fun stuff, right?

Kacha: All that fun stuff.

Shawn: What does a gold program look like in your space?

Kacha: In your space and you are a restaurant. You offer some pretty unique stuff. What are the unique things that you could offer your customer? So, there’s some good stuff going on, and ways to amp it up to make it even better.

Shawn: Lots of room for improvement but great job so far.

Kacha: Absolutely. If you have any more questions about restaurant branding, restaurant marketing, loyalty programs, hit us up @SkidmoreStudio on Twitter. We’ll be happy to answer them. Until next week, we’ll see you again.

Shawn: Thanks guys.