Four ways the IoT is shaping restaurant loyalty

Because stamping cards just doesn't cut it any more, here are four key ways the IoT and connected technology is making its mark on restaurants - from fine dining to QSRs.

 

Keeping up with mobile customers

There’s no getting away from it: your customers are mobile. So much has been said already on the ubiquity of the smartphone that it probably doesn’t need repeating, but in a nutshell, you need to factor mobile into your customer experience. One survey showed that 3/4 of consumers will first view menus on their smartphones before trying a new restaurant, almost 40% say they pay with their phone when they can, and 24% have already downloaded a restaurant app. When it comes to actual loyalty programs, 57% of all loyalty club members want to engage via mobile, and 56% of millennials would prefer to use apps than physical cards. A mobile loyalty program increases convenience for customers, which means it’ll get used more – which means you’re getting more data that can ultimately be used to encourage customers back and increase their value to you.

 

More rewarding (real-time) rewards

Connected tech lets you understand and reach customers in real time. This is massive for loyalty programs, where being able to personalize rewards to each customer is a big part of creating an engaging experience. It’s a wet day and Tania is nearby? Offer her a hot drink upgrade or a muffin combo instead of her regular coffee; offer her a free size upgrade; offer her extra points for adding on a croissant; offer a 2-for-1 deal if she brings a friend in with her. This is hands-down a more engaging way to approach loyalty than giving her yet another stamp on a piece of cardboard (assuming she remembers to bring it in). Using a combination of customers’ smartphones, in-store beacons, WiFi and connected services you can both build up individualized customer profiles, and tailor rewards that are relevant to each customer in the moment.

 

Creating engaging experiences

Loyal customers value their relationship with a company. They’re more likely to return, more likely to spend more, and more likely to advocate for a brand they feel loyal to. Besides the obvious (giving them what they want, not doing anything dodgy), creating engaging and rewarding experiences is a key way to keep customers engaged and build this loyalty.

Starbucks partnered with rideshare company Lyft; selling Lyft gift cards in stores and giving customers the ability to earn Starbucks reward stars simply by catching a ride.

Dominos Pizza introduced a Facebook Messenger chat bot for pizza ordering; and, arguably more practical currently, it also lets customers track their order delivery via driver GPS.

McDonald’s Japan joined forces with Niantic to launch Pokemon Go in the country by turning its restaurants into Poke Stops and Gyms, encouraging customers to McDonald’s locations with the promise of in-game rewards and Pokemon-themed Happy Meals.

And in Australia, McDonald’s launched the world’s first smartphone version of its Monopoly game, combining mobile and AR for a virtual board game experience.

 

Introducing operational efficiencies

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Sure, the IoT makes customer experiences more exciting and relevant, but connected tech also has its place behind the scenes. More commercial kitchens are connecting devices in practical ways that make a lot of sense for improving operations. Connected fryers and fridges can maintain temperatures, detect and report on anomalies and outages, and generally play a proactive part in maintaining food safety standards. Lighting and air con can regulate themselves or respond to programmed schedules, eliminating the need for monitoring. Having the capability to send orders directly to the kitchen when customers are nearby means food can be ready when they arrive, reducing wait time or the risk of prepared-too-soon-gone-cold food being returned. Service staff can be equipped with wearables or devices that notify them when and where customers arrive, are seated, place orders or need to pay. Runners can find customers by RFID-tagged devices, making wrong table or delayed food service less likely.

The clear majority of restaurant operators agree that technology helps increase sales, make their restaurant more productive, and gives them a competitive edge. Some of this technology will be invisible to customers, but all of it has the potential to create efficiencies that build to create a more favourable customer experience, whether through lower overheads resulting in cost reductions, or better service leading to better reviews. It all adds up to more customers coming back, more often.

 

For a more in-depth look at how the IoT is influencing  the restaurant industry, check out this webinar we presented with Microsoft’s Jeff Marcoux.