Loyalty programs have been popping up everywhere in the last few years, as restaurants focus on getting to know their customers and using data to better manage the business. However, loyalty programs continue to evolve as consumer preferences change, and 2024 brings a new level of personalization to loyalty as we know it.
Studies show that loyalty members visit restaurants 20 per cent more and spend 20 per cent more than non-members, so there is an opportunity for restaurants to increase revenue and offer their customers a level of service that can set them apart. Personalization is the key to building those key relationships between operators and diners this year.
Focus on engagement
The number of consumers who feel emotionally connected to brands has dropped from 62 per cent in 2022 to 54 per cent in 2023, so operators need to re-connect and get to know their customers better. According to Rick Camac, executive director of industry relations at the Institute for Culinary Education, restaurants need to “figure out what the customer will respond to,” and learn how to “make them feel wanted, understood, and valued” in order to get it right and up customer loyalty.
Lean on technology
57 per cent of restaurants have a loyalty and rewards program, so the competition is fierce. Many major chains are making adjustments to their loyalty programs to increase engagement by putting the data to work. A recent survey from Salesforce shows that personalized experiences garner more loyalty from customers, and many companies are leveraging technology and AI to deliver a more tailored customer experience. Experts suggest using the data to better get to know your customers and tie your programs to your customers’ interests. For example, free coffee may not appeal to steakhouse customers, but wine-tasting events may be more popular.
As well, some restaurants are upping the ease of the app themselves, adopting features like palm-scanning payment tools or NFT digital tokens to make access easier and faster.
Offer better value
With continued inflation and diners watching their spending, many operators have increased the discounts and rewards available through their loyalty programs to increase spending and participation. This is once again a reflection of reading consumers’ needs and preferences and offering them what they need to stand out from a crowded marketplace.
Changing up the rewards and discounts to include LTOs, providing early or exclusive access to events, and offering additional perks can also help add value, keep customers engaged, and encourage them to use the program more frequently.
Upgrading or improving your restaurant’s loyalty program can be a daunting undertaking, but as competition grows even more and consumers focus more on saving their pennies, restaurants will need to increase that connection and build relationships with their members to raise revenues and grow loyalty.