Many of us at Punchh once worked at Siebel Systems, a pioneer in the Customer Relationship Management market. Convincing large enterprises like banks and telcos to invest in CRM was a tough job back then. Early on people would wonder what the ROI would be and if anybody would use the system. We had to train the sales forces at these corporations to start entering the customer data, and even then a lot of sales people viewed it a waste of time.
Flash forward to today: All Fortune 1000 companies in any industry have a CRM solution, and not even the smallest of enterprises questions whether they need one. A good CRM system has become as essential as electricity to almost all businesses.
The resulting inside sales revolution has led to lower costs of selling, incredible selling efficiencies and even improved service levels across the board. And so what once was viewed as a questionable business strategy, CRM is now an $18 billion market — just for software.
Like CRM was years ago, mobile engagement is somewhat misunderstood today. To some it seems like a tech toy, an unnecessary blandishment designed to convince customers a brand is hip. And in some cases, that's exactly what it is: A tool that delivers no real value for the brand or its customers.
When well made, however, mobile engagement platforms are highly valuable tools that promise enormous opportunities for brands — especially restaurant companies. According to an article in Forbes, Forrester Research's Ted Schadler predicts the mobile engagement services market will be worth $32.4 billion by 2018. That figure alone should convince you that a brand which doesn't engage customers via mobile in the near term risks obsolescence.
Why is mobile so important?
Consumers want to engage brands — especially restaurants — via their mobile devices. Numerous surveys report that at least 60 percent of restaurant customers own smartphones and other mobile devices, and that number is increasing. So engaging that huge share of customers with a mobile strategy that allows them to:
Earn and redeem loyalty points and rewards–after all there is no interest like self interest.
Refer a friend to a restaurant.
Place and pay for their orders and
Share a review, image or video about a restaurant.
This means direct engagement through a device on which consumers want to be engaged.
So, how is that done?
Through the establishment of a relationship between brands and customers that drives measurable results.
The problem is, that's easier said than done. Designing a program that works, is intuitive and easy for customers to use, and provides actionable operator data is an enormous task, one that usually swamps the resources of brand CMOs, CIOs and supporting agencies attempting it. According to Schadler, many first attempts at mobile engagement are "pretty faces" or "Ferraris with 2 cylinder engines" for companies that do little to engage customers meaningfully.
For restaurant customers, valuable engagement means having a way to do the following via mobile devices.
Earn and redeem loyalty points and rewards.
Refer a friend to the business.
Share a review, image or video.
Respond to a survey.
Find the closest location.
Get the right offer at the right place and the right time,
And potentially place and order and pay for it
For operators it means taking advantage of every customer-brand interaction to mine rich data for unique customer insights. Those insights deepen the brand's understanding of those customers' purchasing habits and allow it to market to all those customers personally. (For example, purchasing data managed by a mobile platform shows a customer likes a restaurant's turkey cranberry sandwich, so the operator could make a targeted offer on a special turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich, which is delivered to their mobile device.)
True engagement also allows brands to reward customers for their patronage, for bringing friends to the restaurant or for reaching Level 10 on its mobile game. It even allows them to send a personal "thank you" message for a positive social media mention of their restaurant, or a chance to improve a customer experience following a negative review.
You see, mobile engagement is so much more than an app. It's customer relationship management that provides a new way of doing business by building deeper relationships that customers and operators really want. And like the CRM of old days, this one looks to be bigger and has the potential to have even bigger impact on the way business is done.
Jitendra Gupta is CEO of Punchh, the only mobile-centric marketing platform for restaurants that uses the power of mobile devices and social networks to drive and measure repeat visits, word of mouth, and referrals.