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Recently I wrote a comparison of Earn and Burn loyalty programs versus Surprise and Delight efforts and why customers respond to each differently. Now I want to go into greater detail on why Surprise and Delight programs are so crucial to and successful at increasing long-term sales through engendering customer loyalty.
Occasional customers who respond to Surprise and Delight incentives want a meaningful reward for returning more frequently. That's not always food or drink or freebies, but something unique and of particular interest to them. With a mobile loyalty program, you have ample data to determine what they like and can use that information to create a clever incentive to draw them back in.
Status-based rewards: Sometimes infrequent users respond to some TLC or prestige that sets them apart from other guests. The chance to "become a Silver member and get a free Amuse Bouche every time you visit," is one way. The extreme could be the achieving Platinum member status after $750; such guests get preferred seating (a table with a view or in a quiet section of the dining room), and access to special wines and spirits. The chance to look around the restaurant and think, "This is cool to get this treatment," adds to the experience.
Special recognition: Technology such as iBeacon now allows restaurants to recognize customers by name when they enter the store. Everyone wants to be recognized by face and product preference like Norm Peterson from the show "Cheers!" In a busy, impersonal world, building personal relationships goes a long way with customers.
Social incentives and/or referrals: Customers are rarely rewarded for being brand ambassadors who refer new customers to a restaurant. (A social media app lets you know exactly who these are since it tracks referrals). So reward those loyalists by giving them a dollar-based credit on their next meal. Now they'll have a reason to tell even more people!
Promote online ordering: Customers spend 15 to 20 percent more when they order online, so direct them to do that by rewarding them with a double loyalty-points promotion for web orders. Pizza chains have done this successfully for years, and have reduced phone call volume and stress in their operations.
Surprise them by selecting random winners: One sandwich chain is doing this by selecting customers at random and giving them a free sandwich. The off chance they would get a freebie has occasional visitors returning to test their luck.
Special mug on a wall of fame: Another chain concept, centered on craft beer and pizza, wants its guests to learn more about its large beer selection. So it created a special mug club for drinkers that includes a small membership birthday gift, a special mug that is stored on a wall of fame and which members can drink from during their visits, and access to special beer-paired dinners.
Surprise gifts: Sometimes it's better to not know a reward is coming. Instead of "visit this many times and get this reward," one coffee chain is surprising customers by letting them skip the line each time they visit or providing a free sample from their baked goods selection. The chain believes such spontaneity keeps things fresh, gives guests choice and engages them by surprising them.
Every restaurateur's goal is to please every customer, but what pleases one patron rarely pleases everyone. Outside of a mobile loyalty program that provides guest feedback in minute detail and in real time, it's impossible to achieve that. You'll need those details in order to nuance your promotions in ways that increase visits from infrequent users. Try it: you'll be surprised and delighted with the outcome!